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Spring Vegetable Salad

SpringVeggiesThe fresh, bright flavors of spring vegetables are as appealing to the palate as their vivid color is to the eye. Here, they're presented almost like a bouquet of flowers. It's important to use avocados that are ripe but firm: they should "give" just slightly when gently squeezed in your hand. If baby carrots and beets are unavailable, buy the smallest carrots and beets you can find. Cut the carrots in half, then quarter the larger top lengthwise and halve the narrower bottom portion. Halve the beets horizontally, then cut each half into 8 wedges.
Serves 4

Salad

  • 4 ounces baby carrots, trimmed but unpeeled
  • 4 ounces baby beets, trimmed but unpeeled
  • 2 ounces green beans, trimmed
  • 8 ounces fresh peas, shelled (1⁄2 cup)
  • 2 ounces snow peas
  • 4 thin spears green asparagus, trimmed
  • 2 large avocados
  • 3 ounces mixed tender greens (such as red oak leaf, green leaf, mizuna, spinach), rinsed and trimmed, large leaves torn in half or quarters
  • 1 plum tomato, peeled, seeded, and cut in thin strips

Bring 2 medium saucepans of generously salted water to a boil. When the water comes to a rolling boil, add the carrots to one pan and the beets to the other; cook until tender, about 7 minutes for the carrots and 20 minutes for the beets. Drain well and set aside to cool.

Garnishes

  • Red pepper coulis (see Chef 's Tip)
  • Yellow pepper coulis (see Chef 's Tip)
  • Chervil sprigs
  • Garlic chive sprigs

Lemon Dressing

  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1⁄4 cup olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground white pepper

Preparation

Refill one pan with salted water and bring to a boil. Fill a large bowl with ice water. When the water comes to a rolling boil, add the green beans and blanch until vivid green and just barely tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Scoop out the beans with a slotted spoon and cool immediately in the ice water. Repeat with the English peas, snow peas and asparagus, cooking each separately until just tender. Lift the cooled vegetables from the ice water and dry thoroughly on paper towels. Cut the snow peas diagonally into thirds. Trim the green beans and asparagus to 2-inch lengths.

For the dressing, combine the lemon juice and olive oil in a small bowl and whisk to blend. Season to taste with salt and pepper, whisking until the salt is dissolved.

Shortly before serving, halve, peel and pit the avocados. Set an avocado half cut-side down on the cutting board and cut lengthwise into 1/8-inch-wide slices, leaving the avocado in place. Use your fingers to gently slide the slices away from one another, forming a long strip of partly overlapping slices, about 12 inches long. Gently draw the 2 ends around to meet and overlap, forming a round "fence" of avocado. Using a thin, wide metal spatula, carefully transfer the avocado "fence" to a salad plate. Repeat with the remaining avocado halves. Drizzle about a teaspoon of lemon vinaigrette over each of the avocado halves.

Combine the snow peas, beans, asparagus and English peas in a medium bowl, drizzle about half the vinaigrette over them, and toss gently. Arrange the mixture in the center of the avocado circle, with some of the vegetables perched up against the edge.

Use your fingers to peel the skin from the carrots and beets. Quarter the carrots and beets, put them together in a bowl, and drizzle with about half of the remaining dressing. Arrange the carrots and beets alongside the green vegetables. Add a small tuft of lettuce to fill out the avocado circle. Scatter the julienned tomato over the salad and add a few sprigs of herbs. Drizzle the remaining dressing on the salad, add dots of red and yellow pepper coulis around the edge of each plate, and serve immediately.

Chef's Tip

Jarred, roasted peppers make a quick coulis (thick, pureed sauce); simply drain the peppers, place them in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth, adding salt and pepper to taste. Both red and yellow bell peppers are available roasted and jarred.

Presented by Chef Thierry Rautureau, Rovers Restaurant, 2808 E Madison Street, Seattle, WA (206) 325-7442 www.rovers-seattle.com