A jardiniere de legumes is like an ode to spring, for it contains the first, the sweetest, perhaps the best vegetables of the year. It can be any mix you like, whatever is available. This recipe includes green asparagus, a relative novelty in France, regarded as a completely different vegetable from the traditional fat white variety. Green is preferable in this dish because it adapts well to the preparation.
You may want to add a sprinkling of fresh thyme, which is sweet and gentle in spring, or even some of the year's first tarragon. My favorite way to serve it, however, is plain, seasoned with nothing but salt, pepper, and a touch of butter or oil. This can make a meal in itself, with a crisp white Riesling or a Bourgueil and some fresh homemade bread.
1. Fill a large bowl with ice water, and spread several tea towels out on your work surface.
2. If the potatoes are the size of large marbles, leave them whole. If they are the size of golf balls, cut them in half or in quarters. Bring a good-size saucepan of salted water (1 tablespoon salt for 2 quarts; 2 liters water) to a boil over high heat. Add the potatoes, cover, and return to a boil. Then reduce the heat to medium so the potatoes are boiling gently, and cook until they are just tender through, 10 to 15 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove them from the water and set them aside.
3. Return the water to a boil and add the carrots. Cover, return to a boil, and cook until they are tender but still slightly crisp, 3 minutes. Remove the carrots with a slotted spoon and plunge them into the ice water. When the carrots are cool, remove them from the ice water and place on a tea towel to drain. Gently pat them dry.
4. Cut the asparagus stems on the diagonal into 1-1/2 inch (4 cm) lengths, leaving the tips intact.
5. Return the cooking water to a boil and add the asparagus stems (leave the tips uncooked). Cook for 2 minutes, and transfer them to the ice water with a slotted spoon. When the asparagus is cool, transfer it to a tea towel to drain. Gently pat dry.
6. Repeat this process with the remaining vegetables (except the peas) in the given order, changing the refreshing water when necessary to keep it ice cold. Cook the green beans for 3 minutes, the onions for 2 minutes, the garlic cloves for 5 to 7 minutes, the turnips for 3 minutes. (The vegetables can be prepared to this point up to 8 hours in advance: If you are holding them briefly, cover them with another tea towel to keep them fresh and slightly moist. Or roll them up gently in the towels, place the bundles in plastic bags, and refrigerate. Refrigerate the asparagus tips and the peas as well.) Reserve the vegetable cooking liquid for another use.
7. Just before serving the vegetables, heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the peas and the asparagus tips first, tossing them in the pan so they are coated with the oil. Season them with salt and pepper to taste, and then add the remaining vegetables. Toss the vegetables so they are all lightly coated with oil. Cook, tossing frequently, until they are sizzling hot, about 10 minutes. If you like your vegetables slightly golden, toss them less frequently. They are best, however, if they are just heated through rather than seared. Adjust the seasoning and transfer to a warmed serving bowl. Garnish with the fresh thyme, if desired, and serve immediately.
Serves 6 to 8
French Farmhouse Cookbook
by Susan Herrmann Loomis
Workman; December 1996
Paper: $14.95; ISBN: 1-56305-488-4
Cloth: $24.95; ISBN: 0-7611-0624-3 432
Recipe reprinted by permission.
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