This is what spring looks like. Truly. So why not make a dish that takes the best of those green, grassy, sweet flavors, adds garlic, great olive oil and a hit of salt and serve it up in one dish? The subtle beauty of all these colors of green tangled together help us understand the idea of renewal inherent in the spring holiday celebrations of Easter or Passover. In Italy it’s called cianfotta, the all purpose dish that changes with the seasons as new vegetables appear and leave the markets. This saute is one of my master recipes. Serve it as a side dish. Or to make it a bit more substantial for vegetarians add a handful of toasted pine nuts or almonds. For a one course dinner add nuts and a bit of soft or aged goat cheese. This recipe is a template. You can add sliced and trimmed baby artichokes or fava beans. You may omit the mint or use onions instead of leeks. Some folks leave out the lettuce. It’s up to you.
Cut off leek tops and set aside for another use (broth). Trim bottom of leek. Thinly slice leek and rinse thoroughly in strainer. Set aside cleaned, sliced leeks.
Shell English Peas and set them aside.
Wash and trim the romaine hearts or baby romaine and cut it into thinish strips (not quite a chiffonade). Set aside
String the sugar snaps. Cut them in half or thirds (depending on size) on the diagonal so the tiny peas show. Set aside.
Trim asparagus of tough bottom parts of the stalk. Cut off tips and set aside. Cut asparagus stalks on a sharp diagonal stopping when you feel you've reach the tougher part of the stalk. Combine with tips and set aside.
To Cook Veg
Now that you have all the veggies prepped it's time to cook the dish.
Pick a pan large enough to sauté each vegetable in one layer. You don't want a lot of steaming. You want caramelization. If your pan isn't big enough, don't worry about it though.
Start by filming the surface of the pan with olive oil. First cook the leeks over moderate-high heat. Add the garlic and/or green garlic. Stir as you need and continue to cook until the leeks are soft and brown in some places. Add a bit of salt to make the process go faster if you want.
Add the garlic and/or green garlic to the leeks and continue cooking until garlic gives off it's characteristic aroma. Scrape leeks and garlic into a large bowl.
Add a bit more oil to the empty pan (no need to wash it in between) and sauté the sugar snap peas with a bit of salt over high heat stirring often until they are just tender. Scrape into bowl with leeks.
Add a bit more oil to the pan and sauté the asparagus like you did the sugar snaps with a bit of salt. Cook just until tender but not soft or mushy. Scrape into bowl with other veggies.
Add a bit more oil to the pan and add the romaine and a bit of salt. Sauté over high heat until the romaine begins to wilt. Add the peas and mix in with the romaine. Continue cooking until the peas are just tender. Scrape mixture into the bowl.
Now add the chopped mint to the bowl and toss the veggies together. Add salt to taste if necessary. Let veggies sit at room temperature until ready to serve. Do not reheat or you'll lose the freshness of the dish.