Most cuisines from temperate regions have stews of spring vegetables. Prepare this recipe for a special occasion, the time of year when fresh peas are at their best. The pale green medley looks particularly artful served in the center of black plates. Serves four.
3⁄4 pound fresh peas, shelled
16 fresh asparagus tips, about 11⁄2 inches long
1⁄2 pound shelled and peeled fava beans
4 scallions, chopped into 1-inch lengths
4 tablespoons fresh sweet butter
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
4–6 ounces fresh soft goat cheese, crumbled
Salt and fresh ground pepper
Prep all the vegetables. The asparagus tips should be rinsed carefully to remove any sand. Save the stalks for soup or a stir-fry. The thin membranes on the fava beans can be bitter. Blanching for one minute in boiling salted water makes them easier to peel.
Sauté the vegetables with the butter over medium heat in a pot for about five minutes, stirring occasionally. They should soften a little, but do not brown them. Add about 2 to 3 tablespoons of water and several dashes of salt. Cover the pot and simmer for two more minutes, shaking occasionally.
Add the herbs and mix well. Taste. The French add a teaspoon or two of sugar if the medley is not sweet enough. Add another tablespoon of water if it seems a little dry.
Plate the hot stew in mounds in the center of four warmed dishes. Add a pinch or two of sea salt and a twist of pepper to each and immediately top with the room-temperature crumbled goat cheese.
The crumbled goat cheese will warm and melt slightly over the vegetables. Its mild tartness contrasts with the sweet vegetables. Serve with a crusty white French loaf or good quality whole wheat bread. Follow with a dessert of lemony pound cake, a huge bowl of strawberries, and really good chocolate.