Before last night, I'd never really considered the fava. I know, I know. Fava beans, favorite food of Hannibal Lecter. I'd had them once, in a purée at a fantastic little Italian restaurant in Chicago, but that had been about it. (The purée was good--bright green, sweet and bitter all at once--delicious. It must have been, since that meal was in 2005 and I'm still thinking about it.) But I'd never really given them too much thought otherwise.
Then they started showing up in my CSA. This past Wednesday was the third week in a row that they've poked their stalks through my little bag, and I decided that a cache of three weeks worth of beans would probably be enough to work with. See, you can't treat favas like any other bean. They are sneaky little buggers, hiding under layers of pod and fake bean. Like anything else worth having, favas are more than meets the eye. Even though they fat and heavy, they not only require shelling from the original pod, but then a boiling in their pale green fake bean shells, and then you can slip the fake beany shells off, revealing the tender bean beneath.
Oof. That's a lot of work for a bean, don't you think?
But the end result is beautiful: bright, shiny little pods that are grassy and earthy and slightly bitter. They are better than the best Lima bean in the world. (I don't really like Lima beans, so I guess that's not saying much, but really, they are quite nice.) I put them in at the end of a plain risotto, and they were just lovely. Along with a fresh green bean salad, it made for a light supper that was worth the work.
Fava Bean Risotto
1 1/2 to 2 pounds fava beans, peeled, boiled and shelled again, set aside
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 cups risotto rice
1 small onion, finely chopped
4-5 cups stock, either chicken or vegetable, warmed
1/2 cup dry white wine
parmesan cheese, grated
1. In a medium pot, melt the butter over medium heat. When it's melted, add the onion and sauté until translucent, not allowing the onions to brown. When they are soft, add the rice, and stir constantly until glistening. Pour in the wine, and let simmer until it's just about gone, stirring constantly.
2. When the pot is almost dry, add 1/2 cup of the stock, and stir in. Let simmer, stirring from time to time, until the pot is almost dry. Repeat this process until the rice is plump and tender, and when you try it, it's just about cooked through, but still has a bite to it. This will take about 4-5 cups of stock or water, and about 15-20 minutes once you start adding the stock.
3. About 15 minutes after you started adding the stock, fold in the prepared fava beans. Add a tablespoon of butter and a handful of grated parmesan cheese, and beat in, to release the starch in the rice. Let sit 2 minutes before serving.