May 11, 2011

I’m Sorry Risotto

I didn’t have time today to go to the flower store. I didn’t want to bake you cookies or a cake, because we all know my track record when it comes to baking. And a simple note just didn’t seem like it would cut it.

So to make up for the absent post on Monday, I made you this.

Fava bean risotto made with fava bean stock.

If you haven’t met a fava bean before, hold on to your hat. They look like a much larger, thicker, softer (faster, stronger) english pea pod; they happen to be in season; and once you upon the soft outer envelope, you’ll find large, lima-like beans which, when cooked, are meaty and satisfying.

Bright and flavorful. Different and unique. Fava beans are a real treat. And that’s why I’m giving them to you today.

There’s only one caveat: fava beans take a bit of labored love to prepare.

The bean itself is actually encased in a thin, film coat and in order to remove it, you have to boil them in hot water and then, one by one, pick them open. So between shelling the beans, boiling the beans, and undressing the beans, you’re talking about 30 minutes of work for a handful of delightful veggies. Oh, and one pound of fava pods generally amounts to 1/2 or 3/4 cup of beans.

Doesn’t seem like such a great apology gift anymore, now does it?

But just hold on to your hat for a second (didn’t I already tell you to do that!), because I understand  why no one would dare attempt a recipe made with fava beans. And to remedy that, let me show you an easy way to make fava beans worth your time and give you some tips on coaxing salt-free flavor from every inch of those pods.

The trick is in the broth. Fava Bean Broth.

You don’t have to thank me. You can thank my friend Kiko, who blew my mind this weekend with her ingenious, deliciously rich broth that she made from the often discarded pods and bean shells. So sustainable, so smart, so tasty.

Whether you serve this dish warm or cold, it is a great first foray with fava beans that makes every second of work worth it. You’ll be glad you made it.

And I’m glad we’ve made up.

Chow on.

NOTE: As both procedures can be a bit time consuming, this step can be done a few hours or days before you plan to cook the meal, refrigerating the beans and stock until you’re ready.


  • 2 pounds fava beans (about 1 -1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup thinly sliced leeks cut horizontally across the stem
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 4 cups salt-free fava bean pod broth (recipe below)
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup diced asparagus (about 6 spears), cut horizontally into 1/4-inch coins
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped arugula, so it almost looks like herbs
  • 1/2 cup salt-free pine nuts

To prep the favas, first wash the bean pods. Then, fill a pot with 8 cups of water, cover, and bring to a boil. As it is heating up, shell the beans by simply opening the pod along its natural zipper and pulling out the beans.

Place the beans in the boiling water for 1-2 minutes. Although it is hard to see, they have a filmy shell on them that you need to remove and this quick soak helps shrivel and loosen it, like too much time in the hot tub. Strain the beans with a slotted spoon (reserving the water in the pot) and when they are cool to the touch, peel off the pale green skin to reveal the bright green bean. Set aside.

Add the fava skins and pods back to the pot, cover with a lid, and simmer on medium-low heat for 1 1/2 -2 hours. This will be your broth.

When it is officially go time to make the meal, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large saucepan. Add the leeks and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until they soften, 4 to 5 minutes. Meanwhile, reheat the fava stock (if you made it ahead of time) in a small pot, over low heat.

Add the rice to the leek and garlic mixture and allow the grains to toast, 3-5 minutes. A good risotto lets each grain get some toasting action.

Add the wine and bring it to a gentle simmer (adjust heat if necessary). Cook until the liquid is almost evaporated, 5 minutes. Add 1 cup of the broth, bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a gentle bubble. Continue to cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until liquid evaporates and rice thickens. Stir in the remaining cups or broth (1 cup at a time), each time boiling and then bubbling for 10 more minutes, allowing the rice to soften and plump.

Give the rice a taste. When the grain is tender but still a bit chewy, add the fava beans, asparagus coins, and ground black pepper (about 6-10 good twists depending on your pepper addiction). Cook 5 more minutes.

Turn off heat and add the chopped arugula and pine nuts. Stir gently and then serve in individual bowls.

lizthechef May 11, 2011 at 2:03 pm

We forgive you 😉 Fantastic recipe – I’m ready to tackle favas…

waiwa May 11, 2011 at 2:33 pm

mmm looks pretty darn good. don’t see much fava bean in the picture though. where’d you hide them SG?

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