- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 17, 2005

In the late spring, our calendar is always filled with dates marked for celebrations. An engagement dinner, several graduation parties and two birthday fetes for friends who are turning 50 are all highlighted this month.

Sometimes we’re guests at these events. On other occasions, we act as hosts.

When we are hosts, I try to plan menus that are festive but uncomplicated to assemble. I might be the sole cook for a buffet supper for 12 in our dining room, for a backyard cookout for 20 or for a dinner for six.

Choosing the main courses and desserts for these meals is never a problem, but finding interesting side dishes is. I want these accompaniments to be distinctive, but often I have little time left for their preparation.

This year, I have a new vegetable creation. Colorful, versatile and irresistibly good, this accompaniment consists of a quartet of spring vegetables quickly blanched, then tossed with a delectable tarragon butter.

Sliced carrots, diced purple-topped turnips, sugar snap peas and peas are popped into a pot of boiling water for less than five minutes, then drained and mixed with a small amount of butter scented with fresh chopped tarragon and a hint of tarragon vinegar.

The flavorful butter can be prepared a day ahead and the vegetables prepped and readied several hours in advance so that only a few minutes of cooking is necessary at serving time.

This vegetable melange makes a glorious garnish to a baked ham or roast chicken and is equally good as a counterpoint to grilled salmon or lamb. I’ve also served these vegetables with boneless roast veal. The recipe yields four servings but can be doubled or tripled easily, depending on how many friends are celebrating with you.

Spring vegetables with tarragon butter

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1½ tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon, plus 1 or 2 sprigs for garnish

2 teaspoons tarragon white wine vinegar

Salt

1½ cups regular or baby carrots, thinly sliced

1½ cup sugar snap peas, ends trimmed

1½ cups diced white turnip (about 1 medium 8-ounce turnip, peeled and cut in ½-inch cubes)

1½ cups fresh shelled or frozen green peas

Place butter, chopped tarragon, vinegar and ½ teaspoon salt in a small nonreactive bowl, and blend using a teaspoon or fork. (Butter can be prepared 1 day ahead; cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before using.)

Bring 3 quarts water to a boil in a large pot, and add 1 tablespoon salt. Add carrots, sugar snap peas and diced turnip; bring to a gentle boil. Cook only 2 to 3 minutes, until vegetables are tender when pierced with a knife.

Add peas, and cook about 2 minutes more for fresh, or 1 minute more for frozen. Drain vegetables in a colander and pat dry. (The vegetables can be prepared 4 hours ahead. If preparing in advance, cook vegetables, place in a colander and put under cold running water until cooled. This will help the green vegetables retain their bright green color. Pat vegetables dry and leave at cool room temperature. Reheat in a large pot of boiling, lightly salted water only 1 to 2 minutes. Drain and pat dry.)

To serve, place vegetables in a small or medium serving bowl and toss with tarragon butter. Garnish with 1 or 2 tarragon sprigs, if desired. Taste and season with more salt, if needed. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES

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