Gentle poaching, a little grill heat, a shower of herbs—it doesn’t take much to transform spring vegetables.
Charred Asparagus With Soft-Boiled Eggs and Parsley Sauce
A piquant spin on a classic pairing—asparagus and eggs. Serves 4.
Trim and briefly blanch one bunch of asparagus; slice the stalks into thirds. Heat a cast iron pan over high heat. Toss asparagus in a splash of grapeseed oil and place in the pan in an even layer; cook until nicely charred all over, then remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper.
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Place two eggs in a strainer and lower into the boiling water. Cook for exactly 6 minutes, remove and place in an ice bath. Allow eggs to cool, then peel and slice in half lengthwise and season with salt and pepper.
For the sauce, blend together the leaves of one bunch flat-leaf parsley, 1 teaspoon capers, rinsed; 1 tablespoon cornichons, minced; 1 shallot, minced; 1 garlic clove, minced, and a ½ cup extra virgin olive oil; just before serving, stir in the juice of half a lemon into the sauce and season to taste. To serve, place one egg half on each plate, pile charred asparagus next to it and spoon parsley sauce on top.
Leeks Vinaigrette With Eggs Mimosa, Capers and Black Olives Serves 4.
Clean 20 to 24 young leeks thoroughly, washing in between the layers to remove grit.
Pour 200 ml verjuice (available at specialty food markets and online; otherwise substitute very dry white wine) and 300 ml water into a shallow pan and add 8 whole peppercorns, 4 thyme sprigs and 3 bay leaves. Place pan over medium heat, bring to a gentle boil and add the leeks. Turn the heat down and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes; remove leeks and drain on paper towels.
Meanwhile, whisk 1½ teaspoons Dijon mustard and 1 tablespoon cream together with a little salt and pepper; stir in 1½ tablespoons red wine vinegar. Slowly whisk in 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil and set aside.
Peel 2 hard-boiled eggs and grate finely. Lay leeks on top of each other on plates and spoon vinaigrette over each pile, using half of it. Scatter some of the grated egg, and a little of 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed, and a handful of black olives (ideally Niçoise or Ligurian) over each plate. Drizzle over the last of the vinaigrette, dust with pepper and sprinkle with chopped parsley to serve.
Spring Poached Chicken With Horseradish Cream
The beef bourguignon of spring—chicken nestled in a potful of baby vegetables. Serves 4
Stuff a 4½-pound organic chicken with a handful of flat-leaf parsley and 4 bay leaves, place in a stock pot or large casserole and cover with water by an inch. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and two handfuls of new potatoes. Bring to a boil over high heat, then turn the heat down, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.
Add two handfuls each of baby carrots and baby turnips or radishes, and 1 bulb fennel, quartered, fronds reserved. Simmer for another 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, mix horseradish—either freshly peeled and grated or from a jar—with crème fraîche to taste; season with salt.
When you can easily pull the leg bone away from the chicken, remove the pot from the heat. Add two handfuls peas, two handfuls fava beans and a colander of baby spinach; cook for 1 minute.
To serve, divide a mixture of vegetables between 4 bowls and top with shredded chicken and a big ladle of broth. Sprinkle chopped fennel fronds on top and finish with a big dollop of horseradish crème fraîche and a drizzle of peppery olive oil.
Jardinière of Spring Vegetables
The purest, French-est way to consume a bundle of spring vegetables. Serves 1 (multiply quantities as needed).
Warm a large enameled saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 ounce bacon or pancetta and 1 tablespoon butter and let cook for a few minutes before adding 2 or 3 very small onions or scallions (trimmed and left whole); 3 small carrots; 3 or 4 tiny potatoes, peeled and 3 or 4 small turnips, peeled. Season generously with salt and pepper, then stir with a wooden spoon to coat and allow the vegetables to brown lightly. Add a ½ cup water or chicken broth and cover. Let simmer briskly for 12 to 15 minutes.
When the vegetables are tender, add a handful of shelled sweet peas, snap peas or snow peas and, a few minutes later, a large handful of pea shoots, mustard greens or spinach and a little finely chopped thyme. If you like, sprinkle with chopped parsley just before serving.
Baby Turnips With Turnip Greens and Citrus Dashi
A Japanese-inspired salad that gives baby turnips their due. Serves 4.
Clean two bunches of turnips thoroughly; remove the greens and set aside. Peel turnips, saving the peels, and cut into halves or quarters.
Make dashi by placing a 6-inch piece of konbu (kelp, available at Asian markets) and the turnip peels in 2 quarts of cold water and bring to a simmer. After 5 minutes, remove from heat and add 2 cups of Bonito flakes; allow to steep for a few minutes. Strain and discard solids. Season to taste with soy sauce.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and blanch the turnip greens, a half bunch of chrysanthemum greens or Swiss chard (tough stems removed) and a half bunch of scallions (green parts only) for less than a minute, then shock them in ice water and squeeze dry. Roughly chop greens along with leaves of a half bunch parsley and a bunch tarragon.
In a blender, combine chopped greens, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 ice cubes and a pinch of salt and blend until smooth.
Warm the dashi to a simmer and cook peeled turnips in it until fork tender; strain. Zest a Meyer lemon into the broth and salt to taste.
Divide dashi into 4 bowls and drizzle with olive oil. Dress turnips in the greens puree and serve with dashi alongside.
Baby carrots with truffle crème fraîche
An elegant way with new-crop carrots—the kind too good for ranch dip. Serves 6 as a side dish.
Toss 1½ pounds of baby carrots, peeled, in ¼ cup olive oil and a couple of pinches of salt and roast on a cookie sheet at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes; let cool.
In a bowl, whisk together ¾ cup crème fraîche, 1 tablespoon truffle oil, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh truffle (you can order fresh Oregon truffles from oregonmushrooms.com), the juice of 1 lemon and salt to taste.
In a pan over low heat, warm the roasted carrots with the truffle cream until the cream is reduced by half; finish with 1 tablespoon chopped parsley and a sprinkling of sea salt.
Tortellini Salad Primavera
A light, bright pasta to showcase the green side of spring. Serves 4.
Cook a 16-ounce package of ricotta-stuffed tortellini in well-salted water according to package instructions. About 30 seconds before the pasta is done, add 8 to 10 asparagus spears trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces and a half bunch of broccolini, cut into small pieces. Cook for 30 seconds, drain and run under cold water.
For the dressing, use the flat side of a knife to mash 1 clove garlic and a pinch of salt into a paste. Whisk together the garlic paste, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, ¼ cup olive oil and more salt if needed.
Toss the pasta, asparagus, broccolini and one small handful cilantro or mint leaves, chopped, with half the dressing. Add more dressing to taste and toss well. Add one small handful of bean sprouts, 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts or almonds and 1 ripe medium avocado, sliced into small pieces. Gently toss to distribute ingredients. Keep extra dressing on hand to refresh leftovers.
Roasted Spring Beets With Hazelnut Vinaigrette and Burrata
A new season, a brilliant new beet salad. Serves 4 as a side or salad.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Wrap 20 golf-ball-size golden or Chioggia beets individually in foil, place on a baking sheet and cook for 40 to 50 minutes. When the beets are cool enough to handle, slip off the skins and cut each one into quarters.
For the dressing, combine 2 teaspoons finely chopped shallot with 2 tablespoons Champagne or white wine vinegar in a small bowl; add 1 teaspoon grainy mustard and a little salt and pepper and slowly whisk in 6 tablespoons hazelnut oil. Check seasoning.
Dress the beets with the vinaigrette, adding a splash of lemon juice if more acidity is desired.
Slice a ½-pound piece of burrata cheese into ½-inch thick rounds and place a round on each plate. Season the cheese with salt and pepper, top with some of the dressed beets and sprinkle with coarsely chopped fresh dill to serve.