Now that the long, wet, cold spring has finally given way to a week or two of warmth and sunlight we’re seeing a lot more produce flood into the farmers’ markets in the mid-Missouri area. Many farmers are still struggling to catch up, but quite a few booths at last Saturday’s markets were piled high with a variety of beautiful greens (lettuces of all kinds, spinach, kale, chard, arugula, etc.), leeks, radishes, beets, broccoli, herbs, cauliflower, and overwintered carrots. And the real stars of the market were the absolutely gorgeous expanses of plump, perfectly formed asparagus and luscious, dead-ripe strawberries.
So in honor of those noble fruits and veggies, I’ve rounded up a bunch of recipes featuring those peak-season fruits and veggies.
Asparagus is so good simply steamed and served with a drizzle of butter and squeeze of lemon that it’s easy to pass the whole asparagus season enjoying it with that little fanfare, but grilled asparagus with olive oil and lemon is only slightly more trouble to make and it’s super flavorful, like healthy french fries. And one of my very favorite ways to enjoy asparagus at the peak of flavor is this cream of asparagus soup. This is not like your canned cream of anything soup—it’s rich and satisfying and holds the very essence of asparagus in every steaming spoonful. And once you’ve gotten the hang of this recipe you can use it for practically any veggie you lay your hands on: broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, mushrooms (this would be terrific with those morels you’ve been hoarding). And when my fridge is overflowing with too many heads of the celery I’ve been growing in recent years, I’m apt to make some cream of celery soup and enjoy it as an appetizer course. It’s not just for casseroles! I’d love to hear from you—do you have any favorite asparagus recipes you’d like to share?
I’ve posted some salad and dressing recipes over the past few weeks, but I couldn’t resist adding that perennial favorite of the rural Midwest, the wilted lettuce salad. My buddy Brian Mahieu sent me his own adaptation of his mother’s recipe for wilted lettuce, this one featuring carmelized onions, and I can’t wait to try it soon. He also forwarded a zesty green scallion salad dressing from friend Chris Franey that you can add to your arsenal of spring salad dressings.
If you’ve read this blog over the past week or two you know that I love my greens, so of course I can’t let this post pass by without sharing two more ways for you to enjoy the wonders of cooked leafy greens! Though I’ve again focused on Swiss chard for the two pasta dishes I’m sharing, you can also use spinach, beet greens, and broccoli raab (or broccoli rabe, depending on which style book you’re consulting!). Farfalle with Sausage, Swiss Chard, and Pine Nuts is a relatively quick dish and absolutely tasty dish for a weeknight summer, while lasagna with Swiss chard or spinach is a dish I like to make up over the weekend, enjoying one pan fresh and freezing one pan for some future weeknight supper.
No spring feast would be complete without a lovely berry dessert, so I’ll leave you with this fresh strawberry ricotta tart.
This coming Saturday there should still be lots of lots of these same goodies at the market, so get there bright and early. Hope to see you there!