As I get more and more serious (err... I mean "serious") about cooking, I'm becoming increasingly aware of the quality of the ingredients I use. Closely related to this phenomenon is my heightened interest in (err... obsession with?) seasonal produce. I've always adored trips to the Farmers Market, but spending time there has taken on a whole new meaning lately.
Not only does using in-season ingredients guarantee more flavorful food, it also provides for me a sort of celebration, or even just a cognizance, of the flavors, scents, and textures of the season. This risotto evokes Spring in that way. Bigtime.
Asparagus, peas, and fava beans are all at the height of their season here in Oregon, and that's obvious from how well they played with each other in this dish. This was my first time using fava beans. They sure are interesting little guys. I took a little taste of the puree on its own and loved it, but couldn't detect the flavor in the final product; it got lost in the mix. For that reason, if you can't find favas, I say (reluctantly) that it's okay to omit them this time.
Pea shoots at the Farmers Market
If you find that the end product is a bit bland, don't be afraid to salt salt salt. It will make the flavors pop, I promise.
Green Risotto With Fava Puree, Peas, and Asparagus
Adapted from Chez Panisse Vegetables
1/2 pound young fava beans
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3/4 pound fresh green peas
5 spears of asparagus
1 medium onion
7 to 8 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock for a vegetarian version)
4 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups arborio rice
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish.
1. Shell the fava beans and discard the pods. Bring a pot of water to boil, add the favas and simmer for one minute. Drain them and cool them immediately in cold water. Pierce the outer skin of the beans with your thumbnail and pop out each bean with the thumb and forefinger of your other hand.
2. Put the beans in a pot with a little olive oil, a little salt and water to just about cover and cook slowly, until they are soft enough to puree but haven't lost their color, about 15 to 20 minutes. If necessary, add water as they are cooking to keep them from sticking. Drain them and pass them through a food mill or puree in a blender or food processor.
3. Shell the peas. Cut the asparagus on the diagonal into thin slices. Peel and chop the onion into small diced pieces.
4. Heat the stock and keep it at a low simmer. In another, heavy bottom saucepan, heat three tablespoons of the butter, add the onion and cook over medium heat until it is translucent, about five minutes. Add the rice and a pinch of salt and cook over low heat for about three minutes, stirring often, until the rice has turned slightly translucent. Turn up the heat and pour in the white wine. When the wine has been absorbed, add just enough hot stock to cover the rice, stir well and reduce the heat.
5. Keep the rice at a gentle simmer and keep adding stock, a ladle or two at a time, letting it be almost completely absorbed by the rice before adding the next. After about 10 minutes, stir in the peas and asparagus. Ladle in more stock, stirring after every addition. After five minutes, add the rest of the butter, the cheese and the fava bean puree. Stir well. Add more stock if needed; the rice should have a saucey consistency. Correct seasoning and serve garnished with more Parmesan.