When I think of spring I think of how new and fresh everything smells – new grass, wet leaves, colourful flowers and yummy vegetables right from the garden. Right now in the Northeast spring is just arriving, so we are still in the mode of finishing off what is left in the root cellar . Until it becomes a proper spring where everything is green and growing and the snow has all melted we will start by cooking lighter, using shorter cooking times and adding more raw ingredients to our daily meals.
First I go and buy our 50 lb bag of long grain organic brown rice for summer, and I start mixing short grain and long grain 50/50 as well as adding quinoa and cous cous to the meal plan. Next I start growing counter top sprouts – alfalfa, radish, lentil and sunflower. I like to add these to salads, sandwiches or serve them on their own.
The first spring vegetables that we get really excited about are fiddle heads, a local wild fern that can be collected in the woods. They’re only around for a short time, so we only get to eat them once or twice. They are delicious, with a delicate flavor that needs no seasoning, just a quick blanche or stir fry.
We have a patch of watercress in a spring on our property. Watercress has so many uses and we love the spicy crispness. When fresh herbs like mint, chives or oregano start growing they liven up a meal. Parsley too – there is a large Lebanese community where I grew up and I had the pleasure of learning how to make tabbouleh (a parsley salad, with bulgar and lemon juice) while working in a Lebanese restaurant.
Here are a few recipes to put a spring in your step:
1lg Belgian endive, sliced into bite size rounds
4 red radishes, sliced into thin circles
1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
1 ripe pear, de-seeded and sliced into quarters
1 stalk of celery, diced
1/2 Tbsp of lemon juice
several drops of toasted sesame oil
1/2-1 tsp umeboshi vinegar
Toss all ingredients together and serve as a light side to any meal.
Tofu wontons in watercress soup
1pkg wonton wrappers
1lb of fresh firm tofu, crumbled
1 tbsp ginger, grated
2 cloves garlic,minced (optional)
2 tbsp shoyu
1/2 red onion or red pepper, diced
1 cup napa cabbage, shredded
1 tbsp sesame oil
4 cups water
2 cups vegetable stock
1 lg bunch watercress, chopped into large pieces
2 onions, diced
2 tbsp shoyu
In a wok, heat oil and add garlic, ginger and onion. Saute for 1-2 min then add cabbage and tofu. Stir fry until lightly browned. Add shoyu, cook for 1 more minute and set aside until cool.
Place 1 tsp of tofu mixture on each wonton and fold. Set aside wontons in such a way that they do not touch each other and stick.
To make broth, bring water to a boil. Add onions, stock and soy sauce. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Add watercress and simmer for 2 more minutes.
In a separate pot bring 5-6 cups water to a boil and add a splash of oil and about 10 wontons at a time (depending on the size of the pot). Cook wontons until they float to the top. Scoop out the cooked wontons and set aside. Serve bowls individually with a couple of wontons and steaming hot broth poured over them.