Meet at the market: what’s for dinner?

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Each week we meet up with Katie Hershfelt of Cultivate Events as she chats with farmers, chefs and shoppers at the Santa Barbara Farmers’ Market.

This week’s guest? An inconspicuous shopper named Ashley Zavagno, who we caught buying leeks from The Garden Of… stand. We asked what she’s cooking for dinner, and her answer made us want to crash the meal. Here’s how she’s using the leeks, fava beans and butter lettuce she picked up at the market:

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Ashley Zavagno will pair her risotto with a butter lettuce salad. Photo: Kathryn Barnes

Leek and Fava Bean Risotto

Serves: 2-3

Ingredients

  • ½ cup cooked and cleaned fava beans
  • 2 leeks
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • handful of parsley
  • 1 lemon
  • 4 cups of rich chicken stock (homemade if you have it; use veggie stock if vegetarian)
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • ½ cup white wine
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan or pecorino cheese (get the good stuff)

1. Start by boiling some water to parboil the fava beans in. While waiting for the water to boil, shell the fava beans. This is no different than shelling fresh English peas. Use your fingernail to run down the center seam of the pod, which will split it open. Then, use your finger again to gently scrape out the beans inside. Once the water is boiling and you have shelled the fava beans, drop the beans into the boiling water. Let them sit in the water for about 1-2 minutes until they have softened, but not lost their vibrant green color. Next, drain them from the water and place in an ice bath to cool. Once they are cool enough to handle, use your finger again to pop the inner bean out from the leathery outer coating. Toss the leathery coating and set aside the bright green inner beans.

2. After prepping the fava beans, heat a small pot with the chicken stock on it to a simmer. If the chicken stock isn’t hot when you add it to the rice, it won’t release the starch from the rice and your risotto won’t get creamy.

3. Dice the onions and mince the garlic. Chop of the dark green tops of the leeks (save the tops for stock if you make it) and the rooty bottoms. Then, spit the leeks in half lengthwise. Take each half of the leek and run it under some cold water while separating the layers gently with your fingers. This will remove any sand or grit from the leeks. After that, lay the leeks flat side down and slice into thin half moon shaped pieces.

4. In a large flat sauté pan, heat up some olive oil and then add the leeks, onions, and garlic. Cook until fragrant and translucent.

5. Next add the rice and cook until it has absorbed the oil and started to turn ever so slightly golden.

6. Add the wine and cook until absorbed. Make sure to stir here.

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Shu and his wife Debby Takikawa on their immaculate farm, The Garden Of… Shu prides himself in beautiful produce and aesthetic presentation. Photo: Martin Sundberg

Simple Butter Lettuce Salad with  Vinaigrette

Serves 2-4

Ingredients

  •  1 head of butter lettuce (red or green)
  • 2 tbsp. of wine vinegar (red wine, white wine, champagne, or sherry all work)
  • ½ tbsp. of Dijon mustard (Maille is the best brand commonly available)
  • 1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  •  ½ tbsp. minced shallot
  • Pinch of salt

1. Wash and dry the lettuce thoroughly. Make sure the lettuce is really dry before adding the dressing otherwise the dressing won’t stick to leaves.

2. In a small bowl combine the mustard, vinegar, and shallots. Let the mixture sit for 5-10 minutes for the flavors to merry.

3. Then SLOWLY drizzle in the olive oil while quickly whisking. Start off my adding just a few drops at a time. Then as the mixture comes together more, you can add the oil a little faster. You are trying to make an emulsion and if you go too fast the oil will just float on top.

4. Toss lettuce with just enough dressing to coat. You can save any extra dressing in the fridge for your next salad.

Tip: To make this salad more interesting consider adding toppings such as sliced avocado, nuts (walnuts, pistachios, and pecans all work well), goat cheese, or dried fruit (such as cranberries or cherries). Since butter lettuce is a delicate lettuce, however, try to limit the toppings to one or two at most so you don’t smother the beautiful leaves.

To check out all our past farmers’ market guests, click here.