Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Risotto with Asparagus, Fresh Fava Beans & Saffron

The New York Times has a column that I really love called "Recipes for Health". Each series of recipes is based around a central ingredient or technique. This recipe for Risotto with Asparagus, Fresh Fava Beans & Saffron comes from this month's "Risotto" topic -- the latest and greatest recipes from the column focus on Buckwheat (including soba noodle dishes and a recipe for Buckwehat crepes that I want to try) or you can visit the section's main page and look through the archives (recipes are organized into categories like Beans, Artickokes and Yogurt - they also have a whole section on recipes for kids!)

This risotto appealed to me because it is so green and pretty, oh and I love to sit outside and shell beans, shuck corn etc. when the weather is really nice. I've also always wanted to cook with Saffron (the dried stigma from the Saffron Crocus) because it is so mysterious and claims the fame as the world's most expensive spice by weight.

Risotto with Asparagus, Fresh Fava Beans & Saffron:
New York Times, Recipes for Health

*I cut the recipe in half and it was 3 good servings. If you make the full recipe, as it is below, there is going to be A LOT OF RISOTTO

2 pounds fava beans
About 7 cups vegetable stock, as needed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup minced onion or spring onion
Salt, preferably kosher salt, to taste
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups Italian arborio rice
1 pinch of saffron threads
1/2 cup dry white wine, such as pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc
1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons chopped chives (optional)

1. Prepare the fava beans. Shell them while you bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Drop the beans into the water, and boil small favas for one minute, large favas for two minutes. Transfer at once to a bowl of ice-cold water. Drain. Remove the skins, using your thumbnail to open up the skin at the spot where the bean attached to the pod, then gently squeezing out the bean.*Or you can simply shell them raw with your fingers as I did, they are really tasty right out of the pods.
2. Pour the stock or broth into a saucepan, and bring it to a boil. Add the asparagus, and blanch for three minutes. Remove the asparagus with a slotted spoon or skimmer, refresh in a bowl of cold water, drain and set aside. Turn down the heat under the stock, and keep at a simmer with a ladle nearby or in the pot. Make sure that it is well seasoned.
3. Heat the oil over medium heat in a wide, heavy skillet or saucepan, and add the onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring, until tender, about three minutes. Add the garlic and the rice. Cook, stirring, until the grains of rice are separate and beginning to crackle, about one to two minutes. Rub the saffron between your thumb and fingers, and stir into the rice.4. Add the wine, and stir over medium heat until it has been absorbed by the rice. Begin adding the simmering stock, two ladlefuls (about 1/2 cup) at a time. The stock should just cover the rice and should be bubbling, not too slowly nor too quickly. Cook, stirring often, until the liquid is almost absorbed. Add another ladleful or two of the stock, and continue to cook in this fashion — adding more stock when the rice is almost dry, then stirring — for 15 minutes. Then stir in the asparagus and the fava beans and another ladleful or two of stock. Continue adding stock and stirring the rice for another 10 to 15 minutes, until the rice is cooked al dente and the vegetables are tender. Add more stock to the rice, and stir in the Parmesan, pepper and chives. Remove from the heat. Taste and adjust salt. The rice should be creamy. Stir once and serve right away in wide soup bowls or on plates, spreading the risotto in a thin layer rather than lumping in a mound.
Advance preparation: You can begin this recipe several hours ahead and finish it just before serving. Cook halfway through step 4 — that is, for about 15 minutes. The rice should still be hard when you remove it from the heat. Spread in an even layer in the pan, and arrange the asparagus and favas over the top. Fifteen to 20 minutes before serving, bring the remaining stock back to a simmer and reheat the rice. Resume cooking as instructed. The favas can be blanched and shelled a day or two ahead and refrigerated.

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