Braised Spring Legumes (Scaffata)

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This is a wonderful Roman spring dish that can be made when peas and favas in their shells are young and sweet. The name comes from the word "scaffare" - "to shell" in Roman dialect. It is especially good when served with roast spring lamb or goat. The outermost, less tender leave of a head of Romaine, which you may not want to use in a salad, are perfect for this dish.

INGREDIENTS

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped scallions, white and tender parts, about 6 scallions
1/2 cup chopped onions
2-1/2 pounds fresh peas in the pod, shelled
1-1/4 pounds fresh fava beans in the pod, shelled, blanched and peeled
1 cup finely diced zucchini
1/2 teaspoon peperoncino, crushed red pepper
Salt
2 cups thinly shredded Romaine lettuce leaves
1 tablespoon finely shredded fresh mint leaves

In a large heavy casserole with a tight-fitting lid, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the scallions and onions and cook, stirring, until wilted, about 4 minutes. Add the peas, fava beans, zucchini, and peporoncino and season lightly with salt. Stir well, reduce heat to low, and cover the casserole tightly. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the Romaine and mint, cover the casserole, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are very tender, about 25 minutes more. (The vegetables should give off enough moisture during cooking to prevent sticking or burning. If you find they are sticking, you can add a few tablespoons of water. Make sure the heat is very low and the pot is tightly covered before continuing to cook. It is fine, however, if the vegetables do brown a little.) Season to taste with salt and serve hot.

Makes 6 servings