It seems like we barely had a spring this year. The weather was so cold and rainy for so many months. Then all of a sudden there was a heat wave and we were thrown headfirst into summer. Or so it felt like to me.
Anyway, I guess I'm just looking for something to blame, because I nearly missed my chance to make this recipe. The weather seems like an appropriate scapegoat. I was waiting for fava beans in the CSA, then I was waiting to harvest my peas, then the weeks got away from me and I almost missed my chance to buy asparagus. Luckily everything came together for me last week and I was able to cook this fabulous risotto.
I don't know why I was being so picky, you can make risotto with just about any mix of vegetables. It calls for ham too, but only 3 ounces worth, and since you can't buy ham in that amount at the store (at least I couldn't), I honestly wouldn't bother unless you have plans for using the rest of what you'll ultimately buy for other meals. It was good with ham, don't get me wrong, but that creamy blend of rice, broth, and heavy cream would be good with just about anything. By the way, this is a recipe where you definitely want the heavy cream; it's only 1/4 cup for the whole recipe, and it really adds so much to the dish.
Note: Fava beans require a little work. First, you have to remove them from the pod. Then you have to boil them for one minute, then plunge into ice water. Once cooled, you have to use your fingernail and peel off the outer skin to finally reveal the bright green bean. From this point they only have to be lightly cooked before you are ready to enjoy their buttery texture and nutty flavor.
The Fava Bean: deconstructed:
Risotto with Spring Vegetables and Smoked Ham
adapted from Cooking Light - April 2008
serves 6 (serving size = 1 cup)
3/4 cup shelled fava beans (about 1 1/2 pounds unshelled)
2 cups water
2 cups (1-inch slices) asparagus (about 1/2 pound)
4 cups fat-free, less sodium chicken or vegetable broth
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion (about 1 small)
1/2 cup finely chopped smoked ham (about 3 ounces)
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice or other medium-grain rice
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup shelled green peas (about 1 pound unshelled)
3/4 cup (3 ounces) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
1/4 whipping (heavy) cream
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Cook fava beans in boiling water for one minute. Drain, then plunge into a bowl of ice water, then drain again. Remove the tough outer skins to reveal the bright green beans, and set aside. Discard skins.
Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add asparagus. Cook for about 4 minutes of until crisp-tender. Remove asparagus with a slotted spoon; do not discard the water. Rinse asparagus in a colander under cold water; set aside. Add the broth to the water and reduce heat. Keep warm over low heat. Reserve 3/4 cup of this broth mixture in a small saucepan, and keep this warm also.
In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. When hot, add the onion and ham to the pan and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the onion is tender, stirring occasionally. Add rice and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Turn up the heat to medium-high. Stir in the wine and cook for another 2 minutes or until all the liquid has nearly absorbed into the rice, still stirring constantly.
Basically from here on out you are stirring constantly until told otherwise.
Add the remaining broth mixture slowly, just 1/2 cup at a time, each time stirring until the liquid has absorbed before adding more. This will take about 25 minutes. Have a glass of wine handy and some good music on and the time will fly by.
Stir in the peas, beans, and asparagus. Add that reserved 3/4 cup broth mixture, stirring for about 4 minutes or until the liquid has absorbed.
Now you can be done stirring constantly. Remove pan from heat. Stir in about 1/2 cup of the cheese, along with the cream, butter, salt, and pepper.
To serve, spoon about 1 cup risotto into a shallow bowl and sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of the remaining cheese.