Warm Mixed Vegetable Stew

No better appreciation of vegetables can be found than this ragout from Richard Olney’s Simple French Food (1974).

The combination here is only one of many, though I never use more than seven vegetables, and never use tomatoes (unless they are cherry tomatoes), because they water down the sauce and dominate the flavors. The addition of chopped garlic and herbs just before you bring the stew to the table causes a burst of rich fragrance, which perfects the dish.

I prefer water to chicken stock for a cooking liquid—the resulting sauce has a much fresher and purer vegetable taste—and I use either butter or olive oil to finish the dish. If the word ragoût comes from the French ragoûter, meaning to revive the taste, then this is the dish to do it.


  • 16 small pearl onions, peeled
  • 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, cut in thin strips lengthwise
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, cut in thin strips lengthwise
  • 1 large sprig fresh thyme
  • 2 sprigs fresh tarragon
  • 24 baby carrots, trimmed and peeled
  • 4 small zucchini, halved lengthwise
  • 4 small yellow zucchini, halved lengthwise
  • 24 small French green beans
  • 2 pounds fava bean pods, beans removed and peeled, pods and peels discarded
  • 8 large green asparagus, bottom ½ inch of stem cut off, peeled, cut in half across, and halved lengthwise
  • 24 fresh squash blossoms
  • 1 tablespoon mixed fresh herbs (thyme, marjoram, tarragon, and parsley), finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • ¼ pound unsalted butter, cut into ½-ounce pieces
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Bring a pot of salted water to the boil and maintain it at a steady boil.

Put the onions, bell peppers, thyme, tarragon, 1 cup of water, and a pinch of salt in a 12-inch sauté pan. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes.

Put the carrots into the boiling water for 1 minute, then lift them out and add them to the onion mixture.

Put the zucchini into the boiling water for 1 minute and then add them to the other vegetables. Toss together. Cook the green beans, fava beans, and asparagus in the boiling water for 1 minute, then add them to the other vegetables. Toss, cover, and cook 2 minutes. Make sure about 1 cup of liquid remains in the vegetable pan.

Uncover the pan. Add the squash blossoms, herbs, garlic, and butter. Turn the heat to high and toss the vegetables together until the butter is melted and the sauce thickens a little. Season and serve immediately.


At one of the California Wine Perspective events at the Pierre Hotel in New York in the mid-1980s, we served the ragout, finished with a black truffle and wild mushroom butter, in little hollowed-out polenta cups, to great acclaim.