Not so long ago, I posted a picture on my FB page of a springy vegetable stew , one that my mother used to make with the pickings of our vegetable garden every Easter. It showcases fava beans, artichokes, shelling peas, spring onions and baby chards or baby romaine lettuce at their peak. The choice between a) chards or b) romaines depends on your heart being rooted in Umbria or Tuscany-in which case you'd select option aand call it scafata, or your devotion to Rome steering you to option b-which would make the stew a vignarola.
I don't prefer one or the other version, as mom would make it according to market availability and whim, but I did have several requests for the recipe in the picture, so here it is.
Scafata or Vignarola
Artichoke and spring greens stew
for 4 people:
4 medium sized artichokes
1 pound unshelled fava beans
1 pound shelling peas
2 spring onions
1 bunch of baby chards or 2 heads of baby romaine lettuce
1 sprig marjoram
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Cut the lemon in half and squeeze its juice into a bowl of cold water. Drop the squeezed half lemons in the bowl.
Clean the artichokes. Remove the outer tough bitter leaves until about 2/3 of the outer circle of leaves are a lighter, somewhat yellowish green.
Slice off the darker top tip of the leaves. Pare the outer part of the bottom and peel the stems. Finally, slice off a very thin layer from the bottom of the stem.
This procedure is called turning, as for each phase of it, your knife will circle around the artichoke.
Halve each turned artichoke and remove the hairy choke if necessary. Cut each half in half again.
As they are ready, drop the artichoke quarters in the lemon water to prevent them from browning.
Shell the fava beans and the peas.
Cut offthe green top of the onions then cut in 8 wedges if they have a roundish bulb or just slice lengthwise if they are the narrower kind.
Carefully rinse the chards to eliminate any grit or, if using baby romaines, cut in quarters and rinse well.
In a shallow sauce pot pour the oil, than arrange all the vegetable snugly. Season liberally with salt and pepper and top with the marjoram.
Cover the pot and place it on low heat. The vegetables will release much moisture in which the vegetables will gently braise.
Cook for 25 to 30 minutes, until everything is soft and well balanced. Adjust salt and pepper and enjoy at any temperature.
- Depending on the size of your artichokes you might have to cut them in 6 or 8 wedges or maybe just in half if smaller. If using baby artichokes you can leave them whole
- The fava beans only need to come out of the pod, you do not have to peel every single bean
- Spring onions are not to be confused with scallions, which are the very thin, available-year-round green onions. Spring onions are the young, firm fleshed, uncured, sweet tasting onions that are available in the very late winter and spring
- To make this dish more substantial, you can render some cubed pancetta in the oil before adding the vegetables and serve the stew on thick slices of toasted country bread
- The flavors in this dish make it a perfect complement to roasted lamb