Spring. A segue tucked between the chill of winter and the heat of summer. A mere blip on the radar in terms of length but packed with sensory abundance: an artists palette of green, a rainbow of perfumed blossoms, a brief taste of sweet, tender shelling peas, fava beans and asparagus. Everything is awake and alive.
Spring. A fickle, playful child who coyly offers a peek through a fence hole, allowing a glimpse of what lies ahead: the promise of sweet berries picked by hand, juicy tomatoes just pulled from the vine, and fresh figs still warm from the sun. Anticipation with each day building upon the next, stretching and luring the indoors out and the outdoors in. Heavy coats and jackets, recently used, quickly become a distant memory. The momentum increases and life takes on a hurried fullness. A succession of celebrations and special occasions, one after the other, charge toward summer.
Spring, the only house guest allowed an endless stay who silently slips away in the night taking with it all its gifts.
Springtime offerings are tender, sweet and brief; you've got to get them while you can. The shelling peas and fava beans are a bit more labor intensive but yield amazing results. Take full advantage of what the farmers markets have on hand right now and utilize the method provided in this recipe to deliver a bowl of springtime goodness to your table.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 large shallots, peeled and cut crosswise into thin slices
- 3/4 pound broccoli
- 1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut diagonally into 1/2-inch slices
- 1-1/2 pounds fresh fava beans, shelled and blanched in boiling water 1 minute, outer skins removed
- 1 pound fresh peas, shelled
- Three 3-inch strips of Meyer lemon zest removed with a vegetable peeler and cut crosswise into julienne strips
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste
- In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil and 1/2 tablespoon butter over moderately high heat until butter melts.
- Add shallots, stirring until tender and just starting to brown, about 3 minutes.
- With a slotted spoon, transfer shallots to a small bowl and set aside.
- In fat remaining in skillet, add broccoli and salt to taste, stirring occasionally until broccoli begins to brown slightly, about 4 minutes.
- Remove broccoli and place in a bowl.
- Meanwhile and add remaining olive oil and butter to skillet until butter melts. Add asparagus and salt to taste, stirring occasionally until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes.
- Return broccoli to skillet.
- Add fava beans and peas, stirring occasionally until heated through, about 2-3 minutes.
- Add lemon zest, lemon juice and shallots. Taste, adjust seasonings if necessary and serve.
I was able to get some organic baby broccoli for this dish. It was small and thin and cooked up very quickly. Regular broccoli will be obviously thicker and may require some paring of the stems to make the size manageable. Cooking time should be adjusted to individual taste.
Fava beans can be blanched ahead but peeled shortly beforehand. To peel the outer skins, pierce end with fingernail and gently squeeze the other end. The bean should pop out.
Shelling the peas was expedited when I realized that the end without the stem popped open with the slightest bit of pressure, at which point I separated the pod and used my thumb to extract the peas. There is nothing like the sweetness of a fresh, raw pea. Nothing.
The overall key to this dish is to quickly cook the vegetables, almost like a stir-fry. You want to retain a bit of the crunch in the vegetables.
This recipe can be easily increased or decreased based on the amount of vegetables on hand, just cut back on the amount of oil, butter and shallot.I opted for more Meyer lemon zest and the juice from just a wedge of lemon (instead of the 2 teaspoons). It's a personal preference.
I believe just about any vegetable dish can become a full meal once topped with a fried or poached egg, and this one is no exception. Do this, and you will be very, very happy.
*Recipe adapted from Gourmet via Epicurious