Are we in spring or is it summer already? It’s hard to tell sometimes. Anyway, this is one of those mix-and-match dishes, so just use the freshest, tenderest seasonal veg you can lay your hands on, and the soft green herbs of your choice for the dressing.
It is a low-fat but flavourful version of the North American favourite, ranch dressing. You can use proper old-fashioned buttermilk if you can find a supplier near you or the cultured buttermilk available in supermarkets. It is generally rather thicker: thin it with a tiny amount of milk if it’s too gloopy.
Serve this dish as a starter, a side dish or make it the star of your meal … whatever works for you. I added crumbled cheese and a few hard-boiled eggs to bulk it up for my protein-loving husband, but they shouldn’t take centre stage. If you’re eating it as a main, you could add a few croutons to provide crunch.
The quantities of vegetables are just guidelines … use in the proportions you like best.
Summer Veg with a Buttermilk Herb Dressing
200g asparagus, trimmed weight
100g French beans, trimmed
150g shelled broad beans, double podded
100g podded peas (defrosted if frozen)
2-3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and halved
A scatter of crumbled or cubed cheese, roughly 60g
A few handfuls of salad leaves, tossed with a little oil and vinegar or left naked, your choice
A few herbs to garnish
For the dressing:
1 level tspn Dijon mustard
1 heaped tspn made mayonnaise, low-fat if preferred
1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
The zest of 1 small unwaxed lemon
2 tbsp soft green herbs, chopped: I used chervil, basil, chives, parcel and marjoram
3-4 tbsp buttermilk
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper, optional
Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing, taste, and add salt and pepper if you think it needs it. Set aside for the flavours to mingle. (There are new potatoes in this picture but I felt they didn’t add to the dish … if you want to use some, put them in another bowl and spoon a little dressing over them, once cooked and preferably while still warm.)
Steam the French beans and asparagus or cook them in a little lightly salted water … they are best cooked separately as their timings will differ. They should be just tender. The peas and beans only need to be blanched in boiling water for a minute.
Drain thoroughly, save a few naked veg of each variety to scatter on top of the finished dish (although the dressing tastes good it can look a bit messy) and gently stir through just enough dressing to lightly coat the rest.
Put the salad leaves on a plate and arrange the vegetables on top, not forgetting the undressed ones. Place the halved eggs around the sides, if using, and likewise scatter over any cheese. Garnish with a few herbs.
I like this best served tepid but it’s also good cold. If you need to put it in the fridge, let it come back to room temperature before eating, and don’t add the salad leaves and herb garnish until just before serving.