Depending is the operative word when there is a garden or good farmers market. Leeks? Yes, but it could also be ramps, walking onions, green garlic or green onions. (Even the humble white onion will do.) Radishes for me are likely to be the long Cincinnati Market variety or a round variety, the roots small and the leaves lush and tender. Peas? A half-cup of shucked shelling peas or slivered snow peas or early sugar snaps. Any and all of these vegetables would be good. Groping around your garden, you’re going to find some treasures that will become the stars of this little ragout, which cooks in just about 10 minutes.
Here’s an example of what vegetables I used and in what amounts, reflecting what I came across one late spring day. A few days later and it would have been a different mix. When I’m a better gardener, the combination will change yet again—hopefully to include more than three asparagus spears!
• Handful of radishes, plus their greens
• 3 thin leeks, white part plus a little of the pale green, sliced (about 1⁄2 cup)
• About 3⁄4 cup pod peas, shucked (about 1⁄2 pound pea pods)
• 3 thick asparagus spears, tough ends trimmed, peeled and sliced on the diagonal
• About 2 tablespoons butter made from the milk of grass-fed cows, or your favorite butter, divided
• 1⁄2 to 1 cup water or stock
• Sea salt
• About 1 teaspoon finely chopped tarragon
• 1 teaspoon lemon juice
1. Prepare and wash vegetables. Trim radishes and slice lengthwise, making all the pieces more or less the same size. Also wash and dry radish greens, and ready leeks, peas and asparagus. (If you wish, you can make a stock to use in this dish with the leek trimmings, pea pods, asparagus peels, some tarragon and salt. You’ll need only 1 cup or so.)
2. When you are about ready to eat, melt a tablespoon of butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add leeks and 1⁄2 cup water or broth, and simmer 5 minutes. Season with a few pinches of salt, add radishes and asparagus, and simmer 3 minutes. Next, add peas and radish greens, making sure there is liquid in the pan as you go and adding more if needed. Continue cooking until peas are bright green and leaves are tender, about 2 minutes longer. The radish leaves will wilt and look a little funky, but they will taste mild and slightly nutty.
3. When vegetables are done, remove from heat, add a heaping spoonful of butter, season with salt, and stir in tarragon and lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasonings, then serve and enjoy your garden in a bowl. Serves 2.
Get more recipes for summer produce in Super-Easy Summertime Vegetable Recipes.
Deborah Madison, the author of more than 10 cookbooks filled with recipes for glorious seasonal produce, has lately trained her attention on plant families. In Vegetable Literacy: Cooking and Gardening with Twelve Families from the Edible Plant Kingdom, with over 300 Deliciously Simple Recipes, from which this article is excerpted, she explores ingredients as members of 12 families, discovering how developing an understanding of how plants relate to one another botanically helps her use plants more effectively in the kitchen. Filled with fascinating new insights for any vegetable-loving cook, this wonderful book is available in our store: Vegetable Literacy