Creamy Artichoke Soup with Crispy Prosciutto

Makes 4 servings

This soup is made from the hearts only, the prized part of the artichoke. Once cooked, artichoke hearts are become satisfyingly creamy, making this a luxurious soup. The artichoke hearts' distinctive nutty, earthy flavor is enhanced by fragrant rosemary, tangy Meyer lemon, and rich extra virgin olive oil. I don't need to tell you to eat this with a hunk or two of crusty Italian bread.

1 lemon
4 globe artichokes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 leek (only the white bottom), thinly sliced
2 cups peeled, diced red potatoes
1 cup white mushroom, thinly sliced (10 minutes)
1/2 cup dry white wine (5 more min)
4 cups vegetable stock cover partially and cook 20-30 minutes
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
a few shakes of sea salt
10 cranks of fresh black pepper (blend)
1/2 cup half 'n half or heavy cream (stir in and warm before serving)
1 teaspoon Meyer lemon juice
salt and more black pepper to taste
2 ounces prosciutto

1. Fill a medium bowl with water and the juice of 1 lemon. Cut off the stem and rough base of the artichoke and the top two-thirds of the leaves. Snap off the remaining outer leaves. Using a small spoon, scrape out the fuzzy choke. Using a sharp knife, thinly slice the artichoke heart and place in the bowl of lemon water. Repeat with remaining 3 artichokes.

2. In a large stock pot over medium heat, warm olive oil and butter. Add the leek, potatoes, mushrooms, and artichoke slices (after draining and patting dry). Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add white wine and allow to evaporate (about 5-7 minutes). Add the vegetable stock, rosemary, salt, and pepper, and stir until well combined. Raise heat and bring to a boil. Cover partially and simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.

3. Working in batches, puree the soup until smooth. Return it the pot; stir in the half and half (or cream), Meyer lemon juice, salt and pepper. Keep soup warm over a low heat.

4. Meanwhile, in a medium-size dry skillet over medium heat, add 2 ounces of sliced prosciutto. Cook 30 to 60 seconds, or until just crisp. Remove from heat, and slice into small pieces.

5. Ladle the soup into 4 bowls. Top with1/4 of the crispy prosciutto, a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, some freshly ground black pepper and a bit of finely chopped fresh rosemary. Serve immediately.

Recipe created by Susan Russo of Food Blogga.