Deborah Madison, Vegetable Literacy
Depending is the operative word when there is a garden or good farmers market. Leeks? Yes, but it could also be ramps or walking onions, green garlic, or onions. (Even the humble onion will do.) Radishes for me are likely to be the long Cinncinati Market variety and a round variety, the roots small and the leaves lush and tender. Peas? A half cup of shucked shelling peas or slivered snow peas or early sugar snaps. Any and all of these vegetables would be good. Groping around your garden, you’re going to find some treasures that will become the stars of this little ragout, which cooks in just about 10 minutes.
Here’s an example of what vegetables I used in what amounts, reflecting what I came across one late spring day. A few days later and it would have been a different mix. When I’m a better gardener, the combination will change yet again—hopefully to include more than just three asparagus spears!
Handful of radish thinnings, plus their greens
3 thin leeks, white part plus a little of the pale green, sliced (about ½ cup)
10 ounces pod peas, shucked (about ¾ cup)
3 thick asparagus spears, tough ends trimmed, peeled, and sliced on the diagonal
Spring butter, made from the milk of grass-fed cows, or your favorite
½ to 1 cup water or chicken stock
About 1 teaspoon finely chopped tarragon
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1. Prepare and wash all your vegetables. Trim the radishes and slice them lengthwise, making all the pieces more or less the same size. Also wash and dry the greens, and ready the leeks, peas, and asparagus. (If you wish, you can make a stock to use in this dish with the leek trimmings, pea pods, asparagus peels, some tarragon, and salt. You’ll need only 1 cup or so.)
2. When you are about ready to eat, melt a few teaspoons butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks and ½ cup of the water and simmer for 5 minutes. Season with a few pinches of salt, add the radishes and asparagus, and simmer for 3 minutes. Next, add the peas and radish greens, making sure there is liquid in the pan as you go and adding more if needed. Continue cooking until the peas are bright green and the leaves are tender, about 2 minutes longer. The radish leaves will wilt and look a little funky, but they will taste mild and slightly nutty.
3. When the vegetables are done, remove from the heat, add a heaping spoonful of butter, season with salt, and stir in the tarragon and lemon juice. Taste and adjust the seasonings, then serve and enjoy your garden in a bowl.
Reprinted with permission of Ten Speed Press. Photo by Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton.
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