In Spring Season, and On Your Table

By SMW Staff

produceThere’s no time like spring for fresh, seasonal spring fruits and vegetables. We took a trip to the farmer’s market to tell you what’s in season and what to do with the stuff once you get it home.

Shopping and eating locally from farmer’s markets is not just good for your local economy, it’s good for you too.  Studies show that getting more fresh produce into your diet is critical to promoting good health. Models like Carol Alt and Lonneke Engle swear by organic, local, raw green diets for beautiful skin and healthy hearts.  Cooking with the seasons also means enhanced flavor and color, and what plate couldn’t do with a bit of that. Visit www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov to find out the perfect serving amount of each for your body.

Ramps
A ramp is leek like vegetable that is a member of the onion family. Their flavor is a vibrant cross between a garlic and onion with accents of green leafiness thrown in for extra flavor. Ramps are not grown on large commercial farms (because their season is so short), instead being favored by small local farms.  Restaurants are heavy with ramp-focused dishes this time of year, but there is nothing stopping you from getting in on the action.

Grilled Ramps
Yield 2-4 servings
Prep: 2 min Cook: 5-8 mins
Total: 10 mins

  • 1 bunch of ramps, cut just below the green leafs
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

  1. Toss ramps with oil and set aside.
  2. Heat a grill pan on medium high heat. Place ramps in the pan and cook for 2 minutes on each side until slightly charred.
  3. Remove from pan and serve as a side dish or chop the grilled ramps and add them to roasted potatoes.

Morel Mushrooms
These wild, edible, honeycomb-like mushrooms are typically found in moist areas around old apple orchards, decaying elm, sycamore, or ash trees.  They can be a pricier item, again, since their season is so short and morels have yet to be successfully farmed on a large scale. Their seasonal harvest depends very much on the whims of Mother Nature but if you do find them at the market, you have a few options to choose from.  Their are several types of morels on the agenda this spring with which to grace our plates: yellow, the best known, as well as the white and black varieties. Check with your local university or cooking schools for courses in foraging– scouring the earth at nearby parks for edible mushrooms like morels.

Herbed Chicken with Spring Vegetables
Recipe courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis/Food Network
Yield  4 to 6 servings
Prep: 15 min Cook 30 min
Total: 45 min

  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 boneless, skin-on chicken breasts
  • 3 bone-in, skin-on thighs
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 6 cipollini onions, trimmed and peeled
  • 8 ounces baby carrots, peeled and trimmed, but leaving on a bit of green tip
  • 6 ounces snap peas, trimmed
  • 4 ounces morel mushrooms

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. In a small bowl combine the thyme, parsley, garlic, fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Place the chicken pieces on a work surface. Gently loosen the skin of the chicken and push the herb mixture under the skin. Season the chicken all over with salt and pepper.
  3. Warm the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place the chicken in the pan, skin side down, when the oil is hot. Cook until the skin is crispy and golden, about 5 minutes. Turn the chicken and cook the same way on the other side. Turn the heat off the pan and reserve. Transfer the chicken to a baking dish, skin side up again, and finish cooking in the oven, about 15 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile return the same pan to medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the butter. When the butter has melted add the cipollini onions and carrots. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until tender and golden in places, about 7 minutes. Add the chicken broth and scrape any brown bits off the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Add the snap peas and mushrooms. Simmer over low heat until the vegetables are tender and the liquid has reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, if necessary.
  5. Remove the chicken from the oven. Spoon the vegetables onto a serving platter along with the chicken. Spoon the sauce over the chicken. Serve immediately.

Asparagus
Asparagus season begins around mid-April and usually lasts about 2 months. Increased evening temperatures help asparagus to grow, making them more abundant toward the end of their season. It is usually found year round at the grocery store, but none is more delicious – and affordable – as the stalks found during April and May. One cup of chopped asparagus has only 30 calories, and the plant is an excellent source of folate and thiamin (important B vitamins) and also a good source of fiber, iron, vitamin C and beta-carotene. So eat up!

Phyllo Wrapped Asparagus
Recipe courtesy Paula Deen/Food Network
Yield: 3-4 servings
Prep: 15 mins Cook: 15 mins
Total: 30 mins

  • 8 or 9 asparagus spears, depending on size
  • 1/2 (16-ounce) package frozen phyllo dough sheets, thawed
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Snap off the tough ends of the asparagus. Unwrap the phyllo and cut the stack in half lengthwise. Reserve 1 stack for later use. Cover the phyllo with a damp towel to keep it from drying out.
  3. Take 1 sheet of phyllo and brush lightly with some melted butter. Sprinkle with some Parmesan.
  4. Place 2 to 3 asparagus spears on the short end of the sheet. Roll up, jelly-roll style.
  5. Place each piece, seam side down, on a baking sheet. Brush with more melted butter and sprinkle with more Parmesan. Repeat until all the asparagus spears are used up.
  6. Place baking sheet in oven and bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy.

Beets
Early beets are starting to become available now and will really become abundant in June through September. Since beets can stay fresh in root cellars, farmers who have an overgrowth can make them available to us at markets through the fall and even through the new year, which means that beets can still be purchases locally even in winter months when they are technically out of season. Making it the perfect choice for local lovers who want to watch their carbon footprint.

The canned variety of this bulbous vegetable has been giving beets a bad name since our childhood days. But one bite of a buttery, sweet seasonal beet will put to rest all those memories.  Purple-red beets are the most common variety available, but they do come in all colors from bright orange to a cool yellow.  Beets are a versatile ingredient to liven up salads, soups and are perfect for a side dish or to brighten up sandwiches.  Roasting beets concentrates it flavors nicely and makes skin removal a snap.

Warm Roasted Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and  Toasted Walnuts
Yields: 4 servings
Prep: 15 Cook: 1 hr 10 mins
Total: 1 hr 25 mins

  • 2 whole beets, not larger than a softball
  • 1/2 cup walnut halves
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 cup olive oil  plus 1 tablespoon
  • 1 bunch of ramps, washed and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 head of romaine lettuce, chopped up into bite sized pieces
  • 4 ounces fresh goat cheese

Directions:

  1. Pull the green off your beets. Rinse them well, wrap then in a damp cloth and store them in your fridge for a later use (great sautéed with garlic and olive oil as a side dish or tossed with pasta and cheese).
  2. Roast the beets (skin-on) at 325 degrees, until very tender, about 1 hour. Once done, let then cool slightly and rum them with a paper towel to remove the skin. Keep warm and covered.
  3. Toss the walnuts with the honey and then roast them in a 325-degree oven until fragrant, about 5 minutes.
  4. Heat olive oil in a small skillet and gently sauté the ramps until they are tender, but not browned, about 5 minutes, seasoning with salt, pepper.
  5. Combine the remaining olive oil with the vinegar and salt and pepper to taste to create a vinaigrette – using a food processor or blender makes it easy to emulsify, but a hand whisk will work just as well.
  6. Add your lettuce to a big salad bowl and using your fingers, drop dollops of goat cheese all over the top.
  7. Slice the beets into small chunks and add to the salad. Top with the ramps, toasted walnuts and dressing and toss to coat and mix.

Thomas Keller’s Red Beet Ice Cream
Courtesy of Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry Cookbook

  • 2 lbs Red Beets, peeled & quartered
  • 2 c Heavy Cream
  • 2 c Milk
  • 3/4 c Sugar
  • 8 Lrg. Egg Yolks

Directions:

  1. Put the beets through a vegetable juicer, reserving the pulp; you should have about 2 c of juice. (If you are lacking the fancy machinery of a juicer, do the following: Puree the beets in a blender, adding just enough water to allow the beets to liquefy. Strain the beets thoroughly. Don’t forget to reserve the pulp.)
  2. Place the juice in a saucepan and reduce over low heat, skimming as necessary, to about 1/4 c. Strain the liquid into a container, cover, and place in the fridge.
  3. In a saucepan, combine the reserved beet pulp with the cream and milk. Bring to a simmer, cover, and remove from the heat for about 30 min.
  4. Strain the liquid and measure out 3 c (discard any extra.) Return it to the saucepan, add half the sugar and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
  5. Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the remaining sugar until they have thickened slightly and lightened in color.
  6. Gradually whisk about 1/3 of the hot liquid into the yolks to temper them. Return the mixture to the saucepan and heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the custard has thickened and coats the back of a spoon.
  7. Pour the custard into a bowl set in an ice-water bath and let cool.
  8. Strain the cooled custard into a container, cover, and refrigerate for a few hours, until cold, or overnight (for the creamiest texture).
  9. Stir the reduced beet juice into the custard and freeze in an ice cream machine. Remove the ice cream to a covered container and store in the freezer for at least 2 hours, or up to 2 days.

Other In-Season Goodies:
Some of the fruits and vegetables that are in season for April include:

• Artichokes
• Arugula (Rocket)
• Asparagus
• Beans
• Chicory
• Chives
• Dandelion greens
• Fava Beans
• Fiddlehead Fern
• Horseradish
• Leeks (end of season)
• Lettuce (leaf and head)
• Limes
• Papayas
• Peas
• Rhubarb
• Shallots
• Strawberries
• Sweet Onions
• Turnips
• Watercress

SingleMindedWomen.com Resources

www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov

More SingleMindedWomen.com Food Articles
In the Kitchen with Claire Robinson of the Food Network

In the Kitchen with Tanya Zerbot and the F-Factor Diet

In the Kitchen with TO CHEF Final Four’s Lee Ann Wong

Italian Culinary Tour, with Celebrity Chef Maria Liberati

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