This dish is delicious as is for a first course or as a light lunch, or it can be enjoyed as a side dish; it is also wonderful tossed into pasta.
1. In a large nonstick skillet set over moderately low heat, combine the olive oil, leek, and garlic. Cover and cook until the leek is softened, about 4 minutes. Add the drained artichoke hearts, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, the sugar, and 3/4 cup of the water. Cover, increase the heat to high, and cook, tossing occasionally, until the artichoke hearts are crisp-tender, 8 to 10 minutes.
2. Add the asparagus and the remaining 1/4 cup water, cover, and cook for 2 minutes, tossing the vegetables occasionally. (If the water evaporates too quickly, add a few more tablespoons.)
3. Add the morels, if using, and peas and cook for 2 minutes longer or until they are just tender and the water has completely evaporated. Stir in the minced herbs, lemon zest, plenty of pepper, and the remaining salt if necessary. Serve hot.
4. Prepare the artichokes up to 4 hours ahead and keep them in the acidulated water. If using fava beans, shell and peel them up to a day ahead and refrigerate. Prepare the remaining vegetables up to 5 hours ahead and store in plastic bags or covered containers in the refrigerator.
Note: The ragout is also delicious at room temperature or warm, but its flavor and color will remain fresh for only 24 hours in the refrigerator. To reheat, toss in a medium nonstick skillet over moderate heat with a tablespoon or two of water.
A former chef, Sally Schneider has won numerous awards—including four James Beard awards—for her books and magazine writing. She is creator of the lifestyle blog Improvised Life, a featured blogger on The Atlantic Monthly's Food Blog, and author of The Improvisational Cook and A New Way to Cook. She has served as a contributing editor to both Saveur and Food & Wine, and her work has appeared in The Los Angeles Times Magazine, Saveur, Food & Wine, SELF and Connoisseur.