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Recipes

№ 61 - Spring Vegetable Ragout

A light-handed approach to the season's first vegetables

In spring, when vegetables seem more hesitant and considerate than their louder, late season cousins, I look for gentle ways to cook them. The charm of this vegetable ragout is in the understated seasoning and the short cooking time, which preserves the tender bite of the vegetables. Just about any spring vegetable that comes your way qualifies: asparagus, peas, radishes and their tender greens, fiddlehead ferns, spring onions, ramps, green garlic, the list goes on. The addition of morels -when available and in your budget - turns this dish into a luxurious celebration of spring.

Fitting the accomodating nature of the vegetables, this ragout isn't picky when it comes to pairings: Try it with fish, chicken, pork, veal or eggs. One of my springtime favorites is to combine it with seared sea scallops and - if part of a main course - ramp potato purée.

Serves 4 as part of a main course or 6 as part of an appetizer

1 lb trimmed spring vegetables, definitely including:

  - around 10 asparagus spears (green or purple, ends snapped off, or peeled white)

  - a handful of small or medium radishes

  - greens from 1 bunch of small or medium radishes or tender greens from young turnips

and possibly including some of:

  - Spring legumes (shelled English shell peas, young fava beans (shucked, blanched, iced and skins peeled off), sugar snap peassnow peas)

  - Spring alliums (spring onions, scallions, ramps, baby leeks, green garlic)

  - Fiddlehead ferns

  - Young tender carrots, peeled

  - Balloon flower shoots

3 Tbsp butter

½ cup chicken broth, preferably homemade

3/4 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp chopped tarragon or 2 tsp chopped chervil

Fina sea salt 

 

If you're using morels, slice them open and wash them outside and inside before cuting them into bite size pieces (if large). Cover with water in a small saucepan and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the mushrooms from the pan and set aside. Add the chicken broth to the mushroom water, bring to a rolling boil and reduce (through evaporation) uncovered until you're left with a ½-cup of broth. Turn off the heat.

Meanwhile, wash and trim the vegetables. Quarter or halve any medium-sized radishes. Slice spring alliums in half lengthwise and cut into 2 inch pieces.

Heat a skillet over medium heat, add 1 Tbsp of butter and the broth. Add the vegetables that need to cook the longest: alliums, fiddlehead ferns and carrots as well as some salt, and cook for 5 minutes. Add the asparagus, radishes and any balloon flower shoots and cook for another 3 minutes. Next add the legumes, radish leaves and any morels and cook for another 2 minutes, until the legumes are tender (but not soft). Stir in the remaining butter, lemon juice, tarragon or chervil and more salt to taste and serve immediately.

Recipe adapted from Deborah Madison's excellent Vegetable Literacy (the morels are my twist).

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