- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The visual draw of food can be as powerful as, if not even stronger than, any of the other sensual beacons. Vegetables, with their glorious range of bright colors, are the most beautiful edible clarion call.

Miraculously, vegetables’ hues not only attract us aesthetically but also indicate the presence of the antioxidants within. The yellow and orange of squash and carrots are the manifestation of the beta carotene nutrients. The green in green vegetables is the chlorophyll, the purple in the onion is the antioxidant antocyanine, and the red in tomatoes is evidence of the presence of lycopene.

Lest I get carried away with too many of these technical terms, let me give you one of my favorite recipes for showcasing all of the above.

The ideal vegetables for this salad are the most angelic: miniature squash, baby carrots, slender green beans, flat snow peas, pencil-thin asparagus, etc.

So use the loveliest vegetables you can find. Also, feel free to make substitutions as necessary. This is a very flexible recipe.

The first steps of this recipe have you steaming or boiling the vegetables in groups. With either setup, you can keep the pot going on the stove and put the vegetables in — and take them out — in shifts.

This dish can be assembled a day in advance. Just hold off on adding the lemon juice and fresh herbs until shortly before serving.

Marinated spring vegetables

Water

8 to 10 fingerling potatoes, halved

1 teaspoon minced or crushed garlic

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 pound baby carrots

1 small head cauliflower, in 1-inch florets

pound fresh green beans, trimmed and cut in half

pound asparagus, trimmed and in 1-inch pieces

pound snow peas or sugar snap peas, trimmed and cut in half (in either direction)

1 small (5-inch) yellow summer squash, sliced

1 small red bell pepper, diced

medium red onion, thinly sliced

1 cup tiny cherry tomatoes (cut in half if not truly tiny)

teaspoon salt (or to taste)

Freshly ground black pepper

Up to 5 tablespoons high-quality mayonnaise

cup fresh lemon juice

Small amounts of minced fresh basil, tarragon, marjoram, dill and/or chives

Steam or boil the potatoes until just tender, about 10 minutes, depending on their size. While potatoes are cooking, place the garlic and olive oil in a large bowl. When the potatoes are done, transfer them — still hot — to the bowlful of garlic and oil.

Steam or boil the carrots, cauliflower and green beans together until just tender, for about 5 to 8 minutes. Immediately refresh under cold running water, drain well and transfer to the bowl.

Steam or boil the asparagus, snow peas and squash until just al dente. (This will take less than 5 minutes.) Immediately refresh under cold running water, drain well and add to the rest of the vegetables.

Add the remaining ingredients, except for the lemon juice, and stir gently until blended. Cover tightly and let marinate for at least 2 hours at room temperature. (If it’s going to sit for longer, refrigerate.)

Stir in the lemon juice within about 15 minutes of serving time. Taste to correct salt and pepper, and serve at room temperature or cold, topped with a minced assortment (or just one) of your favorite fresh herbs. Makes 5 to 6 servings.

Mollie Katzen is author of “Moosewood Cookbook” (Ten Speed Press). Her most recent title is “Salad People and More Real Recipes: A New Cookbook for Preschoolers & Up” (Tricycle Press). To contact her, visit www.molliekatzen.com.

TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES

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