You might think he's doing something else. But in reality, he's learning how to sit/stay, and not doing a very good job of it (he eventually learned how to do so beautifully ... sort of ).

martedì 23 marzo 2010

Heaps o' Green

It’s known in some parts (mostly the Anglophone world, it seems) as “Roman vegetable stew,” as vignole or vignarola in Rome, as garmugia in and around Lucca. It celebrates spring’s first green offerings: peas, fava beans,[1] artichokes, spring onions, asparagus. It’s a business to make, but ultimately it’s worth peeling every one of those darned beans.

Odd that it’s called Roman, as most food historians say it hails from Lucca; the late Marchesa Maria Luisa Lotteringhi della Stufa dates the dish to the 16th century, and calls it a springtime dish for the illing, or for those who are recovering.[2] . In an ideal world, you’d cook this marvelous soup the way they did back then – on a grill, on a low, low flame.

[Is it called Roman vegetable stew because Anglophone food writers sampled it in Rome, and then wrote about it? Check out, among others, Jamie Oliver’s recipe at The recipe appears in none of my multitudinous cookbooks, either in Italian or in English. Perhaps the addition of lettuce makes it Roman? Lettuce is not an ingredient in the Lucchese version. The two versions could descend from a common ancestor-dish. Their ingredients are all old-world, the variations could date back to Lombard, Visigoth, or Roman and Etruscan times.]

It’s a “fleeting” soup because the window of opportunity to make it, when all of these vegetables are at their peak, is narrow. My friend the Terracotta Sculptress makes this only once or twice a year because, as she says, “ each veggie has to be perfect and babyish, and it takes some time to prepare, especially since I insist on removing the skin of every fava, no matter how small.” She discovered the recipe in Marcella Cucina by Marcella Hazan, and adds: “Ugly to look at, but so worth it. I am eating my third helping as I type …”[3] She also goes on about Ms. Hazan’s recipe: “[She] says to add lettuce with other veggies, but it gets overcooked and she can be really irritating at times, damnit.).” Marcella Hazan refers to this recipe as a “casserole.” It certainly is not soupy.

Terracotta Sculptress makes hers as follows, based muchly on M. Hazan: Saute 2-3 thinly sliced new onions in olive oil and salt until translucent. Add 5 or more sliced artichokes, 2 cups fresh peas, 2 cups just-peeled favas. Cover, on low flame until about halfway tender then add--Big head of romaine or Cos lettuce, shredded. Keep covered and low until done.

She then usually adds a little mint, parsley and lemon juice, but just enough to not notice them. This is a most stew-like spring vegetable soup, as broth is not present.

They do a swell bowl of garmugia at the Buca di San Antonio in Lucca (actually, everything they do there is swell). Here’s an adaptation of theirs (from Intervista alla Buca di Sant’Antonio, Lucca, 2001). They do theirs with ground veal; I’ve opted for ground chicken. The addition of pea shoots is completely unorthodox, but why not?

This is soupier. Best prepared at the absolute last minute, and best eaten immediately. Otherwise, it really becomes, as Terracotta Sculptress says, ugly to look at. Spring green turns to gray mush, fast.


4 spring onions, chopped (or one small red onion, equally chopped)
3 slices pancetta (or unsmoked bacon)
2 artichokes
Juice of one lemon
½ c. freshly shelled peas
½ c. fava beans (from, sadly, about two pounds of pods)
Asparagus tips from one bunch of asparagus
4 c. chicken stock
¼ lb. ground chicken
2 pieces of crusty (preferably Italian) bread
Extravirgin olive oil
Sea salt and a pinch or two of ground white pepper, to taste
Two nice handfuls of pea shoots, garnish

Prepare all the vegetables before starting to cook: chop the onions, shell the peas, trim the artichokes (and then slice them into pieces about ½” wide, dumping them into lemon-filled water), pod the fava making sure to peel the outer skin (a pain in the neck, but well worth it: they are sweeter, and lose their metallic edge if you take the time and trouble to do so), clip the asparagus tips (reserving the rest for a tasty, purèed soup).

Lightly toast the bread.

Put a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a deep saucepan. Add the chopped onions and pancetta; cook on a medium flame. When golden, add the ground chicken, stirring religiously. When it’s cooked through (in about 5 minutes), add all the vegetables, give them a stir, and then add the chicken broth. Bring to a light boil, turn flame to low. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until the vegetables are just done.

Place the toasted bread in each of two soup bowls, ladle the garmugia on top, add a pinch of sea salt and white pepper, drizzle a little olive oil on top, and garnish with pea shoots.

Serves two, who eat this immediately.If you couldn’t be bothered, and are in Lucca, have a bowl at the Buca di San Antonio, via della Cervia 3, 0583/55881

[1] Florentines do not refer to this delicacy as fava, as most of the rest of the world does. Why? Because “fava” is nasty slang referring to homosexuals. I say. Italian Scallion says that “fava” refers to a part of the male anatomy. We are in discord. At any rate, they’re called “baccelli” in Florence. We both invite corrections.
[2] For more on the Marchesa, click on
[3] Marcella Hazan, Marcella Cucina, New York, 1997.

Happy Birthday, Akira Kurosawa.

2 commenti:

  1. I must concur with the Scallion. In the hinterland of Tuscany, "fava" refers to the male member, probably because both have a very short growing season.

  2. So when I was dining alone in a hotel in the small town of Castiglion Fiorentino and the rather flirtatious hotel owner handed me a giant bag of fava beans that had just come in from the garden was he trying to tell me something...?