Spring Vegetable Rice Salad (Insalata di Riso)
- 1 cup Arborio rice
- 1/2 pound medium asparagus
- 1 cup shelled English peas, from about 1 pound fresh peas
- 2 pounds fresh fava beans
- 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- Sea salt, preferably gray salt, and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced basil leaves
- 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley
- 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
- 1/2 cup small diced boiled ham
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add rice, stir, and adjust heat to maintain a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally to prevent any grains from sticking to the pot, until the rice is just barely done, about 15 minutes. It will continue to cook as it cools. Drain the rice well and spread it out on a tray to cool quickly.
Bring another large pot of salted water to a boil. Holding an asparagus spear in both hands, bend the spear until it breaks naturally at the point where it becomes tough. Repeat with the remaining spears. Discard the tough ends and cut the tender part into 1/3-inch lengths. Blanch asparagus and peas together in the boiling water for 1 minute and 30 seconds, then lift out with a strainer and transfer to a paper towel lined baking sheet to cool.
Shell the fava beans, then blanch the unpeeled beans in the same boiling water for about 3 minutes. Drain, transfer them to a paper towel lined baking sheet to cool. Peel the fava beans by pinching open the loose skin; the peeled bean should slip out easily.
Put the lemon juice in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Gradually whisk in the olive oil.
In a large bowl, combine the cooled rice, asparagus, peas, fava beans, basil, parsley, lemon zest, ham and cheese. Toss with your hands to blend. Pour the dressing over the salad (you may not need it all) and toss gently. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Note: You can blanch everything ahead, but don't dress until just before serving.