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Spring Produce and Healthy Recipes
Spring has almost sprung, and the first tender vegetables of the season are soon to make an appearance at your local farmers’ market or supermarket. Here are our seven springtime favorites to watch for — along with easy-to-make, healthy recipes to help you stick to your resolution to eat what’s in season.
Look for: Asparagus stalks can be thick or thin. Either way, they should be bright green and crisp, and the cut end should look fresh and not dried-out.
Serve it: A classic preparation is steamed and drizzled with melted butter and sea salt. Asparagus is also excellent in stir-fry, risotto, pasta dishes or egg dishes. You can also roast it for a richer taste.
Look for: Crisp, tightly closed green pods
Serve it: Remove beans from their pod, blanch in boiling water, cool in ice water, and, unless they’re very tender, pop the beans from their skin. Cooked beans can be used in salads, mixed into soups or pasta dishes, or pureed with cooked garlic, salt and pepper to make a crostini topping.
Look for: Select tightly curled, crisp, unwilted ferns that are solid green and small.
Serve it: These wild delicacies can be eaten either raw or cooked. Try them steamed with butter, or tossed with pasta. They also are delicious deep-fried or sautéed.
Look for: Choose small or medium-sized leeks, as larger ones can be tough. Leaves should be crisp and unwilted.
Serve it: For a milder flavor, use in place of onions or garlic in soups, risotto or sauces. Try grilling or slowly sautéing in olive oil over low heat. Be sure to clean the inner layers, where dirt gets trapped.
Look for: Stalks should be crisp and unblemished. Don’t eat the leaves or roots, which are poisonous.
Serve it: An excellent combination with strawberries in a pie. It can also be stewed, with lots of sugar or sweetener to offset its tartness, or made into a crisp.
Look for: Look for fragrant, fully colored berries. In particular, the small fraises des bois (wood strawberries) have a super-sweet flavor.
Serve it: Excellent on their own, strawberries are a natural for tarts, fruit salads and, naturally, shortcake. For a more exotic alternative, toss with shredded basil and drizzle with balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper.
Look for: Full-grown turnips are a fall vegetable, but look for tiny baby turnips (less than an inch large) that are unblemished, firm and heavy for their size, with unwilted, brightly colored greens still attached.
Serve it: Baby turnips often don’t need to be peeled and can be eaten raw in salads, or steamed, braised or boiled. Cook the fresh greens either with the turnips or saute them separately.
This side dish makes use of both turnips and their greens, so be sure yours are very fresh. Very tender baby turnips don’t require peeling.
- 1 bunch baby turnips (about 10), greens intact
- 1 cup vegetable stock
- 1 teaspoon good-quality butter
- sea salt
- freshly cracked black pepper
Cut turnips from greens. Remove root from turnips and cut turnips in half lengthwise. Meanwhile, wash greens thoroughly and chop roughly. In a medium saucepot, bring vegetable stock to a simmer.
Add turnips and simmer, covered, for about five minutes. Uncover and simmer an additional 10 minutes, until the stock is reduced to about 1/4 cup.
Add greens, toss to coat with the cooking liquid, and simmer, covered, five minutes. Remove cover after 5 minutes and cook an additional 5 minutes, or until greens are bright green and tender and most of the liquid has reduced.
Add butter; toss to combine. Season to taste with sea salt and black pepper.
Per Serving: 118 Calories; 2g Fat; 3g Protein; 23g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 5mg Cholesterol; 539mg Sodium
Risotto with Asparagus, Leeks and Maitake Mushrooms
This risotto makes the most of springtime’s asparagus and leeks. If you can’t find maitake mushrooms (also called hen-of-the-woods mushrooms), you can substitute another type.
- 1 pound asparagus
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 4 ounces maitake mushrooms, cut or torn into bite-sized pieces
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon butter, divided
- 1 cup leeks (about one large), diced
- 2 cups Arborio rice
- 3/4 cup white wine or vermouth
- 6 to 8 cups vegetable stock, hot
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more to pass at table
- Salt and pepper
Snap or cut ends from asparagus. If stalks are thick, peel tough exterior of stalk with a vegetable peeler. Cook for 5 minutes in simmering water, then remove asparagus to a bowl of ice water to stop cooking. Remove from water. Cut spear ends from asparagus and reserve for garnish; cut stalks into bite-sized pieces, reserve.
In a large, heavy saucepot, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and saute until mushrooms are browned and beginning to soften, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove mushrooms and set aside.
Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter to saucepot. When butter melts, add leeks, saute until leeks begin to soften and turn translucent, about 5 minutes. Add rice and stir to coat with olive oil mixture. Cook, stirring, until rice begins to turn translucent (you should still see a dot of white in the center of each grain), about 3 minutes.
Adjust heat to medium-low. Add wine and cook, stirring, until wine is nearly absorbed. Begin adding stock to rice mixture in 1/2-cup increments (a 4-ounce ladle is ideal for this), stirring constantly, and waiting until liquid is nearly completely absorbed before adding another ladle of stock. The process of adding stock and cooking should take about 25 to 30 minutes; taste occasionally to check for doneness. Risotto is done when the rice is tender but still firm to the bite.
Stir in parmesan cheese and 1 teaspoon butter, season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in reserved mushrooms and asparagus.
Serve risotto in shallow bowls and garnish with asparagus spears. Pass additional grated cheese at the table.
Per Serving: 445 Calories; 13g Fat; 14g Protein; 62g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 24mg Cholesterol; 859mg Sodium