VEGETATE WITH INTENTION
You can look a fish in the eye or smell the sweetness of ripe fruit, but vegetables are harder to read. Look for the brightest colors and the firmest, blemish-free flesh. Their aroma should be clean, earthy, and sweet. If dirt still clings, it too should smell rich like garden soil, not mildew.
For this recipe, you want a variety of colors, textures, and flavors, all of which can be enhanced by the way they’re chopped, shaved, or carved. Look for brassicas such as cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli for their rich, bitter flavor. Roots like radishes, beets, and carrots bring natural sweetness, earthiness, and color. Stems and stalks, like asparagus and celery, provide a distinct crunch. Beans and other legumes (in the pod or out), alliums (onions, leeks, scallions, and shallots), and tomatoes and cucumbers (both technically fruits), are all welcome. Whittle radishes to points, curl carrots into ribbons, keep tiny tomatoes whole. The goal is to treat each element artfully, with purpose.
In classic French cuisine, stocks are used as a supporting base or background, and are usually unseasoned, so the dish can be finished with salt or pepper as desired. You don’t even need to add aromatics: Simply steep and simmer chicken bones or kombu sheets in water to extract maximum flavor. (You can think of it like an infusion.) The goal is to create umami, or the elusive flavor of glutamate: a product of two amino acids found in protein (glutamic acid and alanine) that supports and amplifies other flavors. Using stock in two ways here bolsters the vegetables’ flavor and enriches the almond cream.
COOK WITH AN ACCENT
A dish with so many disparate elements, even if they are all vegetables, needs something to hold it together. Here, Laurent unites the vegetables with a pool of almond cream, which adds fresh flavor and richness. Acid, spice, and salt are integrated with dabs of a pungent relish of parsley, scallions, chile paste, pistachios, and preserved lemons. Together, these accents create a melding of flavor, transforming vegetables into a meal.