It’s comforting to find myself falling back into the familiar rhythms of a season—to be reminded that though time passes, some things really do stay the same. In recent weeks, I have arranged my stone fruit on the counter for optimal ripening, with no fruit touching another; plunged bouquets of herbs into water to decorate the counter as well as our meals; shucked corn; trimmed slender green beans; sliced the rind off a watermelon—tasks that hadn’t been mine for months. Spring produce always brings the first reminders: of warmer days, unmatchable produce, easy evenings. As I shell peas and favas, I realize my fingers remember the motions, swiftly popping out the vibrant gems as though no time had gone by since last I took on this project. Like clockwork, I question the reasonableness of all of this trouble I’m going to…until I sit down to eat. I’m smitten with these funny beans and spherical seeds, both among my favorite foods, so bright and delicious and tasting perfectly of the season. I love them just as much this year as the last.
But it’s not just the rhythms of cooking and eating that I recall. A week ago, I made a simple dinner, tossing the first cherry tomatoes of the season together with sliced nectarines and balsamic and torn leaves of basil, marinating freshly cooked cannellini beans with olive oil and thyme, combining pasta with English peas, goat cheese and lemon. It was the first proper summer meal I’d made this year, at least as evaluated by my personal rubric for such things. As we kicked up our feet, glasses of rosé in hand, I suddenly realized how distinctly I recognized the feeling: of how very easy summertime can be, of the glories of simple dinners, of produce that really doesn’t need anything to be the most perfect version of itself, of how very nice it is to eat dinner before the sun has sunk beneath the horizon. There are few things so glorious and hopeful and wonderfully quiet as all this.
We’re all aware by now, I think, that Yotam Ottolenghi just doesn’t disappoint, so I probably don’t need to say a thing about this recipe, except that it fits perfectly with all that I’ve said above. But in order to make it abundantly clear, I will tell you that it captures the best of springtime produce and embraces the spirit of those sweet lingering evenings the season provides. This is a perfect meal for these last days of spring, before the favas and peas make way for figs and tomatoes and summer squash galore. The stew is simple, an optimal, minimally disruptive way to highlight beautiful produce, and the Parmesan rice is an appropriately rich counterpart. I hope you’ll give this one a try, with gratitude for familiar rhythms and eager anticipation of long, lazy summer nights.
Stewed Fava Beans, Peas & Little Gems with Parmesan Rice
Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty More
Serves 4 (or 2 with leftover rice, if you are very hungry)
FOR THE STEW
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra to finish
3 cloves garlic, sliced
10 green onions, white and green parts, cut on the diagonal into slices 3/4-inch long
1 pound fresh fava beans (weight in pods), shelled, blanched and skins removed
1 pound fresh green peas (weight in pods), shelled
2 cups vegetable stock
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 – 3 heads Little Gem lettuce (depending on their size and the number of eaters), ends removed and quartered lengthwise
2/3 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus additional
Freshly cracked black pepper
FOR THE RICE
1 1/3 cups short grain brown rice (or use your favorite type of rice)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus extra for finishing if desired
3/4 cup (80 grams) grated Parmesan
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
Start with the rice. Place the rice, 1 tablespoon butter and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a saucepan over high heat and stir as the butter melts and the rice warms. Add 2 1/3 cups boiling water (or the amount appropriate for the type of rice you’ve chosen). Turn down the heat and simmer, covered, for about 40 minutes (or the amount of time required for the type of rice you’re using). Once the rice is cooked, with all of the liquid absorbed, remove from the heat and leave covered for another 10 minutes.
While the rice cooks, start the stewed vegetables. In a large pot or a very large sauté pan, warm the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and green onions and sauté for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they start taking on some color. Add the fava beans and cook for another 4 minutes. Add the peas, 1 1/2 cups stock, thyme, salt and a generous grind of black pepper. The vegetables should be well covered; add more stock if needed. Bring to a low simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Add the lettuce and cook for another 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. The dish is ready when the lettuce hearts have softened but aren’t soggy and you are left with about half of the stock. Remove and discard the thyme. Taste for salt and adjust if necessary, then stir in the mint.
To the hot rice, add the Parmesan and additional butter, if desired, and fluff with a fork. Stir in the lemon juice.
To serve, spoon the rice into bowls. Ladle vegetables and broth over top. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil, a bit more black pepper and the lemon zest.