Spring is Sprung – Risotto with Fiddleheads, Favas and Snow Peas

Risotto with Fiddleheads, Favas and Snow PeasForget lilac blossoms, daffodils and red-breasted robins… as far as I’m concerned, spring hasn’t sprung until I spot the first fiddleheads and fava beans of the season at the local greengrocer.

In my neighbourhood, the arrival of the favas usually draws a crowd of little old ladies, who gossip as they pick through the pile of beans to find the plumpest specimens they can. Wading into the crowd of old-timers to pick a bag of beans is one of my favourite springtime rituals on The Danforth.

That’s why there was great rejoicing the other day, when I walked past the greengrocer and spotted a small crowd of little Greek yiayias clustered around a box of fresh favas. Needless to say, I didn’t waste any time nudging my way into the crowd to grab my share. As I emerged from the melee, victoriously clutching my bag of beans, I also snagged a small basket of tender spring snowpeas and a handful of fresh fiddleheads to complete my spring trifecta.

To celebrate my victory in battle, I decided to make a fresh, lemony spring risotto full of fresh spring vegetables. It makes a lovely light supper all on its own, or can be served with grilled chicken or fish if you’re craving something a little more substantial.

For those of you who might now be familiar with fiddleheads, here are a couple of things you should know before we get going…
First, note that fiddleheads have been known to cause some pretty nasty digestive symptoms if eaten raw, so be sure to cook them thoroughly to spare yourself any unpleasant repercussions. Current guidelines suggest a minimum cooking time of 10 minutes if blanching. I know that seems uncomfortably long, but trust me when I say the fiddleheads will still come out tender, not mushy.

Second, if fresh fiddleheads can’t be found where you are, fresh asparagus is a perfect substitute. Simply chop the spears into 1″ lengths, and cut down the blanching time to about 5 minutes or until bright green and tender-crisp.


Risotto with Fiddleheads, Favas and Snow Peas

1/2 lb fresh fiddleheads
1/2 lb fava beans, shelled
4 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium shallot, minced
2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup snow peas, trimmed and cut into thin strips
Zest of one lemon
1 cup grated Parmesan
Salt and pepper

Prepare the fiddleheads by brushing lightly to remove brown scales, then trimming off any woody stems. Wash well under cold running water to remove dirt before cooking.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add fiddleheads to the boiling water and cook for 10 minutes. Drain, then plunge immediately into an ice bath. Once cool, place in a small bowl and set aside.
Meanwhile, blanch the shelled favas for 4 minutes. Drain, then plunge into an ice bath. Once cool enough to handle, gently peel away the leathery outer skins. Add to the fiddleheads.
In a small saucepan, bring the stock to a simmer over low heat. Cover and keep warm.
In a large saucepan over medium heat, saute shallot in olive oil until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, until evenly coated with oil, about 2 minutes. Immediately add the wine, and cook until the liquid is absorbed, continuing to stir as you go.
Begin stirring in the warm broth, adding it one ladleful at a time. Wait for the first ladleful of broth to be almost fully absorbed before adding the next, stirring frequently to keep risotto from sticking to the pot. Repeat this process until all the broth has been added to the pot, which should take about 25-30 minutes.
Stir in the reserved fiddleheads and fava beans, along with the snow peas. Continue cooking until vegetables are warmed through and risotto is soft and creamy.
Remove from heat and stir in lemon zest and Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve right away.

(Risotto doesn’t reheat very well, so if you do have any leftovers, you really ought to make some risotto cakes instead. Just shape the cold risotto into small patties about 3/4″ thick, dredge in eggs and seasoned panko breadcrumbs, and then pan-fry in olive oil over medium-high heat until golden and crispy. Serve with a fresh green salad for a ridiculously simple and delicious meal.)


  1. The Cilantropist says

    I can't get fiddleheads anywhere around here! Maybe this is not really indigenous to San Diego. ;) The only place I have seen them in the market was in Pike Place when I visited Seattle, and I saw them in the wild up near SF… Sounds like I am missing out because your dish looks delicious!

    Not to mention this is a hilarious post about the old ladies, lol…! Made me laugh out loud!

  2. A Thought For Food says

    I need to go to the store and get more fiddleheads before the season is over. I just adore those little guys.

    This looks like a wonderful recipe… I'll be trying this soon!

  3. Linn @ Swedish Home Cooking says

    The picture with the little pea-swirl in the middle is adorable. Risotto is as always super delicious and tasty. Mmm.

  4. Isabelle says

    Denise, I know a lot of people who undercook their fiddleheads and come out fine. I think it's like anything other sort of food poisoning – you can eat your burgers rare or make mayonnaise with un-coddled eggs and be okay most of the time, but every so often you'll be the unlucky one who spends all evening praying for death. Me, I'll settle for well-done, thankyouverymuch. :)

    Stacey, you underestimate the feistiness of a little old lady who thinks you're muscling her out of a prime veggie-picking spot. Those Greek grannies are tough broads, I tell ya.

  5. denise @ quickies on the dinner table says

    Great post and for me a kitchen lesson too! I've eaten barely cooked and lightly pickled fiddleheads often in the past with no nasty effects and didn't know of course, that this can be dicey! Now that I know, I'm looking at them differently :P

    Nonetheless, I love both fiddleheads and fava beans, always have and this recipe is lovely – and, I have to agree with the scallop idea; divine!

    Your Greek yiayias story is so cute! I can't imagine buying these though as I grew up in places where they grew wild and free for the picking!!


    We had a fiddleheads the other night for the first time this year. Delicious! Also, I had to muscle my way through tourist crowds in Kensington Market to get them. You had it lucky with the old ladies!

  7. roxan says

    Yum, i love fidddleheads. Looks like a wonderful dish, and beautiful photography.

    To add to the comments, scallops are a GREAT addition to risotto! I often add seared scallops to risotto for my husband :)

  8. Isabelle says

    Oooh… love the idea of using scallops on a risotto, Eliz! Hopefully the little old ladies have left enough favas behind for me to try out your version. :)

  9. Eliz says

    Izz – great minds think alike. Made a fava bean, wild leeks and grilled scallops risotto last night – gotta try your version with fiddleheads while they're still around…Yum!

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