Spring stew with white beans and asparagus

Spring vegetable stew

I was thinking the other day that I probably talk about the weather too much. I know it’s a dull subject, and one that people resort to when they have nothing else to say. But weather matters! It’s fundamentally, life-alteringly, earth shakingly important. Of course what I’m really talking about, when I talk about the weather too much, is how it changes my mood. A crazy amount. I was feeling mildly discouraged, for a while. And then we had a few beautiful, sunny days in a row, and the light started to have that hopeful springtime slant, and the air had little pockets of warmth and flower-smells. And I felt hopeful! And happy! And full of energy and spirit! I felt good. And nothing had changed but the weather. And when the weather was nice, I wanted to make a dinner that was green and bright and glowing! Plus, I wanted to eat my lovely pencil thin asparagus, but in some form that wasn’t just steamed with butter and lemon (although that really is the best!) So I made this stew, with bright green vegetables and white beans, and a light broth of white wine and lemon. And I wanted only a few herbs and spices, but fresh, bright ones. So I added fresh thyme and fresh ginger, and a little parsley, with its green clean taste. Lovely! The boys ate it over gemelli, as a nice light pasta sauce.

Here’s Nina Simone’s Feeling Good. One of my favorite songs ever, and the best description of how alive a spring day can make you feel.

2 T butter
1 cup leeks – cleaned chopped and cut in thin 1/2 inch lengths
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 inch cube ginger, minced or grated
1 zucchini, cut in thin 1/2 inch lengths
2 cups asparagus – cut in 1/2 inch lengths
1 can small white beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup white wine
2 t fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup parsley
juice of half a lemon
salt & plenty of pepper

Warm the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook until they’re bright green and slightly soft. Add the zucchini, and cook till that, too, starts to get a bit soft. Add the garlic and ginger. Stir and cook for a few minutes, till things start to turn brown. Now add the beans. Stir and cook. Add the white wine. When the wine starts to thicken everything and turn syrupy, add the thyme. Then add about 1 cup of water – enough to cover everything. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the zucchini is as soft as you like it. You still want it to be pretty brothy, so add more water if necessary. Add the parsley and the asparagus, cover the pan, and cook for a few minutes till it’s bright green and just starting to soften. When it’s cooked just like you like it, remove from the heat.

Add lemon juice, salt and plenty of black pepper.

Serve over pasta, if you like it, or with a nice loaf of crispy bread.

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