Think spring with vegetable ragoût

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A melange of bright green peas, asparagus, sugar snaps, and haricots verts is my favorite way to start dinner now that winter is behind us.

This classic combination of spring vegetables will wow your guests with a deliciousness far beyond the sum of its minimal parts. After blanching, seasonal veggies are simply tossed with truffle oil, salt and pepper. That's all there is to it, though there are a few tips that will make your life easier and your ragoût extra delicious.

For vegetables to remain bright green, the water should come to — and quickly return to — a rolling boil before and after each addition. To facilitate this, use your largest pot and lots of water. An old restaurant trick, adding of a large pinch of baking soda to the water, also helps retain brilliant color. And ideally, bring the veggies to room temperature before cooking.

Beyond quick and easy, this crowd-pleaser of a dish is also super versatile. Although truffle oil does add a certain "je ne sais quoi," if you can't manage it, never fear; extra virgin olive oil — alone or infused with fresh garlic — also does the trick. Whichever oil you choose, the ragoût is heaven-sent for the make-ahead cook as it's equally good hot, warm or at room temperature. Or if you're dead set on a different starter, or none at all, these tasty greens work well as a side dish to accompany any basic grill or pan-roast of meat, fish or poultry. And for a change of pace, use the garlic oil option — or even an herb-infused oil — instead of the truffle oil and add shrimp, lobster or diced chicken — with or without crumbled bacon, hard boiled eggs, and/or scallions — to the mix for a great spring or summer lunch or supper main course. 

hichever way you tweak it, this savory, harbinger-of-spring treat is a win-win.

Gail Monaghan is the author of five cookbooks, including her newly released "It's All in the Timing." She writes regular features for the Wall Street Journal and teaches cooking.

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