Ah, the flavors of spring. There is something so fundamentally satisfying in the raw, nubile greenness of the first emergent spring fruits and vegetables. Summer’s lush peaches, garish peppers and lurid tomatoes storm the farmer’s markets in a psychedelic flurry of color and sensualism. But for now, green in its many shades and flavors is the "it" color. Each spring I look forward to delicately sweet favas, petulantly piquant alliums and of course thousands of stems of pungent asparagus.
Being both of Italian heritage and in a Mediterranean climate, I was immediately inspired by a couple of recent postings on the gorgeous Lucullian Delights blog, written and photographed by a
Danish Swedish woman living in Pistoia, Tuscany. Back to back, she posted recipes for a fava bean salad and a very tempting recipe, adapted from the popular Italian food magazine Sale e Pepe, for involtini di pollo al porro e salvia, or chicken involtini with leeks and sage. Yum!
We inherited a bag of whole fave from one of DPaul’s colleagues who subscribes to one of the organic produce delivery services. Sucker for punishment that I am, I actually LIKE to shell and peel fave, even though they are rather laborious for such amazingly diminishing returns. But it’s worth it in the end. Right?
Rather than serve the meager pile of fave I ended up with as a salad, I used basically the same recipe but gave it a quick mash and served it on crostini. The components couldn’t be simpler: Fave, lemon juice, lots of pepper, olive oil and parmigiano reggiano (I didn’t have pecorino).
The involtini have bit wow factor and look adorable. Wrapping the leek green around the outside makes for an attractive dish, but it actually does not contribute greatly to the flavor or texture — in fact, it inhibits browning of the meat and goes rather stringy after the braise. But it’s darn cute. I reduced the braising liquid a bit, allowed the oil-cured olives and (rinsed) capers to soak some juice up, and finished it by swirling in a bit of butter. It’s always better with butter. A little lightly cooked asparagus on the side sealed it up.
Gotta offset all the green with some red, and the berries are absolutely great right now. The berries and whipped cream are hardly innovative, but I took a tip from a dinner party last Friday and did as our friend Russ did — I whipped honey directly into the cream for a slightly richer texture and delicate sweetness.