This is a terrific time of year to shop at the farmers market for tender, spring veggies like leeks and carrots, peas and asparagus. But sometimes we need an extra push, such as this simple recipe for Braised Spring Vegetables from Kay Baumhefner, a former chef at Della Fattoria Café in Petaluma.
Recently Kay shifted the focus of her cooking school, Come Home to Cooking, from classes in her home to personalized cooking consultations over the phone. The classes are on the back burner for 2012, but you can stay in touch with Baumhefner by subscribing to her blog on her website, comehometocooking.com.
With this simple, butter-steamed braise, you can cook all the vegetables in a single pan by adding them in succession. Baumhefner also suggests adding green garlic along with the leeks. To extend this into a main dish, you could also add some sliced new potatoes, cut about the same size as the carrots, along with the carrots.
This recipe is written in casual style, with no exact measurements:
Braised Spring Vegetables
Asparagus ( cut on the diagonal if thick)
English peas or sugar snap peas
Small bay leaf
Salt and pepper
Fresh herbs: mint, parsley, thyme, chives and/or chervil
Clean, trim and cut the leeks, carrots and asparagus. Shell the peas (or cut sugar snap peas on diagonal).
Melt a hunk of butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium-low heat; then add the bay leaf and leeks. Stir, cover and reduce heat to low. Cook until almost tender (about 5 minutes).
Stir in the carrots, add several tablespoons water, salt, pepper and nutmeg; cover and cook until almost tender (2-5 minutes).
Stir in the asparagus, add a little more water as needed to keep the vegetables from browning; cover and cook until almost tender (2-5 minutes).
Stir in the peas; cover to steam for just a minute.
Taste for seasoning and stir or tuck in fresh herbs.