Fresh Start

Spring produce comes along just when we need a healthy boost

Jennifer Cohen-Katz

March 2017/April 2017

Even if you love winter, chances are by this point you are ready to say goodbye to the never-ending bone-chilling temperatures and heavy darkness of the season. When spring is just a peek around the corner I eagerly anticipate the green tips of the crocus, leaf buds on the stark tree limbs and the bright colors and crisp flavors of the first vegetables of spring.

The nutrient profile of spring vegetables and fruits is designed to bring us out of hibernation. Spring produce is naturally lighter in carbohydrates and calories compared to winter produce. This aligns with our need to lighten up our bodies and begin to move more. Spring plants are hydrating to support us as we get outside to enjoy the warmer weather.

I always try to have something growing as the ground warms up, maybe some lettuces, peas with their curly shoots, or simply a few pots of herbs. The reward of planting your own vegetables and herbs is creating a simple and perfectly nourishing recipe from what you’ve carefully tended to maturity. If gardening isn’t your thing you can still enjoy Howard County’s fresh picked produce. We have plenty of farmer’s markets, CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) and pick-your-own farms that offer the most flavorful produce of the season.

Act now to get on the list for one of the many local CSAs, which start up again in spring. Find a Howard County farmers market close to home or your workplace so you’ll be able to fill a basket with just-picked produce each week. Stop at the roadside stand at Clark’s Elioak Farm. Or you might want to pick your own fruit and vegetables at Larriland. Take a trip to Sharp’s at Waterford Farm to select plants for your own garden-to-table meals.

Once you get your market basket home, pause to appreciate all the health benefits it contains. Those bundles of leafy greens are full of fiber, which helps to clear excess estrogen from your body. The vibrant colors of blue and red berries, magenta radishes and bright green peas offer a secret arsenal of protective, naturally occurring phytochemicals to help fend off an array of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and certain cancers. These vegetables don’t require much fuss to become a flavorful dish. Early spring finds—herbs, greens and colorful, bright-flavored choices— come together easily into a salad dressed with herbal vinaigrette, or a speedy stir-fry of stems, shoots and leaves.

Fresh Pea Hummus with Feta and Mint

Fresh peas with their earthy, sweet flavor are a sure sign of spring. This bright, fresh dip is an ode to the season. English peas are only available from the farmer’s market for a short time, so grab them the minute they appear. Makes 2 cups.

2 ¼ cups fresh green peas, or frozen, thawed
1 ½ teaspoons salt, divided
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons tahini
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/3 cup fresh mint
¼ cup feta cheese, crumbled

1. If using fresh peas, bring 6 cups of water and 1 teaspoon salt to a boil. Fill a large bowl with ice and water. Add peas to boiling water and cook 3 minutes. Drain and immediately transfer peas to ice water. After 1 minute, drain completely in a colander.
2. For fresh or frozen, thawed peas set aside 1/4 cup.
3. Place remaining peas, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, olive oil, tahini, garlic, lemon juice and cayenne pepper in a food processor. Process until smooth.
4. Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with reserved peas, chopped mint and crumbled feta.
5. Enjoy with pita, crackers, fresh vegetables, or use as a sandwich spread.

Lentils with Roasted Radishes

This recipe works with any variety of radishes you’d like. Choose Cherry Belle, French Basket, or Easter Egg—all are a refreshing alternative to heavy winter vegetables. If you don’t care for the spiciness of raw radishes, try less assertive roasted radishes, which sweeten in the heat. Makes 4 servings

1 cup French green lentils (7 ounces)
1 bay leaf
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon sea salt, divided
1 cup radishes, trimmed and sliced in half
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
¼ teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons shallots, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
5 ounces arugula

1. Preheat oven to 450. In a medium pan, cover the lentils, bay leaf, garlic and thyme with 2 inches of water and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain, stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt, remove bay leaf and set aside.
2. Toss radishes with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. I arrange them in a single layer on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and roast 10 to 12 minutes.
3. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in the pan. Add shallots and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in sherry vinegar, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, and remaining olive oil. Stir in the lentils and adjust seasonings if necessary. Combine radishes and parsley with lentils. Serve over arugula.

Roasted Sherry Strawberries

Cooking the berries at a high temperature allows their sweet-sour flavor to concentrate until you’re left with an ambrosial softened fruit in its own juice. The juice combined with a few spoonfuls of maple syrup and sherry makes a thick, slightly boozy sauce. Makes 1 ½ cups.

4 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 ½ tablespoons sweet sherry

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper to capture all the juices.
2. Place the strawberries in a large mixing bowl. Mix together the maple syrup, oil and salt. Pour over the top and toss gently to coat. Arrange the strawberries and juice in one layer on the parchment paper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until juices thicken and berries soften.
3. Transfer warm berries and juices to a bowl and gently stir in the sherry.

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