SSFC 2012: Late Spring Pesto Risotto

Now that I’ve recapped our Memorial Day weekend extravaganzas, it’s actually hitting me that it’s past Memorial Day. My how time flies? Seriously, how do you all deal with it? I’m looking for some coping techniques!

Out with May and in with June means the kick-off of the first ever SSFC: Souther SOLE (Sustainable, Organic, Local, Ethical) Foods Challenge. This past year, the Southern states group of the 5th Annual Dark Days Challenge really bonded over the winter months. We were a diverse group stretching from Texas to Virginia and everywhere in between and through the not-quite-as-dark-as-the-past-two-years-but-still-wintery months we had a lot of fun serving up locally-sourced meals ranging from vegan to full-on meat-tastic.

After the close of DDC, however, Emily (of Sincerely, Emily) proposed a summer challenge patterned on Dark Days but featuring the fantastic summer produce we can all get our mitts on. All thrilled with the idea, we created SSFC and pledged to post an all-local meal every Monday June through the end of October. I’ll, of course, still be featuring vegan meals (per usual for this blog) and if you’re keen to see what the rest of us are up to, feel free to click the SSFC badge displayed on the right hand side of my homepage. It’ll take you to a Google Bundle of all our blogs! (And, if you live in the south and are interested in participating, feel free to drop me a line–I haven’t cleared it with the rest, but I think the general consensus is the more the merrier!)

So, my first SSFC meal: Late Spring Risotto featuring garden-sourced pesto, fresh fava beans and asparagus.

Let’s talk for a minute about fava beans. Huge pods, fairly expensive per pound (here in Roanoke, at least–only one farmer was selling them at market), and, as the internet will tell you (though I’m here to debate it), a pain in the ass to deal with, fava beans are quintessential spring in legume form. Yes, you have to shell them, blanch them, and shell them again (double shells–these little guys are determined to reproduce!), but it’s oh-so-worth it (Tips on how to shell & boil at The Kitchn). And, to be honest, I didn’t think the shelling process took all that long. Call me crazy, but I like being in the kitchen; a little extra time spent shelling favas isn’t going to break me.

The risotto itself is simple as can be–arborio rice, fava beans (from The Professor’s Garden in Roanoke County), asparagus (from Thistle Dew Farm in Appomatox), pesto (from last year’s garden, frozen), homemade vegetable stock, and white wine. Not every ingredient is local, obviously, but I took care to emphasize the local loot in the completed dish.

Like a whiff of spring, the basil-laden risotto shines with the addition of lightly blanched asparagus and fava beans and is, in my opinion, the perfect way to usher in the start of summer (still a few weeks off, I know, but bear with me). It’s light and fresh and there’s nothing like the sweet bite of a fava bean tempered by the smooth, creamy texture of risotto. And my tip to you? Don’t be shy with the white wine. All those recipes that call for just a cup? Add another! And take your time, relax, sip some wine, and stare out the window if you have one–bet it’s beautiful wherever you are just like it is here.

Late Spring Pesto Risotto

1.5 c arborio rice
4 c vegetable broth
1-2 c white wine
1/4 c pesto (I used this pesto from last year’s garden)
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 lb unshelled fava beans
1 bunch (10-12 spears) asparagus
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste

Bring a pot of water to boil on the stove. First, shell the fava beans (tutorial here). Rinse the asparagus and cut it into one inch segments. Blanch both the fava beans and asparagus for one minute and cool in an ice water bath immediately. Once cool, remove and discard the second thin shell on the beans. Set the twice shelled beans and the asparagus aside.

In a large pot (I used a cast iron dutch oven), warm the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent (7-8 minutes). Add the rice and toast in the oil with the onions until the rice turns golden blond (about 5 minutes).

Add 1 cup of vegetable broth and stir. Increase the heat to high to achieve a simmer. Once simmering, lower to maintain the heat. The broth will mostly absorb at this point. Add two more cups, stir, and let simmer undisturbed for at least ten minutes on the lowest setting. As the broth evaporates, add the remaining broth (1 cup) and continue the process of letting the broth evaporate and slowly cook the rice at a simmer.

After using 4 cups of broth, continue the process with white wine. I found that I needed to use 2 cups of white wine. Depending on how your rice is cooking, you may need more or less (you can substitute broth for the wine, of course).

Once the rice is fully cooked (this normally takes over an hour for me), fold in the pesto. Add salt and pepper to taste. Finally, fold in the blanched asparagus and fava beans. Serve immediately on warm plates.

Serves four.

6 Responses to “SSFC 2012: Late Spring Pesto Risotto”
  1. pesto and risotto are two of my favorite things! and together — dynamite!! thanks for sharing! sounds and looks delicious!

  2. What a great spring dish. I never would have thought those were fava beans. I have only seen the extremely huge ones. Those look so green and fresh (not that the big ones don’t!) Pesto – my summer favorite. Need to go snip back the basil and make my first batch now!

  3. We are on the same culinary wavelength this week! just made a risotto with asparagus and pancetta the other day, but as you said above, there was indeed only one vendor at the farmers market with favas and there were only the last measly ones.
    You are lucky! Your pesto would have worked well in there, I went with handfuls of various herbs instead… Gotta use em…

  4. annierie says:

    These look so good. You have inspired me to do pesto this weekend and make risotto. Only my pesto will have to use up all the garlic scapes I keep getting.

  5. Oh, what did you say? Everything I love about spring in one easy and highly satisfying dish? Yes, I believe that was it.


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