Market Matters- Full Fava Flava Risotto

Shelled Fava Beans

It’s the first Sunday in Spring. Just thinking about it makes me feel happy and hopeful and alive.  I can be such a sentimetal sucker, I know– but It is days like today that make me feel so darn lucky to be me!

Part of that reason is because today is also the LA Marathon and I have a friend running it. So my walk down the hill had a double purpose. Cheer my friend Joe onto success in the marathon and drop by a the Hollywood Farmers Market to pick something up for this week’s Market Matters.

As I am feeling “happy as a lark”, I just knew I’d find something special at the market today too. I was not disappointed either. The market is transitioning into Spring and there are so many wonderful vegetal choices. So you see, it wasn’t hard to find something to fit my mood.

Drum roll please…. I chose fava beans.  It seems as if it should be too early for these goodly green goddesses to make their appearance. But, nope. There they were just smiling at me with that toothy green grin that makes me love them so.


Joe Pangrazio runs the LA MarathonThe good thing about the early season favas is most of the pods are still quite young so you know they hold dainty little favas. Sure the littler they are, the more work they can be. Though you don’t always have to peel the little guys… still, I usually do anyway.

But, the little guys just taste better. The starches have not developed and they are a burst of bright green fava-i-ness that makes me want to giggle!

Also, what you have heard is true. There is no getting around it. Favas are a lot of work. I’ll say it again; favas are a lot of work. However, if ever there were a more rewarding kitchen task I can’t think of it right now. Because I have fava on the brain, so I love every fava-ful step along the way.

I love choosing each pod by hand. I look for firm, well-shaped pods. fava beans in podThey should be cool and dry to the touch, but still look green, crisp and fresh.

I love carrying them home. Like a special little secret!

I love just knowing I have them.  If you do not plan to use them right away though, store them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to one week.

I love prepping them too. I really do…

I love it ‘cuz it’s fun. When you are ready to get down to it, get fava beans in bowlyourself a couple of bowls. Working over the first bowl slit the pods down the front seam. You may use a paring knife (I do) if you like. As long as you are careful not to slice into the beans, a knife makes the process go quicker. However, the pods open easily even with out a knife.

I love
seeing the cute little legumes tucked inside the pillowy white cushion that lines the interior of the pod. Simply run your finger underneath the beans.

I love watching them pop into the bowl. Use the second bowl to dispose of the pods as you work.

You really need to shell a lot of beans to get enough for most recipes. I use the metric of 1.5 pounds of favas in their pods per person. For a recipe for 2 you’ll need 3 pounds unshelled beans, 4 people- 6 pounds, and so on and so on.

Which, as I said, makes for a lot of work. But, if you slip into the zone, and “whistle while you work”, before you know it you’ll have a bowl of spring-green bounty.

Fava beans must not be overcooked. And as I have never found a better description for “cooking” fava beans properly, I will quote Paula Wolfert here:

“Peel the pods first, which gives you individual beans. Place the beans in a mixing bowl and cover with boiling water. When the water is cool enough to touch, begin peeling by using your thumbnail to nick a slit in the skin. Squeeze slightly, and the inner bean will pop right out (often in two halves, but don’t worry). The best way to enjoy favas is also the simplest. It’s the old Roman thing: Buy the smallest pods you can find (diameter, not length) and the beans won’t need a second peeling. Then eat them raw alongside a bowl of moist sheep’s milk feta cheese (fresh pecorino would be more traditional, but it is hard to find).”

Which is a wonderful way to eat favas, but I am going to do risotto.

You know me, I see no reason to explain each and every step in making this risotto. I know you can make a decent risotto. You can probably make a better one than I can… besides the base in this recipe is a  Risotto Bianco (white risotto). Which is the most basic risotto there is. But you can click here for a printable recipe of White Risotto with Fava Puree and I’ll just give you a few basic pointers now.

1. Use fat, starchy, short-grained rice like Arborio.
2. Cook the rice in some flavorful combination of fat before you start adding the liquid. Some call this toasting. But to me it’s more like frying. You’ll see the rice change colors as it “fries”.
3. Keep your broth at a simmer or very low boil as you work. You must add the liquid hot so as to avoid temperature fluctuations.
4. The rice will continue to cook and absorb liquid even after it has left the heat. So remove it from the heat as soon as it looks very creamy and still has quite a bit of al dente crunch. Practice is the still very best method I can suggest to attaining perfection. So practice.

All that said, I think I will give you the directions in making the fava bean puree here as well as in the recipe section. The main reason being I do not want you to overcook these favas. Well any favas… ever.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups CLICK here for a printable recipe

  • 2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup very good extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1-cup fava beans, out of the pod
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed Italian parsley, leaves only.
  • 1/4 grated Pecorino Romano cheese

fav bean pureePlace the fava beans in a heat proof bowl. Pour enough boiling water over the beans to cover by about 1-inch. Let the beans sit undisturbed until the water has cooled enough so as to handle the beans.

Start peeling the beans by using your thumbnail to nick a slit in the skin. Squeeze slightly, and the inner bean will pop right out. If possible start with the smaller beans working to the largest beans.

Heat the 2 tablespoons olive oil in a small saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring often until just beginning to brown.

Scrape the garlic and it’s oil into a food processor and add the fava beans, the remaining olive oil, salt and pepper, parsley, and the thyme. Pulse the mixture 5 or 6 times to get a rough puree. Add the chicken stock and blend a few seconds until somewhat smooth. Leave a little texture if possible.The puree will keep for 1 week covered in your refrigerator.

Because favas are a lot of work, follow these diections closely. Overcook your fava beans and you might as well be serving disgusting grade school cafeteria lima beans. I may be exaggerating, but not by much.

That is why I want you to make the risotto and the fava puree separately. I want you to perfectly cook the favas by Paula Wolfert’s method, then make the puree. Keeping it separate.

White Risotto with Fava Bean PureeWe do this to get the full fava flavor.

If you add the fava puree to the risotto at cooking time you will get drastically overcooked fava beans. I can’t even suggest you stir the puree into the risotto after it’s left the heat but before you serve it; because it will still overcook.

What I can endorse is making a lovely mound of the puree atop your perfect risotto.  If you to use the puree as a condiment, and you have made a perfectly prepared risotto. Your hard work will be rewarded with a very special dish. I mean it!

Because the diner can scoop as little or as much into each bite as they devour their way through your perfect white risotto (bianco) and your exceptionally well-made (not at all overcooked) fava bean puree.

SERIOUS FUN FOOD

Greg Henry

Sippity Sup



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