As I settle in to a chaise lounge in my Tucson, Arizona backyard and gaze out at all the new life that has arisen in the desert, feeling the warmth of the sun on my back, I am remembering, with fondness, those springs of my youth. April was always my favorite month of the year and not just because it was my birthday month, but also because everything was fresh and new and coming alive. The days were getting longer and gardens were blooming. Things are a bit different now, living in the southwest where spring begins in February and summer is upon us by early May, but on days like this, I am breathing it all in and loving the season.
If I let myself go back, I can remember that most of my new ideas, solutions to challenges, and larger-than-life ideals came in the spring. Spring gives me the energy to change, to pick up my dreams once again and feed them with youthful energy, like the buds in the desert.
This soup was inspired by and adapted from Giulia Scarpaleggia at Juls Kitchen. She has a wonderful Tuscany food blog that inspires me often. I ended up putting my own spin on this in a way, due to the different spring vegetables that are available to me, and also things I like (like including serrrano peppers!).
My wish for you is that this spring will inspire, motivate and invigorate you to pick up your dreams and run like the wind.
I really get inspired to make more and more soups as the spring wears on because here in the desert, summer comes fast and furious! We have only about 5 months of the year where hot soup is an option, so I try to take advantage. We are having a nice cool spring this year, so I have time to slip in at least one or two more soups before the heat sets in. This one really fits the season. I normally don’t add meat to my soups, but in this instance, it just felt right. And it was totally inspired by this Tuscan soup called Garmugia from the town of Lucca, but, as always, I had to put a few of my own touches (such as fennel, baby zucchini and serrano peppers) so I realize it is not totally authentic. But it is fairly close and the spirit is there. The principal ingredients of a garmugia are those that are abundant and readily available in the spring months. Due to the large amount of nutrients, together with the association with rejuvenation, garmugia has been considered an elixir for the sick and tired, for pregnant women or those about to embark on a challenging task! I hope you will give this soup a try and with its nourishment, be energized and motivated to bring to life one of your dreams. And run, baby run!
Tuscan-style Spring Soup
- 3 spring onions, sliced thin including the green may substitute scallions
- 2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil plus more for croutons
- 3 cloves garlic use garlic scapes instead if you can get them
- 1 serrano pepper, sliced thin optional
- 3-4 ounces proscuitto, cut into strips or dice (100g) or pancetta
- 8 ounces ground beef or lamb (225g)
- 2 teaspoons Herbes de Provence or an Italian blend of herbs
- 3 medium artichokes, cleaned and sliced thinly may substitute frozen
- 10-12 asparagus spears, sliced into 1-inch pieces (100g)
- 1 medium fennel bulb, sliced
- 3 baby zucchini, sliced on diagonal can use 1 small zucchini, diced
- 1 cup fresh snap peas, trimmed and cut in half on diagonal
- 1 cup fresh shelled peas may substitute frozen
- 4 cups vegetable broth, warmed low-sodium (1 liter)
- 4-6 slices stale bread or toast it slightly if fresher
- sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
- 4-6 mint sprigs optional garnish
- Start by making sure your vegetables are prepped as instructed above so they are ready to go and warm the vegetable broth.
- Add the olive oil and sliced onions to a dutch oven or soup pot and saute for a few minutes. Then add the garlic, serrano (if using) and proscuitto and saute a few minutes more. Then add ground meat and herbs. Stir with a wooden spoon to break it into small pieces and cook it evenly.
- When the meat is cooked, add all the vegetables (except peas is using frozen), stir well and season with salt and pepper. After a minute or two, add the warmed broth and a cup or two of water.
- Cook over medium-low heat, covered, for about 30 minutes or until vegetables are just tender. If using frozen peas, add them in the last few minutes of cooking.
- While soup is cooking, cut the bread into large cubes and toast them in a pan with a bit more olive oil. Alternately, you can spray with oil and toast them in the oven.
- Serve with toasted croutons and a sprig of mint, if desired.