Recipe: Spring Vegetable Ragout

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Photo by Maria Robeldo

Every spring, I make vibrant ragouts of spring vegetables whose flavors have an extraordinary affinity for each other--asparagus, peas, fava beans, spring onions, artichokes, morels, tiny new potatoes--varying the complexity according to what's in the market or what I feel like doing. It's really more an approach than a set formula.

Here's one permutation using the easiest-to-prepare vegetables: asparagus, leeks, peas and/or sugar snap peas, and morels if you can find them. If you feel like peeling favas, add them at the same time as the peas. Or, to add freshly pared artichoke hearts, braise them separately in a covered skillet with 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 1 cup water and ¼ teaspoon salt until just tender. Drain and reserve to add to the ragout right after the asparagus.

The recipe can be doubled or tripled, adjusting the cooking time slightly and the amount of water (use less to start, adding more as needed). This ragout would also be terrific with rendered bacon or pancetta fat instead of olive oil.

This makes a lovely side dish or appetizer on its own.

Makes 4 servings.

    • 1 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 medium leek, white and tender green part only, thinly sliced crosswise (1/2 cup)
    • Scant 1/4 cup water
    • 1 pound medium asparagus, tough ends broken off and discarded, sliced on a diagonal at 2-inch lengths
    • 3/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
    • 2 cups (8 ounces) sugar snap peas, sliced on an extreme diagonal into thirds
    • OR 2 cups shelled fresh peas (2 pounds in the pod or 1 packages frozen peas, defrosted)
    • 2 ounces fresh morel mushrooms, stems trimmed, quartered or halved if large; any clinging dirt brushed off (optional)
    • 1/3 cup finely chopped herbs such as chervil, flat-leaf parsley, chives and up to 1 tablespoon tarragon, in any combination
    • Freshly ground pepper

Combine the olive oil and leek in a large nonstick skillet set over moderate heat. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are softened, about 4 minutes.

Increase the heat to high and add the water, asparagus, salt and sugar; cover; cook 2 minutes longer. If the water is evaporating too quickly, add a few more tablespoons as necessary. Then stir in the peas and the morels; cover and cook 2 minute longer until just tender. The water should be completely evaporated; if it isn't, uncover the pan and boil vigorously until the pan is dry.

Stir the herbs, pepper and add more salt if necessary.

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Sally Schneider writes The Improvised Life, a lifestyle blog about improvising as a daily practice. Her cookbook The Improvisational Cook is now out in paperback. More

Sally Schneider is the founder of The Improvised Life, a lifestyle blog that inspires you to devise, invent, create, make it up as you go along, from design and cooking to cultivating the creative spirit. It's been called a "zeitgeist-perfect website." She is a regular contributor to public radio's The Splendid Table and the author of the best-selling cookbooks The Improvisational Cook and A New Way to Cook, which was recently named one of the best books of the decade by The Guardian. She has won numerous awards, including four James Beard awards, for her books and magazine writing.

Sally has worked as a journalist, editor, stylist, lecturer, restaurant chef, teacher, and small-space consultant, and once wrangled 600 live snails for the photographer Irving Penn. Her varied work has been the laboratory for the themes she writes and lectures about: improvising as an essential operating principle; cultivating resourcefulness and your inner artist; design, style, and food; and anything that is cost-effective, resourceful, and outside the box.

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