Delicate green spring vegetables – the asparagus, the peas, the fava beans – are plentiful, but our San Francisco spring is not keeping pace. Lots of gray and rain and chilly wind and not as much sunshine and clear days as we’re used to this time of year. It’s hard to get excited about simply steamed asparagus with aïoli when I’m chilled to the bone.
A big warm bowl of creamy risotto, though? That I can tuck into with glee.
Go ahead and play around with the proportions of veggies here – nothing’s set in stone. Add some chopped fennel in with the green garlic, use spring onions instead of green garlic, add mint or dill or chervil at the end.You will find plenty of risotto recipes than demand that you stir the rice constantly. This is not one of them.
1 to 2 pounds fava beans
1/2 pound sweet peas/garden peas/English peas
1/2 bunch asparagus
2 green garlics
5 cups broth (I use homemade chicken stock – if you used commercial broth dilute 4 cups of it with 1 cup of water)
2 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1 cup aborio rice
About 3/4 cup freshly shredded not-super-aged Pecorino cheese
First things first – and experience spring cooks know what this is going to be – you need to double shell the fava beans (I even have this step-by-step guide on how to do it!). I’m sorry. It really is a complete pain if you’re not in the mood to slowly but surely work your way through those beans. Grab the phone, put on the radio, have a chat, or just take a moment and have a little day dream while your hands and eyes are busy.
Set the shelled, blanched, and shelled favas aside.
Shell the peas – doesn’t that seem like a breeze after the favas? – and set them aside with the favas.
Snap the asparagus spears where they break naturally and discard the ends. Cut the asparagus into relatively thin, angled slices, leaving the 1-inch to 2-inch tips intact. Set aside.
Cut off the root ends off the green garlics. Cut the white and light green part of the stalks in half lengthwise – the darker green top will hold the whole things together. Chop the white and light green parts. Reserve the dark green tops for making stock, if you’re so inclined.
Put the broth in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. Keep it at a very low simmer.
Meanwhile, heat another medium-ish saucepan over medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the butter and the olive oil. When the butter is melted and stops foaming, add the chopped green garlic and the salt. Cook, stirring, until the green garlic is wilted, about 2 minutes.
Add the rice and stir to completely coat it with the butter and oil. Cook, stirring until the opaque rice grains turn a bit translucent around the edges.
Add about a cup of the warm broth to the rice and cook, stirring as you like. Adjust teh heat so that when you’re not stirring the mixture simmers a bit but doesn’t boil or get too excited. When most of the broth is absorbed – when you can see the bottom of the pot for a few seconds when you stir because the mixture is thicker than the broth – add another 1/2 cup broth. Continue cooking, with some stirring, and adding 1/2 cup of broth at a time until the rice is almost tender to the bite but still has a kernel of uncooked-ness in the center – it took mine a bit over 15 minutes to get there.
Add the asparagus and more broth and continue cooking and stirring and adding broth as needed until the asparagus is almost done and the rice is al dente – tender but with structure to each grain. Add the peas and fava beans.
Continue cooking, adding a bit more broth and stirring, until the peas and beans are warm, just a minute or two. Stir in the cheese and remaining tablespoon of butter and taste – add more salt if you want. We found more cheese on top and some freshly ground black pepper was tasty indeed. As mentioned above, a bit of chopped spring herbs would be lovely too.
We had ours with a boiled egg on the side – we have all these picture-perfect pastured eggs in the house and they are difficult to resist. I meant to soft boil them – start in cold water, bring to a boil, cover, remove from heat, let sit exactly three minutes, remove from hot water, and peel. But the risotto timing with the rice and vegetables and whatnot had the bulk of my attention and the eggs sat around on the counter after I took them from their hot water bath and kept cooking and they weren’t soft-boiled at all. They were, however, delicious and super-spring-y with the risotto.