Cathie Campbell

Spring veggies are a treat

Toss some spring veggies into a pot, along with a few navy beans, and enjoy for a nice lunch or dinner.
Toss some spring veggies into a pot, along with a few navy beans, and enjoy for a nice lunch or dinner. Wikimedia Commons

More and more these days I am appreciating fresh vegetables, especially this time of year when produce stands and markets are offering such a wide variety. I have fond memories of harvesting fresh vegetables when I was growing up, and sitting with my grandmother shelling fresh peas. Of course, more of those little delicacies went into my mouth than went into the bowl. There were times we just ate them right then and there instead of saving them for dinner.

There’s something about fresh-from-the-garden produce, but we are fortunate that we have access to good produce in many of our grocery stores, roadside stands and farmers markets. I hope you are enjoying the springtime weather (which can change from one day to the next) and aren’t being bothered too much by the seasonal allergies. I seem to have developed a new language as it seems I am coughing more than speaking. Take care and here are this week’s recipes, just for you.

Spring vegetable pasta

Cook the pasta and veggies at the same time in the same pot. To me, the tarragon is an option, as I prefer to use a few shreds of fresh basil or flat-leaf parsley.

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

3/4 pound linguine

1 pound asparagus (tough ends removed), cut into 1-inch lengths

1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise (quartered if large) and thinly sliced

4 ounces sugar snap peas (stem ends trimmed), halved

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon butter, cut into pieces

2 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves

1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta 4 minutes short of al dente; add prepared asparagus, zucchini and snap peas. Cook until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water; drain pasta mixture, and set aside.

2. In the same pot, bring cream and butter to a simmer, being careful not to allow it to boil. Add the pasta mixture and enough pasta water to create a thin sauce (it will thicken as it stands). Season with salt and pepper, and top with tarragon. Makes 4 servings.

Spring vegetable soup

Adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe.

1 cup dried navy or white beans, rinsed

2 bay leaves

1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme, finely chopped

2 medium leeks, diced and rinsed well

2 medium carrots, peeled and diced

8 ounces red, white or gold potatoes, peeled and cubed

1 pound Roma tomatoes, cubed

2 cups vegetable broth

4 ounces fresh stringless green beans, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 small zucchini, cubed

1 1/2 cups fresh shelled or thawed frozen peas

1/2 cup sliced mushrooms

1 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

About 1/2 cup prepared pesto sauce

1. In a large pot, add beans and 6 cups cold water; bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let stand for 1 hour.

2. Drain beans; return to pot. Cover with 3 quarts cold water. Add bay leaves and thyme; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer, partially covered, until beans are barely tender, about 2 hours.

3. Add leeks, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, broth and 2 cups water. Simmer, partially covered, until the beans are tender, about 30 minutes to 1 hour.

4. Add green beans and zucchini to pot. Cook, uncovered, 20 minutes. Add peas and sliced mushrooms; cook until soft, 5 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Divide among bowls; top each with about 1 heaping teaspoon pesto sauce. Makes 6 servings.

Spring salad with fava beans

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 1/4 pounds fresh fava beans, shelled (1 1/2 cups)

1/2 head endive, torn into bite-sized pieces

5 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves

3/4 cup packed fresh mint

1 small carrot, peeled into thin ribbons

1 shallot, halved and thinly sliced

4 ounces fresh goat cheese

2 tablespoons white-wine vinegar

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1. Prepare an ice-water bath. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Add fava beans, and cook until tender, about 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer beans to ice-water bath. Drain, and squeeze beans from skin. Discard the skins.

2. In a large bowl, toss fava beans, endive, spinach, mint, carrot ribbons and sliced shallot. Scatter a few tablespoons of goat cheese in the salad.

3. Place vinegar in a small bowl. Add oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking until well mixed. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Drizzle dressing over salad, and toss to coat. Serve immediately. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Meyer lemon cake

Not a veggie recipe, but we all need dessert, right? And there are lots of lemons in the spring.

For the streusel:

1 3/4 cups flour

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

6 ounces ( 3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter

For the cake:

5 Meyer lemons, cut into paper-thin slices, ends discarded

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

4 ounces (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan

1 cup sugar

3 tablespoons finely grated Meyer lemon zest (from 4 to 5 lemons)

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup sour cream

For the glaze:

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

3 to 4 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice

1. To make the streusel: Mix together flour, brown sugar and salt. Using a pastry cutter or your fingers, cut butter into the flour mixture until small to medium clumps form. Cover, and refrigerate until ready to use (up to 3 days).

2. To make the cake: Cook lemon slices in a medium saucepan of simmering water for 1 minute. Drain, and repeat. Arrange lemon slices in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

3. Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 9-inch angel food cake pan. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a large bowl, beat butter, sugar and lemon zest with a mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. With the mixer running, add eggs, 1 at a time, then the vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with sour cream.

4. Spoon 1/2 of the batter evenly into cake pan. Arrange 1/2 of the lemon slices in a single layer over the batter. Spread remaining batter evenly over the top. Cover with the remaining lemon slices in a single layer. Sprinkle the chilled streusel evenly over the batter.

5. Bake until cake is golden brown and a toothpick or wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack set over a baking sheet, and let cool in pan for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the pan, and carefully remove outer ring. Let cool on rack for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the center tube. Slide 2 wide spatulas between the bottom of the cake and the pan, and lift cake to remove from the center tube. Let cool completely on rack.

6. To make the glaze: Just before serving, stir together confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Drizzle over cooled cake, letting excess drip down the sides. Let glaze set before slicing, about 5 minutes.