Primavera Braise with Asparagus, Sugar Snap Peas, Fava, Leeks, and Artichokes

This recipe is just a guideline. If you don’t have, say, artichokes, or favas aren’t in yet, just skip them. Use just one type of asparagus if you wish, or use several, whatever strikes your fancy. This is a brightly flavored dish that could be served over pasta, farro, risotto, or in a bowl with thick slices of grilled bread.

INGREDIENTS:

1 large leek, white and palest green, sliced 1/8 inch thick
1 cup baby artichokes, pared and sliced 1/8 inch, or use canned or frozen hearts, cut into small pieces similar to everything else
1/2 pound thin asparagus spears, trimmed and cut into 1 inch lengths
1/2 pound thick purple asparagus (or green), trimmed and sliced on the bias into 1 inch x 1/8 inch slices
1 heaping cup young shelled fava beans
2 cups sugar snap peas, ends cut off, cut diagonally into ¼ inch x 1½ inch slices
1 cup shelled peas
1 tablespoon fresh mint, cut into a fine chiffonade
1/2 tablespoon fresh marjoram, sliced finely
2-3 cups vegetable stock, simmering
8-12 ounces small white potatoes, new potatoes preferred
Brightly flavored olive oil for cooking and drizzling such as Belle Farms or Colline di Santa Cruz Ascolano
Salt (preferably something crunchy like Maldon or Murray River) and pepper to taste
1/4 cup prosciutto, cut into 1/4 inch dice, optional

METHOD:

Put the potatoes in cold water to cover by at least 2 inches, and liberally salt the water. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook just until potatoes are tender-they should be fairly easy to pierce with a thin sharp knife, about 15 minutes. Immediately drain and slice in half if they are more than 1/4 inch in diameter. If you oil the sides of the knife this will help prevent sticking. Keep potatoes warm.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, film with oil and add the leeks, stirring to coat with the oil. Cook until softened.

If using the prosciutto, add it to the pan and sauté until it colors and is fragrant.

Make a well in the center and add the artichokes, and toss to coat with oil. Cook until the artichokes have a little color, then add a few tablespoons of stock and cover the pan. Cook until the stock has evaporated.

Push the contents of the pan to the side and be sure there is a little oil on the pan bottom. Add the asparagus and the favas and sauté gently few minutes to give a little color.

Add the peas to the pan along with the potatoes, and then the stock. Simmer for 1 minute, then add the sugar snap pea slices. Cook 1 to 2 minutes more until the vegetables are done.

Use a slotted spoon to transfer the vegetables to a serving dish. Reduce any liquid in the pan to around a ½-cup, and pour over the vegetables. Scatter half the herbs over all and gently mix in. Scatter the rest over the top.

Drizzle with the olive oil and scatter some flakes of salt and fresh ground pepper over all and serve.

CHEF NOTES:

  • Remember, if you don’t have something, just make up for it with something else. If you just want to use asparagus, use 2 bunches. In lieu of a leek, use a white onion or a couple spring onions. If your fava beans are more than a 1/2 inch across, they should be peeled as well as shucked.
  • The prosciutto adds a certain depth and robustness without overpowering the more delicate spring notes of this dish.
  • If there is time, you can heat the stock with the trimmings from the asparagus for 15 minutes prior top use to infuse the dish with more asparagus flavor.
  • If you wish, you could grate a little Pecorino-Romano over the dish at the end.

YIELD: Serves 4

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