Sunday, April 18, 2010

Spring Vegetables with Shallot Butter

Fresh peas and asparagus are a definite sign that spring is here.  These vibrant vegetables are perfectly sweet and when blanched to a crisp tenderness, make a refreshing side dish to any meal.  This recipe for Spring Vegetables with Shallot Butter complimented the slightly sweet and crunchy peas, with a light and tangy shallot butter.  The notes say that you can make the shallot butter 2 days ahead, but it is so simple, there was really no need.  However, I did cook the vegetables ahead, since I was taking the dish to my parent's house and wanted this step out of the way.

First you bring a pot of salted water to a boil.  I believe it is extremely important to salt the water (as with cooking pasta) since the vegetables will absorb some of that much needed flavor.  I've also seen chefs add sugar to the water, in addition to the salt.  Since these vegetables are in their peak and naturally sweet, I didn't feel the need to add sugar.  The asparagus and sugar snap peas are cooked in the boiling water for just a few minutes, so they stay crisp.  After draining the water, I put them immediately into an ice bath to stop the cooking process.  An easy tip for an ice bath is to fill a large bowl with ice, then put a colander in the bowl on top of the ice.  You can scoop the vegetables out of their cooking liquid, into the colander, and then pour cold water over them.  When cooled, you simply remove the colander so you aren't left fishing out your vegetables from the ice cubes. 

For the simple butter sauce, shallots are added to melted butter and cooked until tender.  After adding lemon zest, salt, and pepper, I tossed the vegetables together with the shallot butter, just until warmed through.  The dish was bright, crisp, slightly sweet, and refreshing.

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