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.