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Spring Vegetables in a French Country Dinner

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Morels, baby carrots and other spring vegetables take the starring role in this meatless dinner inspired by the French countryside

In the spring, light dishes based on fresh, in-season vegetables are just what I want after a long chilly season of hearty fare. This seasonal approach is the basis of French country cooking, which gets its appeal not from exotic ingredients or complicated techniques, but from the satisfying tastes and textures of ripe, full-flavored produce. The centerpiece is a navarin, a light vegetable stew, accomanied by thin pancakes (galettes) flavored with minced greens and goat cheese. Woodsy morel skewers add a rich counterpoint that satisfies any cravings for meaty flavors.

Menu Timeline

Most of the work in this menu is in preparing the vegetables, which can be relaxing, especially when you enlist family and friends.

In the morning:

  • Pit the cherries.
  • Trim the carrots, turnips and leeks.
  • Shell the peas and fava beans.
  • Wash the lettuce.

In the afternoon:

  • Make the clafoutis batter.
  • Make the galettte batter.
  • Clean the morels and thread them onto the skewers.

About 90 minutes before dinner:

  • Cook the navarin; keep warm.
  • Bake the clafoutis; keep warm.

Just before dinner:

  • Make the galettes; keep warm.
  • Make the vinaigrette.
  • Toss the salad with the vinaigrette.

During dinner:

  • Broil the morels while you dish up the navarin.

Shopping List

Fresh Produce

  • 1-1/2 lb. fava beans
  • 1-1/2 lb. English peas
  • 18 small young carrots
  • 18 small new red-skinned potatoes
  • 12 baby turnips
  • 1 large or 2 small heads butter lettuce
  • 1 large bunch watercress
  • 1 small bunch young greens, such as spinach, chard, or dandelion (or fresh flat-leaf parsley)
  • 8 slender leeks
  • 2 large shallots
  • 1 large bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 bunch fresh chives
  • Six 8-inch branches fresh rosemary
  • 1 small bunch scallions
  • 1 small bunch fresh tarragon
  • 1 small bunch fresh marjoram, oregano, or thyme
  • 2 lemons
  • 4 cups fresh cherries (use sour cherries, such as Montmorency, if available, but Bing is delicious too).

Meat, Eggs & Dairy

  • 6 eggs
  • 3 cups milk
  • 9 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1/4 lb. fresh, soft goat cheese
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

Other Groceries & Pantry Staples

  • 9 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepercorns
  • 2-1/3 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbs. vanilla extract
  • Table salt
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for sprinkling on clafoutis
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 3 cups homemade or low-salt canned chicken or vegetable broth

Wine Choices: The delicate, tender bounty of the early spring garden calls for fresh, light wines that will highlight the subtle flavors of the new harvest. With the exception of the morel dish (wild mushrooms clamor for full reds), all these recipes will do best with white wines.

But save your big, oaky Chardonnays. Sauvignon Blanc (also called Fumé Blanc) has pleasantly high acidity that brings out the taste of food. It pairs nicely with the young vegetables featured here, highlighting the herb flavors in all the recipes. And the natural tartness of goat cheese in the galettes makes an especially fine match for Sauvignon Blanc.

Many white Bordeaux (made from Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon grapes) would work well; Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé too (both 100% Sauvignon Blanc), provided they’re not super-fruity. From this side of the Atlantic, you’ll find delicious choices from Hogue and Columbia Crest in Washington, and from Beringer and Buena Vista of California.

Or try one of the lesser-known varietals. Light, flowery Folle Blanche from Louis Martini has a slight sweetness that matches the spring vegetables. A crisp, clean Oregon Pinot Gris from Adelsheim, Elk Cove, or Eyrie would work too.

—Rosina Tinari Wilson

The Menu

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