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Ready for spring veggies?


by: STAFF PHOTO: BARB RANDALL - Barb Randall is ready to eat the spring vegetables available now, such as fennel, artichoke, asparagus, watercress and radishes of many kinds.

Are your taste buds perking up? The spring vegetables are coming into the markets — get ready for the fresh flavors we haven’t had for quite some time. To what am I most looking forward?

New fresh greens like tender dandelions, amaranth, sorrel and watercress. After experiencing stinging nettles for the first time I am eager to sample other spring greens. I plan to conduct a side-by-side taste test while they are in season to learn which I enjoy most. Use these greens as you would spinach, cooked or raw. Co-worker Kate Hoots and I plan to experiment with making dandelion wine this spring.

We’ve been enjoying the family favorites, asparagus and artichokes, for some time. And peas and those delicate pea tendrils will be ready soon.

Other spring vegetables I am looking forward to eating include:

Fava beans — These are as much fun to shell as they are to eat. Half a dozen bright green favas are encased in a 5 to 7-inch long pod. You shuck them from the pod and then drop the beans into boiling water for a minute or two before plunging them into ice water. Drain and then use your thumbnail to break open the skin and squeeze the bean to release it from the skin.

You can use favas as you would peas. I like to eat them as an appetizer dipped in a little sea salt and olive oil then wrapped in salami and a small piece of fresh pecorino cheese.

Fennel is another great springtime treat. Nicknamed old ladies’ chewing tobacco, fennel’s strong anise flavor pairs nicely with fish. You can use it raw in salads or cooked in sauces, soups and side dishes. Try caramelizing fennel for a real taste treat.

Garlic scapes are the curly tendrils of the garlic plant. They are harvested early to force the growth into the garlic bulb. The flavor is much more delicate than the bulb and blends beautifully with other vegetables. Use them in soups, soufflés, sauces and fillings for pasta.

Radishes are a sleeper vegetable. I love their peppery flavor when eaten raw. Try them with bread and butter and a sprinkle of salt as a spring appetizer. I love to eat them roasted, too, which changes the flavor completely; be sure to include them in the Roasted Spring Vegetable recipe included today, and keep your eyes open for the pretty multi-colored Easter egg radishes in area markets this spring.

These are just some of the spring veggies we can look forward to eating. The recipes included today are simple to prepare and will enable you to experience each vegetable’s flavor.

Your turn — what are your favorite spring vegetables? Share your favorite recipes on our facebook page.

Bon Appetit! Make eating an adventure!

Roasted Spring Vegetables

Makes 4 servings

1 pound assorted spring vegetables, such as carrots, asparagus, radishes, spring onions or sugar snap peas, trimmed or peeled if needed and cut into same-size pieces

4 unpeeled garlic cloves

2 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt

Freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Combine vegetables, garlic and oil in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper, toss to coat. Spread out in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast, stirring halfway through, until tender, golden brown, and charred in spots, about 20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Bon Appetit, May 2012

Green Risotto with Fava Bean Puree, Peas and Asparagus

1/2 pound young fava beans

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

3/4 pound fresh green peas

4 spears asparagus

1 medium onion

7 to 8 cups chicken stock

4 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 cups Arborio rice

1/3 cup dry white wine

1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus extra for garnish

Shell the fava beans and discard the pods. Bring a pot of water to a boil, add the favas and simmer for 1 minute. Drain them and cool them immediately in cold water. Pierce the outer skin of the beans with your thumbnail and pop out each bean with the thumb and forefinger of your other hand. Put the beans in a pot with a little olive oil, a little salt and water to just about cover, and cook slowly, until they are soft enough to puree but haven’t lost their color, about 15 to 20 minutes. If necessary, add water as they are cooking to keep them from sticking. Drain them and pass them through a food mill.

Shell peas. Cut the asparagus on the diagonal into thin slices. Peel and chop the onion into small dice.

Heat the stock and keep at a low simmer. In another heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat 3 tablespoons of the butter, add the onion and cook over medium heat until it is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and a pinch of salt and cook over low heat for about 3 minutes, stirring often, until the rice has turned slightly translucent. Turn up the heat and pour in the white wine. When the wine has been absorbed, add just enough hot stock to cover the rice, stir well and reduce the heat.

Keep the rice at a gentle simmer and keep adding stock, a ladle or two at a time, letting each addition be almost completely absorbed by the rice before adding the next. After about 10 minutes, the grains of rice will have softened somewhat but will still be hard in the center. Stir in the peas and asparagus. Continue to ladle in more stock, stirring before and after every addition. After 5 minutes, add the rest of the butter, the cheese and the fava puree. Stir well. Add more stock if needed: The risotto should have a saucy consistency. Adjust the seasoning. Serve in warm bowls, garnished with more of the Parmesan.

Chez Panisse Vegetables, Alice Waters 1996

Randall welcomes your food questions and research suggestions. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone at 503-636-1281, ext. 100. Follow her on Twitter at @barbrandallfood.

By Barb Randall
Staff Reporter
503-636-1281 Ext 100
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