Today we celebrate the spring equinox with an Italian soup known as vignole, which can be loosely translated as “a celebration of spring.” Feel free to mix up the vegetables with whatever is showing up at your farmers’ market these days. If you can find fresh basil this early in the season, the soup is also delicious with a spoonful of pesto on top.
1 lemon, halved
8 baby artichokes
4 fresh thyme sprigs
3 lb. (1.5 kg) fava beans, outer pods removed
8 small leeks, white and pale green parts
2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 bunch green onions, white and light green portions, chopped
6 slices prosciutto, torn into strips 1⁄2 inch (12 mm) wide
6 cups (48 fl. oz./1.5 l) chicken stock
1 cup (2 oz./60 g) shredded Swiss chard
1 cup (2 oz./60 g) shredded sorrel leaves
1 cup (2 oz./60 g) baby spinach leaves
1 cup (5 oz./155 g) fresh or thawed frozen peas
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup (1/2 oz./15 g) packed fresh mint leaves
Fill a bowl with water and squeeze the juice from the lemon halves into it. Working with 1 artichoke at a time, using a serrated knife, cut off the top inch of the artichoke to remove the thorns. Tear off the smallest, toughest outer leaves. Trim the stem flush with the bottom of the artichoke. Drop the artichoke in the water and repeat with the remaining artichokes.
Fill a saucepan three-fourths full of salted water. Add artichokes and thyme and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook until the artichokes are tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool in the water. Drain and halve artichokes lengthwise. Using a paring knife, scrape away any furry choke. Set aside.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, prepare a large bowl of ice water. Blanch the shucked fava beans in boiling water for 1 minute. Drain and transfer to the ice water. When the beans are cool, use your fingers to peel off the skins. Set aside with the artichokes.
Cut leeks into 1-inch (2.5-cm) rounds and rinse well in cold water to remove any grit.
In a large saucepan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the leeks, green onions and prosciutto and sauté until the prosciutto is lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add the Swiss chard, sorrel, spinach, peas, artichokes and fava beans. Simmer until the vegetables are bright green and the peas float to the top, 3 to 4 minutes.
Season to taste with salt and pepper, stir in mint leaves and serve immediately. Serves 6 to 8.
Recipe adapted from Williams-Sonoma Cooking for Friends: Fresh Ways to Entertain with Style, by Alison Attenborough and Jamie Kimm