Everything in this dish is green, albeit of different hues. The shapes and forms of the plants are various, from the complicated artichoke to the layers of asparagus tips to the hidden geometry of peas. The dish is a very Italian way to celebrate a season — just take all the vegetables you might find in the garden at the same time and toss them together in a single pot. In my version, they become a sauté. I forgo the broth because part of the delight of these spring vegetables is the textures — from snappy to yielding — which are best showcased with just a quick sauté. (The artichokes take a bit longer.)
This might be my favorite Italian dish for revealing the transparent nature of the Italian kitchen. I’ve always thought that the reason for the popularity of Italian cooking is how simple and direct the flavors are — there’s no sauce, no opaque ingredients.
Remove the tough outer leaves of each artichoke until you see very light green to yellow tips. Cut the tips off and trim the bottom of each artichoke, and halve them lengthwise. (Store the artichokes in a bowl of water with the lemon juice to keep them from browning as you work, then drain before cooking.) To cook you can either boil them in salted water just until tender or you can sauté them in olive oil, covering them if necessary to create some steam to cook until tender. Drain and remove the artichokes to a bowl large enough to hold all the cooked vegetables.
Remove the favas from their pods. If you wish, you can push each bean out of its tough outer skin (the easiest way to do this is to blanch the beans in salted water for two seconds then shock in ice water). Add the double-peeled favas to the bowl that holds the artichokes.
Cut the leeks in half lengthwise and trim the bottoms. Rinse any dirt out with cool water. Cut the leek into half moons using all the white and 1 inch of the light green stem. Set aside for cooking.
Trim the green garlic and clean the excess papery layer as you would a green onion. Cut the bulb and 1 inch of the stem into thin slices. Set aside.
Shell the English peas. Set them aside.
Top and string the sugar snap peas. Cut them on a sharp diagonal nearly in half vertically so that the peas inside are exposed. Set aside.
Trim the asparagus bottoms so the fibrous stem is discarded. Cut each spear on the diagonal the size of the tip. Set aside.
Film a large skillet with olive oil. Add the leeks and salt to taste. Sauté over medium high heat until they wilt and take on a little color. Add the sliced green garlic and cook until you smell the aroma, very briefly. Add the peas, a bit more oil and salt and sauté just until they are no longer raw. Move the veggies around the pan as necessary until the peas are just done. Add the contents of the skillet to the bowl with the artichokes and favas.
Once again film the pan with oil. There is no need to wash it first. Heat the pan over medium heat and add the sugar snap peas. Cook them just until no longer raw. You want them to still be bright green and crunchy. Move peas to bowl with other veggies.
Do the same with the asparagus.
Add the herbs and minced garlic to the bowl and toss into the vegetables. Taste for salt.
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