first spring soup

early spring vegetables

i may be a little biased because i’m still deep in mourning, but i think every page of domino magazne (RIP) was brilliant, including the food pages. in the last issue, there was a gorgeous-looking soup by a food guru/stylist duo (alison attenborough and jamie kimm) that has been in my head ever since i saw it. a simple spring soup with a baby artichoke staring up at you. i don’t think i would have thought to make that addition but it’s perfect–so spring and so easy throw in (no choke to worry about in the tiny artichokes!)

 chopping chard

i think their soup had peas in it but bright green fava beans have my attention right now–they’ve been coming in fresh daily. that plus the added texture that fava beans would bring to the soup made me grab them, along with new potatoes, a bunch of fresh herbs and young chard. i opted for white chard even though i thought i saw the first rainbow chard of the season, because i wanted the broth to be a clear backdrop for the star vegetables.

here’s a tip that makes working with chard or kale so simple, and a 5-step strategy to creating your own soup de jour…

sauteing vegetables... adding herbs and water...

quick cooking baby artichokes and favas... finally wilting chard leaves

first, tear your chard apart! since stems are hardy and take longer to cook, we usually have to de-stem chard and kale which may seem fussy. but if you grab the two sides of the leaves and fold them together over the spine of the stem, they will break away from the stem and you can “crack” them off like that all the way up. with this young chard, you can even slide your hand up the stem and you’ll find that most of the leaves almost slide off.

and as for the science of soup, i think of it this way…

1. start with fat (oil etc.) and aromatics (onions, leeks, garlic) first

2. and add the harder, slow-cooking vegetables after a few minutes

3. when they’ve hung out for a while, it’s time to add the seasonings and herbs

4. then liquids (water, broth, wine) and simmer, simmer, simmer

5. and finish with any quick-cooking tender ingredients (leaves, young or tiny vegetables, cheese)

the variables are up to you and the ones i’ve chosen for this soup are simply fresh early spring crop. i know i will be using these basics to make many soups this spring, but thank you to domino for this and many other inspirations. i can’t link to alison and jamie’s recipe because the domino website was also killed (it’s too tragic for words), but they have agreat book that i’m looking forward to checking out.


first spring soup

1 large leek, white and light green parts well washed and chopped

1 medium carrot, peeled, halved lengthwise, halves cut into thirds

2 celery stalks, each cut into thirds

6-8 new (baby) potatoes, halved

1 bunch young white swiss chard, stems cut into 1/2 inch pieces, leaves sliced into 2 inch pieces

6 fresh baby artichokes

1/2 cup fresh shelled fava beans (about 8-10 pods)

3 cloves of garlic, smashed

5 small sprigs of thyme

5 sprigs of parsley, plus the leaves of one sprig chopped for serving

1 large sprig or fresh oregano

1 fresh bay leaf

parmesan rind and 1/4 cup parmesan or other hard cheese, coarsely grated

1 lemon (juice only)

1 cup dry white wine

1 tbs extra virgin olive oil

1 tbs unsalted butter

1 1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1 lemon

assemble your bouquet garni: tie the thyme, parsley and oregano with food-safe string or wrap in cheese cloth.

in a large pot, add oil, butter and garlic, over medium heat. when butter melts and oil is hot, add leeks and 1/4 tsp of salt and stir frequently until the leeks start to soften. then add the carrots, celery, chard stems and potatoes and stir. allow them to cook for about 5 minutes in the oil and butter. then add the wine, 6 cups of water, the bouquet garni and tearing the bay leaf once, add it too. add the pepper, remaining salt and parmesan rind. cover, and bring up to a boil. then reduce heat slightly and simmer for 20 minutes, covered.

meanwhile, squeeze the juice of one lemon into a bowl, and add 2 cups of water. remove all of the tough outer leaves of the artichokes until you get to the much paler tender core. trim off stem and the very bottom of the artichokes, then the tough tips (about 1/4 way down), and slice each artichoke in half lengthwise. immerse the trimmed halves in the lemon water, leave them cut-side down in the bowl and set aside.

when the soup has simmered for 20 minutes, using tongs, remove the bouquet garni, bay leaf, the 6 pieces of carrot and the 6 pieces of celery. remove artichokes from lemon water, discard water, and add the artichokes to the soup, along with the shelled fava beans. simmer uncovered for 7 minutes. (eat the carrots and celery while you’re waiting!) add the chard leaves and simmer for about 3 minutes until they have just wilted.

distribute evenly into bowls, sprinkle with grated parmesan and chopped parsley. serve hot with some crusty bread or good crackers and olives.

serves 4.