Spring vegetable celebration

Cynthia Stone
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Put the stews on hold because spring is truly here. It’s time to celebrate the bounty of green seasonal vegetables and I’ve got the goods for you today. Each recipe is simple and delicious and evocative of the coming warmth.

Fettuccini with Asparagus and Garlic

Don’t let the simplicity of this recipe fool you. The flavours are full and complex and take best advantage of the delicate, thin-stalked asparagus that only comes to us at this time of year.

Use a good olive oil here, not the most expensive, perhaps, but one you would be happy to drizzle on a dish as a fine finisher.

Serve four with this amount, although it can be stretched if you plan to include a lightly grilled chicken breast or a nice piece of fish on the side.

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 lb. fresh asparagus, washed, drained and cut into 1-inch pieces

6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional but a nice little bit of zip)

1 lemon, juice and zest

1/2 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 lb. fettuccini

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley

Heat olive oil over low heat in a large, heavy frying pan. Do not overheat it or you will destroy the flavour of the oil and the dish will be ruined — be patient. Add asparagus and poach in the olive oil for five or six minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flakes continue to cook over low heat, stirring often, until garlic starts to take on a slightly golden hue — you aren’t going for brown here. Add juice and finely grated zest of lemon along with salt and pepper. Turn off the heat.

Cook fettuccini according to package instructions until barely al dente. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water. Turn up the heat to medium under the frying pan containing the asparagus mixture and add the cooked fettuccini and about half the reserved pasta cooking liquid. Stir together until pasta is well coated and everything is hot. Turn off the heat and stir in Parmesan cheese and parsley. If mixture is dry add enough of the remaining reserved pasta cooking water to get a somewhat juicy,­ but not watery consistency.

Serve with more Parmesan at the table.

Peas with Bacon and Onion

Fresh peas are hard to come by so I’m pleased to report that frozen are every bit as good in this recipe and it will still taste like spring on a plate. Serve this to six as a side dish, but it is good enough to carry lunch for four with a poached egg and toast.

2 tbsp. olive oil

6 strips meaty bacon, finely diced

1 medium onion, diced

1-1/2 lb. fresh or frozen green peas

2 tbsp. dry white wine (or water or broth)

1/2 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat olive oil in a large, heavy frying pan. Add bacon and onion and fry over medium heat about eight minutes, until bacon is starting to crisp and onion is golden — do not use high heat for this step. Add peas and wine and cover. Simmer together two or three minutes. Stir in salt and pepper and serve.

Swiss Chard with Raisins and Pine Nuts

If you pass by those sweeping red and green leaves in the grocery store because you feel vaguely intimidated by their majesty please slow down and consider that Swiss chard is both nutritious and delicious.

This recipe is a classic and you can find a thousand versions out there if you look. There’s a reason — it’s fantastic and will convert even the most green resistant in your family. This amount serves four as a side dish.

1/4 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup dry sherry or water, divided

1/2 cup pine nuts

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, diced

1 clove garlic, thinly sliced

1 large bunch Swiss chard.

1/2 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup water

2 tsp. good quality balsamic vinegar

Combine raisins and about half the sherry. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high for one minute. Allow to cool for 15 minutes.

In a large dry frying pan, toast the pine nuts over medium heat until they are golden brown. Watch carefully because pine nuts go from golden to black in about five seconds if you aren’t paying attention. Remove from pan and set aside. Add olive oil to pan and fry onion for two minutes. Add garlic and fry another few seconds.

To prepare the chard, trim away about two inches from the ends of the stalks and discard. Remove the leaves from the remaining stalks and slice the stalks finely. Add them to the pan and cook with the onion and garlic for a couple of minutes. Coarsely chop the chard leaves and add to pan along with salt, pepper, remaining sherry and water. Stir to combine everything then cover and cook for five minutes, until chard is wilted. Stir in balsamic vinegar, toasted pine nuts, and soaked raisins, along with any remaining soaking liquid. Greens will be juicy and you can discard the liquid if you prefer, but I serve this in small soup bowls with all the juicy goodness intact.

Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher

in St. John’s. Questions may be sent to her

c/o The Telegram, P.O. Box 86, St. John’s,

NL, A1E 4N1.

Organizations: The Telegram

Geographic location: Peas

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