A Stew That Makes the Most of Spring Greens

Photo

Credit Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

I think in green in early April. It’s too early for some of the brighter spring vegetables, but dark green collards, light green fennel and bright jalapeño are all available at my local supermarket. And in my pantry, there’s a bag of very pale green dried flageolet beans; this early spring stew is a perfect home for them.

I call the dish a tagine because it tastes like a Tunisian stew; its warm triumvirate of spices — coriander, cumin and caraway — are always present in the classic Tunisian spice mix called tabil. It is inspired by the Tunisian tagines I make to serve with couscous, but I served this instead with whole grain flatbread.

A Tunisian tagine or ragout usually includes a lamb or veal shank, and the vegetables are simply thrown into the pot with the beans and shank. Since my version is vegetarian, I cooked the onions and fennel in olive oil before adding them to the beans so the dish would have a bit of fat and the vegetables would have more flavor.

I also omitted another signature Tunisian ingredient, the red chile paste harissa, in favor of a jalapeño. I craved a fresher kind of heat, something more evocative of springtime. The jalapeño has that wonderful grassy backdrop, as does the abundant cilantro.

The final touch, a smidgen of preserved lemon, is optional. I wouldn’t want you to skip this recipe just because you don’t have preserved lemons, but they add a bright salty-sour accent that I love.