Serious Eats: Recipes

French in a Flash: 'Printemps' Penne with Green Vegetables and Goat Cheese

[Photographs: Kerry Saretsky]

Most of the time in this column, I am inspired by the classic dishes and preparations of France. But this week, I'm not spinning a coq au vin or a cassoulet, but rather attempting to eat as the French eat: by season.

I admit that it is not my forté, and I wonder if others have the same difficulty. I believe that the omnipresence of certain vegetables and fruits and meats in our supermarkets have led us to crave, and settle for, basil in wintertime or Brussels sprouts in summer. Food prices are generally affordable enough that we do not always notice an out-of-season premium, and local farmer's markets of local, seasonal produce can often be heartbreakingly more expensive than the supermarket.

But there is truth to the legend. Seasonal produce is better. Here in England, the shell-on peas, asparagus, and fava beans find new incarnations everywhere come springtime. And the asparagus are tender and snappy, not shriveled and limp like some winter specimens.

In this dish, I use penne as the showcase for tender, sweet, snappy springtime vegetables. And I have to say, the French are inventive in their use of pasta, covering it with ratatouille, baking it into gratins, and tossing it with their own Provençal red pistou. This version incorporates anything of the season: Here I use peas and zucchini along with anytime-broccoli, but you could also use fava beans, asparagus tips, or anything that screams spring. Fresh goat cheese is also in its prime in springtime, and makes a simple no-cook tangy cream sauce. All in all, this dish takes minutes to make, and is addictively light and decadent at once. Who says comfort food is only for winter?

About the author: Kerry Saretsky is the creator of French Revolution Food, where she reinvents her family's classic French recipes in a fresh, chic, modern way. She also writes the The Secret Ingredient series for Serious Eats.

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