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Zuppa del Contadino (Soup of the Farmer)

After months of winter vegetables, I patiently wait for the first signs of spring in the Farmers' Market. For me that means broad beans, peas, small sweet zucchini and asparagus. This year spring also brought hope. Hope that we had finally got on top of the virus with our lives opening up again and the US election looking like it could result in a new and gentler era. In Melbourne where our children were in lock-down since mid winter, the numbers were getting better and every day was a day closer to when we could see them again.



This delightful spring dish is simple and brilliantly captures the flavours of all the spring green vegetables. In Southern Italy its often made with small young artichokes but here they are expensive and difficult to get so I replace them with asparagus. This year, fresh new season peas were also hard to find. I asked the farmer if he had them and he replied "not this year". I quizzed him earnestly, thinking it may be because of some climate change, labour shortage or virus related reason but he just said "because I didn't plant them, it's too much work". We both laughed and I reminded myself to tone down my analytical brain and lighten up a little.


Preparing the vegetables takes time and is a little arduous so should be approached with an element of zen, preferably sitting at a table with a helper to two. The cooking is quick and easy and the eating takes only a moment! You can cook the broad beans with their skins on, especially if they are fresh and small but we prefer them with the skins off revealing their glistening green sweetness.


Broad beans and fresh peas are only here for a short time, so I recommend you eat them as often as you can, while you can.


Recipe

Take a good amount of broad beans, fresh peas, baby artichokes, fresh asparagus or new season zucchini so that the beans and peas make up the bulk of the vegetables. This will require a large quantity of broad beans because the ratio of pod to bean is high.

Remove the broad beans and the peas from their pods. Put the broad beans in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. This will help get the skins off. When the water is cool enough, remove their skins.

Cut the asparagus into pieces or if using zucchini, slice them up. If using baby artichokes, remove the tough outer leaves.

In a heavy bottomed pan with a tight lid, pour a good amount of olive oil.

Add a small chopped onion, a chopped spring onion or no onion at all, depending on your taste and cook until translucent and soft (not brown).

Add the vegetables and some salt and stir once or twice.

Put the lid on the pot and turn to a low heat.

Let the vegetables cook in their own juices for around 10-15 minutes or until cooked.

Take off the heat and serve drizzled with beautiful high quality olive oil.


Cook again and cook often, using any combination of green spring vegetables you have to hand. Experiment but keep the dish simple.







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