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Spring Vegetable Plate

Spring Vegetable Plate
Crème fraîche tastes similar to sour cream, but it has a sweeter and more subtle flavor. French and domestic brands are available, but crème fraîche is easy to make at home: In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup nonultrapasteurized heavy cream with 1 Tbs. buttermilk. Place over medium-low heat and heat to lukewarm. Do not allow it to simmer. Remove from the heat, cover and let stand at room temperature until thickened, 8 to 48 hours. The longer it sits, the thicker and tangier it will become. Refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours before using.

Ingredients:

For the turnips:

  • 2 to 4 young, tender turnips
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 or 2 shallots, or 1/4 to 1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • Few shakes of good-quality white wine vinegar
  • 4 to 6 Tbs. crème fraîche

For the pea greens:

  • 3 cups young pea greens (shoots or tendrils), trimmed (see Notes)
  • Few shakes of tarragon or white wine vinegar

For the radishes:

  • 24 to 32 assorted young, small radishes (see Notes)
  • 8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • Coarse or flaked sea salt

  • 8 young green onions, including tender green portions, trimmed
  • 20 flavorful black olives, such as niçoise
  • Slices of coarse country bread, such as sourdough

Directions:

To prepare the turnips, peel and cut them into julienne about 3 inches long and 1/8 inch thick and wide. Place in a bowl, season with a pinch of salt and a grinding of pepper, and add the shallots and vinegar. Toss until well mixed. Stir in the crème fraîche, using only enough to coat lightly, and refrigerate until ready to serve.

To prepare the pea greens, place in a bowl and sprinkle them lightly with the vinegar.

To prepare the radishes, trim away the root ends along with any blemishes, but leave the fresh, leafy tops attached.

Spoon the butter into a little crock and pour sea salt in another little crock.

Arrange a portion of each vegetable on individual plates: a mound of turnip salad, a little handful of the pea greens and a pile of radishes. Garnish with the green onions and black olives and serve immediately with the bread and crocks of butter and salt for spreading and sprinkling on the radishes. Serves 4.

Notes: Pea greens can be found at farmers markets, but if they are not available, mâche or young arugula may be substituted. Radishes come in a large array of sizes, shapes and flavors: long, thin ones; round, fat ones; radishes that are white, red, pink or even black. Daikon radishes, cut into fat slices, can be added to the radish selection as well.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Vegetable, by Marlena Spieler (Simon & Schuster, 2002).