It’s the first week of spring that can only mean one thing …
… Or maybe five or six things: asparagus, peas, mint, artichokes, mushrooms, greens that taste like green, the little, sweet signs of hope and promise at the dining table and beyond. Here are a few ways I would like to use your considerable powers over the next few weeks.
Rocket salad with chicken and mint (About). Use two forks to shred a store-bought roast chicken and place in a large bowl. Throw in chopped snow peas, a handful or two of arugula (you want the arugula to be an ingredient, not a dominant base), chopped fresh mint (crucial!), Finely chopped radishes, a bunch of chopped green onions, salt, and some meaningful grind black pepper. Mix with a glass or two of olive oil and a few dashes of soy sauce and rice wine vinegar.
Risotto with mushrooms, leek, peas, egg. Cook mushrooms (morels, if you can find them) in olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Cook until all the liquid is released, about 10 minutes; remove and set aside. In a separate deep pan, heat some butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add chopped leeks (a leek should be fine; you can also use an onion or shallot), salt, pepper. Add 1 cup of arborio rice and toss until each grain is shiny. Turn up the heat a little and slowly add about half a cup of vegetable or chicken broth. Stir every few minutes while the rice soaks up the liquid. Once the liquid has been absorbed, add more broth until a total of 4 cups has been absorbed. (This should take about 30 minutes.) Turn the heat to medium-low, add the peeled peas and mushrooms, and stir until the vegetables are warmed through, about two minutes. Top each serving with a 7-minute (or fried or poached) egg.
Asparagus Pizza. Preheat the oven to 450 ° F. Squeeze and stretch a 16-ounce pizza dough purchased at the store onto an olive oil-brushed baking sheet until it reaches the edge of the pan. (You want the crust to be thin.) Top with 1/2 cup of grated cheese such as parmesan or mozzarella. Throw sliced and chopped asparagus and chopped red onions. Add a vegetable mixture to the pizza dough and bake for 10-12 minutes until the dough is crispy and golden. Optional serving: a dash of ricotta, mint and more parmesan.
Ravioli with lemon peas. Prepare your favorite store-bought cheese ravioli (if you live near a specialty Italian store, now is the time to do so) according to the directions in the package. Drain, save about a quarter cup of pasta water and immediately (carefully) pour into the sieve with a splash of olive oil. Put the pot back on the hob and turn the heat to medium-low. Add a few tablespoons of butter, a handful of peas and toss in the ravioli. Add grated parmesan, the zest of half a large lemon and a small splash of pasta water and toss (again carefully) to help spread the cheese. Optional: serve with fresh mint. Note: Artichokes would be wonderful here too.
Tuna niçoise salad with asparagus. Replace the green beans with cooked asparagus in this five-ingredient meal. (Let the cut stems simmer for four minutes, then immediately immerse them in an ice bath.)
Fried salmon with mint and pea mash. Preheat oven to 425 ° F. Brush a 1 1/2 pound salmon fillet with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast for 15 minutes, until the top is golden and the thickest part of the fish is firm and tender to the touch. While frying, fry the peeled peas in butter with a few tablespoons of chopped onion and salt and pepper. After heating, place in a bowl for about 3-4 minutes, add a handful of mint, a splash of olive oil and a pinch of lemon and mash with a fork. Serve next to salmon. (Alternatively: try this pea pulp next to simply seared scallops.)
Strawberry salad with feta and beans. The combination may sound strange, but it’s a favorite in our house and if you’re using canned beans it is an entirely assembly job. Throw vegetables (spinach, arugula, butter lettuce, or any combination of these) with sliced strawberries, crumbled feta, chopped mint, drained canned white beans (like fava, gigante, or navy), and a white wine-based vinaigrette. It goes without saying that fresh fava beans would take this from good to great, but as anyone who has ever peeled and prepared a fava bean knows, the food wouldn’t be that quick anymore.
Devil’s eggs with garlic bread. Preheat the oven to 400 ° F, then prep your eggs: place 10 eggs in a large saucepan, cover with water, bring to a boil, then immediately remove and cover. Let it rest for exactly 10 minutes and then run it under cold water. Make your garlic bread while it cools: cut a baguette in half lengthwise and spread butter on both sides. Sprinkle the baguette with a little garlic powder and salt, wrap in foil and bake in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes. Prepare your devilish eggs (this is a classic) and serve with pickled bread (bread and gherkins, capers, pickled onions, etc.), sliced garlic bread, and a simple salad.
Broth clams with spring greens. The hardest part of this dinner is securing fresh clams, but once you have them you are on your way to having as light and simple a meal as possible: sauté some shallots in a Dutch oven over medium heat, garlic, red pepper flakes and freshly ground pepper in olive oil. (No salt!) When shallots are tender, add clams (think 6 to 8 per person) and a third cup of dry white wine. Cover the heat and reduce it to medium-low. When the clams open, about five to ten minutes, add a few handfuls of chopped tomatoes, some fresh herbs (parsley or basil) and cook for another two or three minutes. Discard unopened clams. Distribute the mussels evenly on the shells and scoop up the delicious broth. Serve with sliced, crusty bread to slurp and a butter and lettuce salad tossed with herbs, lemon, olive oil and white wine vinaigrette.
Orecchiette with butter, spinach and crispy shallots. Cook the pasta according to the instructions in the package. Drain the saucepan and place it back on the stove over medium heat. Add the butter, sliced shallots (from two large shallots), and olive oil and cook until the shallots are crispy and golden. Add a large mound of spinach and cook until wilted. Mix with the drained pasta and a little more oil. Serve with parmesan.
What are you going to cook this spring?
PS Chicken and Lentil Spring Salad and Nine Cooking Steps to Skip.
(Tuna salad photo by Yossy Arefi. Other photos by Jenny Rosenstrach.)