This year's "damn, it tastes great AND it's good for me" discovery: fava beans.
Leary of anything that looks like a legume since I don't understand the what's and the why's of my one significant food allergy, I approached them cautiously in a spring risotto at Nibblers last month. I instantly fell in love. And thankfully I walked away from the experience without looking like Lisa Rinna after a collagen injection and my epi pen stayed stashed in my purse.
I went home and started looking for recipes featuring favas. And sought them out at the market.
My first fava experiment: Fava Bean Risotto with Fresh Mozzarella and Prosciutto adapted from the April issue of Cooking Light magazine.
Midway through the eat local challenge it took some homework and some ingenuity, but I was able to source all ingredients except the salt and pepper from within 150 miles of home.
4 1/2 pounds unshelled fava beans (about 2 1/4 cups shelled)
2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto (I used homemade prosciutto -- the last vestiages of a Christmas gift from one of John's bocce buddies)
2 1/2 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth (I opted for homemade chicken stock)
2 cups water
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 cups chopped leek (about 2 medium)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups uncooked Arborio rice
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/3 cup dry white wine
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups trimmed arugula
4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
I'd been warned that working with fava beans was a time consuming process. Like a feisty five-year-old intent on playing MY way, I ingorned the warnings. I spent thirty minutes watching Rachel Ray bargain hunt in Belgium as I de-podded 5 pounds of favas.
While my beans blanched, I tossed my proscuitto slices onto a silpat covered baking sheet and into a 400 degree oven to crisp slightly.
Then while Alton Brown explored cole slaw, I started popping the blanched beans out of their rather tough outer skins. It was here that my inner five-year old figured out that perhaps this wasn't the best selection for a weeknight meal. But since it was risotto or ramen -- and I'd gotten this far -- I pressed onward.
Next it was time to assemble the risotto itself.
Bring stock to a simmer over medium heat, taking care not to boil. Keep warm. Check.
Melt butter and saute leeks & garlic for about 3 minutes. Check.
Add rice and thyme, stirring to coat rice with butter. Rice glistens. Check.
Reduce heat and add the wine, stirring until it's absorbed. Check.
Start the thirty minute process designed to aggravate the most mild case of repetitive strain injury: adding broth, 1/2 cup at a time, until absorbed completely, or until your arm falls off. THIS is why I don't make risotto, I order it out. I take another look at the pretty magaizine photograph to remind myself how good this is going to taste...
Once the liquid's all absorbed, I added the favas, a pinch of salt and pepper. Removed it from the heat, added the arugula and the cheese.
And a little after ten, I'm sitting down to dinner.
So... how'd it turn out? Was it worth the effort on a weeknight?
Well it wasn't Daniel's, but I think it was pretty damn good. The prosciutto definitely takes it over the top, and the melty cheese is quite satisfying. I think the leftovers will be great as pan-fried risotto cakes.
But in the future, I think I'll save risotto recipes for company occasions. Somehow the work's more worth it when I'm sharing the results with friends than when my late night company consists of the fuzzy little troll and Doc Gibbs...