Warmer spring days call for changes in the kitchen.
The recipes for stews and roasts and thick soups (not to mention those big pots) are packed away. Tastes have turned to spring vegetables and lighter seasoning combinations.
Here are three dishes from Washington Post columnist Stephanie Witt Sedgwick that work right now, before it gets too hot to even stay in the kitchen.
The risotto uses the fresh spring onions that are all over the farmers markets. Lighter than leeks and more substantial than scallions, these onions are a good starting point for a risotto. Swiss chard adds earthiness and pancetta a classic Italian flavor.
Likewise, big bunches of little carrots can be found now at many market stands. The light glaze in the recipe below makes good use of those fresh tender veggies.
Sedgwick was helping her son make arroz con pollo when it occurred to her the chicken-and-rice dish would make a terrific chicken burger.
The result is a lighter, contemporary classic. Poblano and jalapeño peppers, scallions and cilantro add flavor and moisture to ground white-meat chicken, and the rice holds it all together.
Tuck the patties inside warm, folded flour tortillas, with lettuce and tomato; you could also serve them on your favorite buns. As added garnishes, sliced avocado, a sprinkle of lime juice or a salsa topping would all work.
Steamed carrots with honey-mint dressing
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 6 minutes
Serves 5 or 6
Sometimes the simplest vegetables, like carrots, need a little polish to shine. In honor of warmer days, the carrots are steamed, dressed with a mixture of honey, apple cider vinegar and oil, and enlivened with freshly chopped mint.
The exact shape you cut the carrots is not important. (Sedgwick says she likes to slice on the diagonal, giving the carrot a quarter-turn before each cut.) The important thing is to make all of the pieces the same size so they cook evenly.
Make ahead: The carrots and dressing can be prepared (and refrigerated) hours in advance. Add the mint just before serving to keep it from discoloring.
1 3/4 pounds carrots, scrubbed well, then cut into 1/2- to 3/4-inch pieces
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup loosely packed mint leaves, finely chopped
Steam the carrots in a stove-top steamer until just tender; that should take about 6 minutes.
Whisk together the vinegar, honey and oil in a measuring cup. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Add the dressing to the warm carrots; toss to coat evenly.
Right before serving, add the mint and toss to incorporate. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Per serving (based on 6): 120 calories, 1 g protein, 19 g carbohydrates, 5 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 135 mg sodium, 4 g dietary fiber, 12 g sugar
Swiss chard and spring onion risotto
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 29 minutes
Serves 4 to 6
A spring onion looks like a scallion on steroids; it is the young onion before the bulb gets really large. There are different varieties out there, but they all work.
If you can’t find spring onions, leeks are a good substitute here.
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 ounces diced pancetta
8 ounces spring onions, light green and white parts, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced (2 cups)
5 ounces Swiss chard, tough stems removed, cut into roughly 1-inch squares
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
4 cups homemade or no-salt-added chicken broth, heated until almost boiling
2 to 4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oil in a 4-quart pot over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the pancetta and stir to coat. Cook for 4 or 5 minutes, until the pancetta starts to crisp.
Add the sliced spring onions; cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring, until the onions soften, then add the chard and cook for about 4 minutes, stirring until it has softened.
Stir in the rice; reduce the heat to medium, then pour in the wine. Cook, stirring, until the wine is absorbed. Add 1 cup of the warm broth and stir until the liquid is almost fully absorbed; then add the broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring and allowing the liquid to be absorbed each time before adding more.
After 3 cups of the broth have been incorporated, start tasting the rice to see whether it is done. If it is still too firm, add 1/2 cup of the broth, stir until that is absorbed and then test for doneness. Repeat with the remaining 1/2 cup of broth if needed. When the risotto looks creamy and the rice is slightly firm to the bite, it’s done. Remove from the heat.
Add 2 tablespoons of the cheese. Season lightly with the pepper, stirring just to incorporate. Taste, and add some or all of the remaining cheese, plus salt and/or pepper as needed. Serve right away.
Per serving (based on 6): 240 calories, 8 g protein, 34 g carbohydrates, 7 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 340 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber, 2 g sugar
Arroz con pollo burgers
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Serve these burgers as soon as they’re done. That’s when they’re at their best.
Many grocery stores carry ground chicken breast. But if you can’t find it, trim the fat from boneless, skinless chicken breasts, then pulse the meat in a food processor to the right consistency.
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chopped scallions
1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 small or 1/2 large poblano chili pepper, seeded and cut into generous 1/4-inch dice
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1 teaspoon garlic powder, or to taste
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 pound ground chicken breast
1 large egg white
1 cup cooked long- or medium- grain rice
Freshly ground black pepper
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a medium nonstick sauté pan or skillet over medium-heat. Add the scallions and stir to coat. Cook for 1 minute, then add the jalapeño and poblano peppers, garlic and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, for 4 to 5 minutes, until the vegetables soften. Remove from the heat; stir in the garlic powder and cilantro. Transfer the mixture to a clean plate to cool.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Transfer the cooled vegetables to a mixing bowl along with the ground chicken, egg white and cooked rice. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Gently mix the ingredients to combine thoroughly. Divide into four equal portions; roll each portion into a ball, then flatten it into a patty that’s about 3/4-inch thick.
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil on a griddle or in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the patties and cook until well browned, about 3 minutes. Turn them over and cook until browned on the second side; the patties will not be cooked through.
Transfer the patties to the prepared baking sheet, then bake them for about 8 minutes or until the internal temperature of the patties registers 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Serve hot.
Per serving: 250 calories, 29 g protein, 14 g carbohydrates, 8 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 65 mg cholesterol, 150 mg sodium, 1 g dietary fiber, 1 g sugar