Chef John Folse's Fricasse of Spring Vegetables

Prep Time: 1 Hour
Yields: 4 Servings

In Louisiana, when we think of Lent, we often turn immediately to seafood, but there are many wonderful dishes out there that are meat and seafood free, but packed with flavor. This recipe is particularly great when made with the fresh vegetables starting to appear in spring gardens and farmer's markets. It would also be a colorful and tasty contribution to any potluck. NOTE: You can substitute dried morels for fresh. Use ½ ounce dried morels; cover with ½ cup boiling water and soak for 1 hour or until soft. Drain mushrooms and dry. Reserve liquid.

2 cups baby carrots, tops removed and scrubbed
1 cup shelled fresh peas or frozen peas, thawed
1 small onion, thinly sliced
4 tbsps butter
2 tbsps olive oil
1 tbsp flour
¾ cup celery, cut into 2-inch julienne
¾ cup red bell pepper, cut into 2-inch julienne slices
¾ cup yellow bell pepper, cut into 2-inch julienne slices
2 tbsps minced garlic
½ tsp (scant) saffron threads
¼ cup fresh or dried morel mushrooms (if using dried, see note above)
1 tsp fresh thyme
½ cup dry white wine
⅔ cup vegetable broth
½ pound asparagus, ends trimmed, cut crosswise into thirds
4 cups baby spinach leaves
salt and pepper to taste

Lightly butter an oven proof-baking dish and set aside. Cook carrots in a large pot of boiling salted water 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon transfer carrots to a bowl of ice water to cool. Drain carrots and transfer to a medium size bowl. (If using fresh peas, cook in same pot of boiling water 2 minutes; drain and transfer to bowl of ice water to cool. Drain peas and transfer to small bowl.) In a large sauté pan heat butter and olive oil over medium high heat. Add onion, celery, bell peppers and garlic. Sauté until vegetables are soft, about 4 minutes. Stir in flour and blend. Add saffron, carrots, mushrooms and thyme. Mix well. Pour in wine and simmer until almost dry. Add vegetable broth and reserved mushroom liquid (if applicable); continue to cook for about 4 minutes. Stir in cream and reduce to a simmer. Add peas, asparagus and spinach, season with salt and pepper. Transfer mixture to prepared dish and bake until edges are bubbling and top begins to brown, about 30 minutes.