It’s the verdant season. As the trees leaf out, the produce sections and the farmers markets fill up with delicious, young, fresh green vegetables: asparagus, artichokes, leeks, green beans, green garlic, shelling peas and baby spinach, to name just a few.
Celebrate the green season with this selection of recipes, any of which would brighten up a spring holiday table, too.
Spring green pilaf
Adapted from “Posh Rice” by Emily Kydd (Quadrille, $19.99, 176 pages)
1 1/2 cups basmati rice
4 tablespoons butter
2 leeks, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon garam masala
Salt to taste, divided
16 ounces vegetable stock
1 cup shelled edamame, defrosted if frozen
12 ounces asparagus, sliced into 1 1/2 inches
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
1/4 cup pistachios, shelled and salted
Small bunch dill, finely chopped
In a bowl, cover rinse the rice and cover with cold water. Melt butter in a pot over a medium heat. Once it begins foaming, add leeks and cook for 8 minutes until softened.
Add garlic, garam masala and salt, and stir for 2 more minutes.
Drain the rice, add it to the leeks and stir to coat in the butter. Pour in stock, and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 10 minutes.
Add edamame and asparagus. Add chili powder and salt; stir gently. Cover and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to steam for 10 minutes.
Toast pistachios in a pan. Turn off heat and add dill; stir for 2 minutes. Scatter nuts and dill on top of rice.
Penne with asparagus pesto and white beans
Vegetarian Parmesan (dairy cheese that does not use animal rennet) is made by such companies as Sargento and Bel Gioso.
Adapted from “Good Veg: Ebullient Vegetables, Global Flavors, a Modern Vegetarian Cookbook,” by Alice Hart (The Experiment, $24.95, 336 pages).
12 ounces (1 large bunch) asparagus
1 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more as needed
12 ounces dried whole-wheat penne, or another short pasta shape
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 small bunches basil (1 loosely packed cup)
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/4 cup raw almonds
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest, or more as needed, plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or more as needed
1/2 cup vegetarian Parmesan cheese, finely grated, plus more for serving (see note above)
One 15-ounce can no-salt-added cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (about 1 1/2 cups)
Trim and discard the tough/woody ends of each asparagus spear. Cut the tips with about a thumb’s length of stalk and reserve them; cut the remaining stalks into 2-inch lengths.
Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil over high heat, add the teaspoon of salt and the 2-inch pieces of stalks; cook until tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer them to a food processor.
Once the water in the saucepan returns to a boil, stir in the pasta and cook according to the package directions, or until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.
Return the (now-empty) saucepan to high heat. Add the asparagus tips and 1 teaspoon of the oil. Cook, stirring constantly, until they are lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn off the heat (you’ll use the pan one more time) and transfer the tips to a plate.
Stack, roll tightly and cut a few large basil leaves into ribbons; reserve for garnish.
Combine the garlic, almonds and the remaining basil in the food processor (with the asparagus pieces). Add the tablespoon of lemon juice and the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil; pulse to form a coarse puree, stopping to scrape down the sides a few times. Add the lemon zest and vegetarian Parm; pulse a few times to incorporate and form the pesto. Taste and add more lemon juice and/or salt, as needed.
Return the saucepan to medium-low heat. Add the drained pasta, along with the beans and the asparagus pesto. Toss gently to incorporate, adding just enough of the reserved pasta cooking water, a few tablespoons at a time, to create a creamy sauce.
Once the pasta has warmed through, divide it among warmed bowls or plates. Top each portion with some sautéed asparagus tips, basil ribbons and more cheese. Serve right away.
Per serving: 410 calories, 15 g protein, 55 g carbohydrates, 14 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 450 mg sodium, 9 g dietary fiber, 3 g sugar
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Stir-fried peas + spinach
Combining fresh peas and spinach makes for an undeniably spring-y side dish. The main recipe of this easy trio includes ginger, garlic, cilantro, fish sauce and tons of fresh mint and cilantro for almost Vietnamese version of peas and mint. Next, whole cumin seeds offer a whole new flavor without much effort (this version is great dolloped with yogurt and served with warm flatbread). The final version leaves you with just garlic and basil instead of the mint and cilantro for a simple Italian side dish.
See the variations, below.
Make ahead: All of these are best served right when they come out of the sauté pan. But they can also be enjoyed at room temperature, so feel free to make them a couple of hours in advance and just cover at room temperature, or refrigerate them for up to a day and then bring to room temperature before serving. The fresh herbs are best left until the last minute to stir in.
From cookbook author Julia Turshen.
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil (may substitute canola or vegetable oil)
One 3-inch piece peeled fresh ginger root, minced (2 tablespoons)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 cups shelled fresh peas (may substitute 13 ounces frozen small green peas)
2 tablespoons water
5 ounces baby spinach (may substitute fresh pea shoots/tendrils)
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 small handful fresh mint leaves, coarsely chopped
1 small handful fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over high heat. Add the ginger and garlic and cook, stirring, until they’re sizzling and smell very fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the peas and water; cook, stirring, until they’re bright green and tender, about 2 minutes.
Add the spinach and cook, stirring, until wilted, a minute at the most (2 large spoons used as if you were tossing a salad makes easy work of this). Turn off the heat and stir in the fish sauce, mint and cilantro. Serve right away.
To make sautéed peas with cumin seed, add 1 teaspoon cumin seed to the oil before you add the ginger and garlic, as directed above. Serve with a dollop of thick, plain yogurt.
To make sautéed garlicky peas with basil, use olive oil instead of the grapeseed oil, as directed above. Double the garlic; omit the ginger, fish sauce, mint and cilantro. Season the peas lightly with salt. Toss in 2 handfuls of fresh basil leaves, letting them wilt slightly just before serving, and add a few small basil leaves as a garnish.
Per serving: 150 calories, 6 g protein, 16 g carbohydrates, 7 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 720 mg sodium, 5 g dietary fiber, 5 g sugar