Spring Green Pasta with Asparagus and Peas Recipe

spring green pasta with asparagus and peas | pamela salzman

Pasta has come a long way since I was a child, especially in the last few years.  There used to be limited options beyond typical durum wheat pasta.  Possibly you could find whole wheat, but that was about it.  Now there are so many choices including spelt, quinoa, brown rice, gluten-free blends, corn and, miraculously, grain-free.  I have had all of the above and whereas I think they are all good, Cappello’s grain-free pasta recently blew my mind.  My daughter was home for spring break and she bought some for dinner one night.  I’ll tell you the truth, I wouldn’t have even tried it because I would assume a grain-free pasta would be a mess plus it’s crazy expensive (I mean CRAZY.)  But if you have to be grain-free, pasta is a food that you might kill for.  Anyway, it was fantastic.  Or maybe I just wanted to love it after I found out how much she spent.

spring green pasta with asparagus and peas | pamela salzman

I grew up eating pasta 3-4 times per week.  Monday it was often in a soup, Tuesday or Thursday was baked ziti, Friday was linguine aglio e olio, and Sunday was either ravioli or my grandmother’s homemade pasta with her sauce.  We are Italian, so no one ever complained or thought it was strange that we ate so much of it.  But now I consider pasta an occasional treat because I believe it is a processed food with a significant amount of carbohydrates.  There is nothing wrong with complex carbohydrates, i.e. those paired with fiber and/or protein.  Complex carbs, as opposed to simple carbs, are good for you and we need them for energy.  But it is quite easy to overeat pasta, especially if you consider that a serving size is 1 cup of cooked pasta.  Overeating carbohydrates is what gets us into trouble.  When our blood sugar spikes, insulin is released to scoop it all up and let me repeat myself, insulin is a pro-inflammatory, fat-storage hormone.  What’s the moral of this story?  Don’t go crazy with pasta.  Eat a small portion, and even better, stretch it out with lots of nutrient-dense vegetables.

spring green pasta with asparagus and peas | pamela salzman

This is a lovely pasta recipe which utilizes the new spring produce coming out in the markets.  I love the combination of asparagus, peas, mint and lemon.  It’s so bright and fresh.  According to Eating Well, asparagus is a very good source of fiber, folate, vitamins A, C, E and K, as well as chromium, a trace mineral that enhances the ability of insulin to transport glucose from the bloodstream into cells.  Peas and grains make a complete protein, so if you wanted to serve this without any additional protein you could.  My whole family, including the picky one, loves this pasta.

spring green pasta with asparagus and peas | pamela salzman

I think this would be nice for Easter lunch with poultry, lamb or ham.  It’s easy enough though that you could whip this up for a weeknight dinner, too.  For those of you not eating pasta, the vegetable mixture is terrific mixed with cooked brown rice or quinoa.  I have also added a leek to this recipe.  Just clean it really well, thinly slice it and sauté it before adding asparagus.  A handful or two of spinach leaves would also be delicious.  Adding dark green leafies is never wrong.  And a few toasted pine nuts would add some nice crunch, if desired.  Why didn’t I write all these suggestions into the recipe?  Because I know people don’t like recipes with a lot of ingredients.  This dish tastes excellent as is written, but feel free to improvise.

spring green pasta with asparagus and peas | pamela salzman

Whatever you do, don’t forget to save some pasta water before draining the pasta. That starchy, flavorful water is so valuable!  It is the key ingredient to keep this from being dry, otherwise the inclination might be to add oil to the pasta to moisten it.  If you are dairy-free, feel free to eliminate the cheese altogether, but do add a little extra salt.  The pasta I used in these photos is Trader Joe’s gluten-free quinoa and brown rice fusilli.   Check out this post here for how to perfectly cook gluten-free pasta!

spring green pasta with asparagus and peas | pamela salzman

Spring Green Pasta with Asparagus and Peas
Author: 
Serves: 4-6 as a side dish
 
Ingredients
  • 2 Tablespoons unrefined, cold pressed, extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound medium asparagus, tough ends trimmed, stalks cut into 1 ½ -inch pieces
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • pinch of crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • kosher salt for the pasta water
  • ¾ pound pasta, such as penne
  • 1 ½ cups peas (frozen is fine)
  • 3 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter or organic Earth Balance
  • ⅓ cup grated Pecorino-Romano or Parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the asparagus and sauté, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the lemon zest, garlic, red pepper, sea salt and pepper and sauté until garlic is fragrant to heat through, 1 minute. Set aside.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon kosher salt. Add the pasta and cook until just before it reaches al dente. Remove 2 cups of the pasta water and set aside. Add the peas to the pasta pot and stir. Drain pasta and peas.
  3. Return skillet to medium heat. Transfer pasta and peas to the skillet with the mint. Add 1 cup reserved pasta water and stir everything to combine well. You may need a little more with gluten-free pasta. Simmer until pasta is al dente, about 3-5 minutes. Add additional pasta water if desired. Stir in butter and cheese and taste for seasoning. If you don't add cheese, you may need a little extra salt.
Notes
In the summer, you can substitute chopped zucchini for half the asparagus. Halved cherry tomatoes are also nice sautéed with the vegetables. See my notes in the blog for other ways to change up this recipe.

 

Vegetable Paella Recipe

vegetable paella | pamela salzman

We made it to Barcelona!  Neither my husband, the kids , nor I has ever been to Barcelona before, and hubby and I haven’t been to Spain in 17 years!   We are very excited to start our European vacation here.  So much to see and do in a short amount of time!

ingredients for vegetable paella

types of rice you can use

As you would imagine, I am fairly obsessed with what people eat around the world.  As much as I love visiting landmarks and museums and churches (I am actually also obsessed with churches), local markets and restaurants are high on my list of places to experience.  I am fairly open-minded when it comes to trying new foods, although I am not a huge fan of meat, game and pork.  I know, my options will be limited in Barcelona since every other menu item contains some sort of the above mentioned.  Moderation is my mantra.

Jovial tomatoes in glass jars

I am for sure on the lookout for excellent paella, which is basically like the national rice dish of Spain.  I L-O-V-E rice in any way, shape or form.  Paella is particularly delicious because it is typically cooked with lots of seafood, chicken, pork and some other tidbits like olives and roasted peppers all mixed together in the same saffron-infused dish.  It’s so tasty.  And it’s basically Mr. Picky’s nightmare since he would eat all of those things PLAIN, and “why did they have to mess this up by cooking it all together?!”  I already gave Mr. Picky a pep talk before we left about being open-minded about food, otherwise he might ended up starving, or worse, really cranky.  I’ll keep you posted, friends.  Wish me luck.

steps to paella

Whether I find the perfect paella in Barcelona or not (and if you know where I should go, speak up!), I did teach this Vegetable Paella in my cooking classes this past spring.  And I might admit, it was so flavorful and rich even without all the meat.  You don’t normally find paella loaded with vegetables, and I find that true about a lot of the dishes in Spain – not very veggie-heavy, unless you count (fried) potatoes as a veg.  Asparagus, peppers, artichokes (by all means, use frozen), tomatoes, mushrooms all go in here.  I did make this several times for my vegetarian students with veggie stock, and it was very good, but I do prefer using chicken stock.

vegetable paella | pamela salzman

The one ingredient that is missing from this paella recipe that makes it an imposter and non-authentic is saffron, which gives the rice a beautiful gold color and imparts a unique flavor.  Saffron is absurdly expensive and I have always had success substituting a bit of ground turmeric for saffron when I need that great yellow tint.  If you have saffron however, by all means use it by crumbling it and dissolving it in some hot stock.

vegetable paella |pamela salzman

I love eating this paella with a green salad on the side and that’s it (although a pitcher of sangria wouldn’t hurt.) More from Barcleona to come, including my quest for the best paella!

5.0 from 2 reviews
Vegetable Paella
Author: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 2 Tablespoons unrefined, cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • ¼ cup drained sliced jarred pimientos, chopped (one 4-ounce jar) or equivalent amount of roasted red pepper, diced
  • 1 large tomato, peeled and chopped or ½ an 18-ounce jar of diced tomatoes, drained
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons sea salt (or more if your stock is unsalted)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons smoked paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon paprika or sweet pimenton
  • 1 ½ cups rice, preferably medium grain such as bomba or arborio
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock, preferably homemade
  • ½ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • ½ pound asparagus, tough ends snapped off and discarded, spears cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 6 ounces artichoke hearts, either frozen and thawed or jarred and drained*
  • optional: serve with lemon wedges on the side
Instructions
  1. In a large skillet pan (between 12-14 inches,) heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the pimientos, tomato and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally for 2 minutes.
  2. Stir in the salt, both paprikas, turmeric, and rice. Add the chicken stock and parsley and bring to a boil. Continue cooking over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has been absorbed by the rice, about 7 minutes.
  3. Stir in the asparagus, peas, and artichokes. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered for 10 minutes before serving. Serve with lemon wedges, if desired.
  4. *to give the artichokes some extra flavor, pat them dry and sauté them in olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Notes
you can also add mushrooms to the paella to add a meatiness. Sauté with onion in Step 1.

 

Italian Fried Rice Recipe and * VIDEO *


I ate an excessive amount of pasta growing up.  My mom prepared it about three times per week and then we usually had it also on Sundays when we went to spend the day with my mom’s family or my dad’s.  Pasta was part of our heritage, not just an easy dinner and not eaten plain with butter the way I know many kids prefer it.  (Coincidentally, my father is visiting this week and on Day 2 he was already asking for a plate of spaghetti!)

Italian Fried Rice made with brown rice and seasonal veggies | Pamela Salzman

Ironically I don’t make pasta much for my family, and not because we don’t like it.  We do!  And it’s not because pasta is a processed food, because it is and I try to limit those.  But, I don’t eat much pasta because I can’t stop myself from overeating it!  Did you know 1 serving of pasta is 1/2 cup?  Basically, I try to keep my carbohydrates to 2 servings per meal to avoid blood sugar spikes and to attempt to maintain a healthful weight.  Unfortunately, overeating pasta for me is very, very easy.  I think I can consume 4 cups of pasta no problem.  I know I can make a dish with mostly veggies and some pasta, but I always end up eating seconds.  And thirds.

Whole grains like farro, barley and brown rice I don’t overeat as easily.  A few years ago I ate a fried rice dish at Ammo in LA that was a game changer.  I always assumed fried rice to be Asian-inspired, but this one wasn’t.  And it’s not fried, by the way.  Just sautéed. It just had lots of seasonal market vegetables and brown rice all sautéed in olive oil.  It made me think about all the possibilities for fried rice and I have enjoyed making versions of that dish since then.  My favorite combination I came up with is this one here, which has an Itailian twist.  I am crazy for it because it makes me feel like I’m eating all the yummy flavors I would put in pasta and it feels more satisfying because the brown rice has so much more fiber than pasta.

But just like regular fried rice, this is a great way to use up bits of leftover veggies or any kind of grain, for that matter.  And it is super quick (as in minutes) to throw together.  I probably eat a version of this recipe for lunch more than anything else if I am working at home.  Now that I think about it, I am going to make this for my parents this week!

Italian Fried Rice with brown rice and veggies | pamela salzman

 

5.0 from 1 reviews
Italian Fried Rice
Author: 
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 2 Tablespoons unrefined, cold pressed extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • a pinch of chili flakes (optional)
  • ½ pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ½ bunch asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 or 2 cups of shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps wiped clean with a damp paper towel and sliced thinly
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • a few leaves of fresh basil, thinly sliced
  • 2-3 cups baby leafy greens like chard, kale and spinach or 6 stalks of kale, stemmed and leaves chopped or more
  • 3-4 cups COOKED short grain brown rice
  • chicken stock, vegetable stock or water, if necessary
  • optional accompaniment ideas: grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino cheese, poached or fried egg, toasted, chopped nuts, hot sauce
Instructions
  1. Warm a large skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and when warm, add the garlic and chili flakes. Sauté until the garlic is just starting to turn golden on the edges, about 30-60 seconds.
  2. Add the cherry tomatoes, asparagus, mushrooms and a pinch of salt and pepper and sauté until the tomatoes just start to lose their shape and the asparagus and mushrooms are tender, about 5-6 minutes. Add the fresh basil and sauté until wilted.
  3. Add the cooked rice, the greens and another pinch of salt and pepper and sauté until the rice is warmed through and the greens are wilted. If the rice and vegetables are sticking to the pan, add a splash of water or stock. Serve immediately with or without suggested accompaniments.
Notes
Cooked quinoa, millet or lentils can be subbed for the rice.  You can also use part grain/part chickpeas. Or omit the tomatoes and basil and use different quick-cooking vegetables like thinly sliced fennel, diced zucchini, shredded carrots, blanched cauliflower florets, peas, scallions.  And use different ingredients to add in later, such as cooked beets, sliced oranges, avocado, olives and so on.  There are unlimited combinations!

Creamy, Dairy-free Asparagus Soup Recipe and Video

Creamy, Dairy-Free Asparagus Soup | Pamela Salzman
Creamy, Dairy-Free Asparagus Soup | Pamela Salzman
Photography by Morgan Pansing

I remember growing up in New York and feeling gipped when Spring rolled around.  Why?  Because 90% of the time it was still cold!   My parents told me that last Saturday it was snowing.  Brrrrrr!  Sort of doesn’t really match the image I used to have of spring — lying under a flowering tree, daffodils and tulips under a sunny sky.  I’d rather hunker down with a bowl of hot soup wearing a beanie and not a bonnet.

woody ends in a pot for asparagus stock

But nature is giving us some new foods to enjoy, to help us detoxify all the stuff weighing us down from winter.  I’ve been making mostly thick and hearty meal-in-a-bowl soups like lentil or mushroom-barley.  But I saw gorgeous green local asparagus at the farmer’s market the other day and jumped for joy.  And then I made asparagus soup!  Since the season is so short, I will prepare it at least once a week until I see the words “from Mexico” and then it’s adios asparagus!

a little lemon peel gives the soup a really nice bright flavor

ingredients

Believe it or not, asparagus is a total powerhouse vegetable.  It is rich in antioxidants which protect against free radical damage. Asparagus also contains high amounts of histones, folic acid, and nucleic acid, which boost the immune system.  It contains high levels of the amino acid asparagine, which serves as a natural diuretic, and increased urination not only releases fluid but helps rid the body of excess salts. This is especially beneficial for people who suffer from edema (an accumulation of fluids in the body’s tissues) and those who have high blood pressure or other heart-related diseases.  And it is a particularly rich source of glutathione, a detoxifying compound that helps break down carcinogens and other harmful compounds. This is why eating asparagus may help protect against and fight certain forms of cancer, such as bone, breast, colon, larynx and lung cancers.

looks weird, but after you puree it, it tastes delicious!

This creamy soup is so lovely and EASY.  Easy enough to make tonight on a moment’s notice and special enough to serve for your holiday luncheon or dinner.  Guess what?  Passover is next Monday night and Easter is in less than two weeks.  Time to get those menus in order!  This soup is perfect and of course, it gets its creaminess not from dairy, but from one of my favorite non-dairy tricks, oats!  Crazy, right?  You cook rolled oats with the asparagus and puree everything to a thick and silky creaminess which tastes nothing of oats and only fresh asparagus!  If you need this soup to be Passover-friendly, you can substitute 1 pound of Yukon Gold potatoes for the oats.

puree with an immersion blender or in batches in a blender

I have made this soup with all vegetable broth and it was terrific.  I tried it will all chicken stock and I thought it was a little too chicken-y.  My favorite way is with half chicken stock and half asparagus stock — amazing!  What’s asparagus stock?  You take the woody ends from the bottom of the asparagus spears and simmer them in water until you have a lovely, delicately-flavored asparagus broth.  This would also be awesome for a vegetarian asparagus risotto!  (Easy-to-follow instructions are at the bottom of the recipe.)  Happy Spring!

Creamy, Dairy-Free Asparagus Soup | Pamela Salzman

Creamy, Dairy-Free Asparagus Soup | Pamela Salzman

4.9 from 7 reviews
Creamy, Dairy-free Asparagus Soup
Author: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 2 Tablespoon unrefined olive oil, unsalted butter or unrefined coconut oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup old fashioned rolled oats (check label for gluten-free)
  • 2 bunches of asparagus, about 2 pounds, woody ends trimmed* and stalks cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock, preferably homemade
  • 2 cups water (or asparagus stock – see note at bottom of recipe)
  • 1 large piece of lemon peel, about 2 inches
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt (more if you use unsalted stock)
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and sauté over medium heat until tender and translucent, about 8 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes, stirring frequently.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients to the pot. Bring soup to a boil and lower to a simmer. Cover pot and cook for 10 -15 minutes until asparagus is very tender.
  4. Turn off heat and remove the lemon peel. Or for a more assertive lemon flavor, blend the peel or half the peel with the soup. Puree the soup until smooth, either directly in the pot with an immersion blender or in batches in a blender (keep the lid open a crack.)Ideas for garnishes: steamed asparagus tips, garlic croutons, shaved Pecorino-Romano cheese or chopped chives.
Notes
*Save the ends for vegetable stock (recipe here) or boil the ends in 3 cups of water for 20-30 minutes for an asparagus stock. This should yield approximately 2 cups of asparagus stock, but measure anyway.

 

 

 

Creamy, Dairy-Free Asparagus Soup | Pamela Salzman

Farro with roasted vegetables and roasted tomato dressing recipe

We had such a nice Labor Day weekend.  I hope you did, too.  We were able to squeeze in some beach time, family time, yoga (for me) and our annual block party, which was great fun.  The combination of the balmy weather and refrain from “labor” made me wish that summer would last just a little longer.  Although, as I mentioned in my gazpacho post, I am riding the summer tomato train for as long as possible.  Since this may very well be my last recipe of the year with tomatoes, I am sharing a goodie.

The inspiration for this recipe came from Deb at Smitten Kitchen who adapted it from Gourmet magazine.  The original recipe called for Israeli couscous, which I couldn’t help but substitute out for a more whole (and tastier) grain like farro.  But what makes this dish special is the incredible dressing which uses slow-roasted tomatoes as it’s base.  What could be better, tomatoes and grains with a tomato dressing?  It’s the perfect recipe for a tomato-fanatic like me!

Ok, I can read your mind.  It’s not the fastest recipe on the planet.  The cherry tomatoes have to be washed, dried, halved, arranged on a baking sheet and roasted for an hour.  Although you don’t have to arrange the tomato halves like soldiers in the photo here.  I thought it would look nice that way, but now I realize it just makes me look obsessive compulsive.  Anyway, I was making this on Friday afternoon to bring to the beach for a potluck, and I tried timing the tomato prework. Excluding the roasting bit, I think it only took me about 15 minutes which I did while watching an episode of “Barefoot Contessa.”  Can I just say I wish Ina Garten would invite me over to cook, play bridge and drink cocktails with her and her friends, especially TR.  Sigh.  Speaking of Ina, do you remember her Orzo with Roasted Vegetables from 2001?  Gasp, was that really 11 years ago?  You know, the one that we all made a gajillion times for every backyard barbeque and potluck for years.  Loved it, but OD’ed on it for sure.  Ina’s salad was easy, but definitely involved some labor, and yet we all thought it was worth it.

Ok, this recipe is like that for me!  A little extra work, but worth it, worth it, worth it!  I taught this last September and again to a group this past July, all the while thinking how divine it is and how much I love it.  And then, while watching Ina on Friday afternoon, that orzo salad popped into my head and I changed this recipe on the spot by cutting the amount of farro in half and adding a bunch of roasted vegetables in its place.  The good news — it was A-MAZING, so much better than the original!  The bad news – it was A-MAZING, so much better than … the way I had taught it to A LOT of students.  Guilty face.  Well, I guess that’s what blogs are for!

 

Farro with Roasted Vegetables and Roasted Tomato Dressing
Author: 
Serves: 6-8
 
Ingredients
  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes, about 1 ½ pounds
  • 6 small-medium garlic cloves, UNpeeled
  • ¼ cup unrefined cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil + additional for vegetables
  • ¼ cup warm water
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt + additional for vegetables
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper + additional for vegetables
  • 1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
  • 5-6 medium zucchini
  • 1 cup farro
  • Kosher salt
  • ½ cup Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
  • ⅓ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme (only if you’ve got it)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Halve tomatoes through stem end and arrange cut-side up in one layer on a large baking sheet. Add garlic to pan and roast about 1 hour, or until tomatoes are slightly shriveled around the edges. Cool in the pan for 30 minutes.
  2. Peel the garlic and put in a blender with oil, water, lemon juice, salt, pepper and ½ cup roasted tomatoes. Blend until very smooth.
  3. Turn the oven to 400 degrees. Arrange the asparagus on a large baking sheet and drizzle with oil plus a sprinkle of salt and pepper to taste. Chop the zucchini into 1-inch cubes. Toss with olive oil and arrange in one layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Roast asparagus for 12 minutes or until tender. Roast zucchini 35 minutes or until caramelized. Chop asparagus into 1-inch pieces.
  4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a few substantial pinches of kosher salt and the farro. Cook until farro is tender, but still al dente, about 20-25 minutes. Drain very well and transfer to a serving bowl.
  5. Add olives, remaining tomatoes, asparagus, zucchini, herbs and dressing to farro. Toss to combine and taste for seasoning. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Spring Green Minestrone

Spring Green Minestrone | Pamela Salzman

Spring Green Minestrone | Pamela Salzman

I had the best day on Saturday.  Where did I go?  Nowhere!  What did I do?  Nothing!  When was the last time you said you had the best time doing nothing?  I know!  Sometimes I feel like my life is like a runaway train. And although I enjoy its active pace, I wish I took more time to sloooooow down.  This past Saturday was going to be more of the same — squeezing in a workout, a big farmer’s market shop for my classes, watching Mr. Picky’s soccer and baseball games, and chauffeurring the girls here and there.  But the universe gave me a big gift in the form of a torrential rain storm and everything was canceled.  Thank you, thank you!

Mr. Picky stayed in his pajamas until 1:00 in the afternoon.  I read more of the newspaper than just the front page.  Daughter #1 and her adorable friend who spent the night would have normally met friends in town for breakfast, but hung around with us instead.  They played as much One Direction music as we could take, baked a cake, and photographed every move for their 2,000 Facebook “friends” to enjoy.  One thing for sure, I knew I would be making soup.  I had an extra bunch of asparagus from Friday’s class, white beans and peas in the freezer, and a small bag of spinach.  I had the makings of one of my favorites, Spring Green Minestrone.  This is the soup I make whenever Spring rolls around.  As much as I love hearty, chunky soups and stews, I like to leave those to the winter.  Lighter, fresher soups appeal to me now, but ones which still have the ability to warm me up.  And the combination of white beans and peas amounts to a complete protein, so I feel satisfied enough to eat this as a meal.  But it’s all that GREEN that really makes me feel nourished.

The ingredients in this soup look like they couldn’t amount to anything special — there’s no secret ingredient, no flavor boosters.  I’m even surprised when it turns out delicious.  And the recipe is so dead simple, you have no excuse NOT to make your vegetable stock from scratch.  This soup was one of the first cooked vegetable dishes that Mr. Picky actually ate a normal portion of.  Saturday was no different.   He dropped a piece of sourdough toast in his soup and ate every last pea.  My husband poured the usual Pecorino in his.  As for me, I embraced my bowl of springtime au naturel — perfect in its simplicity and which I ate really slooowly.  I needed to make this special day last.  Because although I heard it would rain again on Sunday, I knew that the chances of that happening were about as good as my kids getting a Coke with their lunch.  And sure enough, Sunday’s sunshine came with places to be and things to do, but I got back on the train rejuvenated and restored and ready for it all.

Spring Green Minestrone | Pamela Salzman

Spring Green Minestrone
Author: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 2 Tablespoons unrefined, cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 leeks, washed well, white and light green parts sliced thinly
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
  • 1 pound asparagus, trimmed and sliced on the diagonal into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 ½ cups fresh or frozen green peas
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 6 cups vegetable stock or light chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 1 ½ cups cooked white beans, such as Cannellini or Great Northern, or 1 15-ounce can, drained and rinsed
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt (more if your stock is unsalted)
  • 4 ounces baby spinach leaves
Instructions
  1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the leeks and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté another 2 minutes.
  2. Add the asparagus, peas and parsley and toss to coat with the oil, leeks and garlic. Pour in the stock, white beans, and sea salt. Bring to a boil and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook uncovered until the asparagus is just tender, about 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in the spinach leaves and taste for seasoning. Don't be disappointed, but that's all you have to do!
Notes
If you make your own stock, use the tops of your leeks and the woody ends from the asparagus that you might be inclined to compost or throw away.

Asparagus salad with feta, walnuts and mint vinaigrette recipe

A great salad is part perfectly fresh and delicious ingredients and part winner dressing.  And the simpler the better.  But salad monogamy is not something I believe in.  There shouldn't be exclusivity with salad combinations and dressings.  A good vinaigrette should be able to play the field.  And let me tell you, the mint vinaigrette in this recipe sees a lot of action in my kitchen.   Does it look familiar to you?  If you took my class last July, you had it with a Farro, Golden Beet and Cucumber Salad.  If you saw the feature in ELLE Magazine of my class at Jenni Kayne's and looked up the recipes, you saw it there, too.  But what you don't know is that I have been using this dressing for years on lots of things and you will too! Why do I love this dressing?  Mint is one of my favorite herbs in both savory and sweet dishes.  Combined with rice vinegar and red onion, it is fresh and tangy and I could drink this dressing with a straw, I love it so much.  It is just perfect with asparagus, peas, cucumber, beets, carrots, potatoes and green beans.  Here I've shown you this asparagus salad prepared two ways - either sliced and mixed with butter lettuce or whole spears drizzled with dressing.  Easter is just around the corner and I think this would make a lovely light salad for brunch or a perfect complement to roast lamb for dinner. Don't forget about how nutritious asparagus is.  Asparagus is loaded with potassium, Vitamin C and folic acid, which is critical for proper cellular division (especially if you're pregnant.)  It also contains inulin which we don't digest, but the good bacteria in our gut do.  We want to promote the growth and activity of friendly bacteria so that they make it more difficult for unfriendly bacteria to take over our intestinal tract.  Asparagus is also rich in vitamin K, calcium and magnesium, all helpful in building bone strength.  I guess you could call this salad a win-win!

Asparagus Salad with Feta, Walnuts and Mint Vinaigrette
Author: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 1 ½ pounds asparagus (medium thickness), tough ends trimmed
  • 6 ounces butter lettuce, torn into bite size pieces (optional)
  • ½ cup fresh mint leaves, about half of a ¾ ounce package
  • 1 clove minced garlic (or 1 teaspoon, chopped)
  • ¼ cup diced red onion
  • 3 Tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon raw honey
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt (or more if you don't use the feta)
  • a few grinds of freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup unrefined cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup raw walnuts, chopped
  • 3-4 ounces feta, preferably goat, crumbled
Instructions
  1. Prepare a large bowl of ice water. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and blanch the asparagus spears for 3 minutes for medium thick spears (less for thinner). Remove asparagus with tongs and immediately submerge in the ice water. Once cool, remove asparagus to dry.
  2. To prepare the dressing: place the mint leaves, garlic, rice vinegar, honey, diced onions, salt and pepper in a blender or food processor. Begin to blend and with the motor running, add the olive oil in a slow stream. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper.
  3. Place lettuce on a platter and toss with enough dressing just to coat. Dry asparagus well and cut on the diagonal into fourths. Toss with a little dressing and add to lettuce. Scatter feta and walnuts all over salad and add more dressing if necessary.
Notes
The second photo shows how I store asparagus. When you bring it home from the market, trim the ends of the asparagus and store in a container with an inch of water at the base. Keep refrigerated. The asparagus will stay fresher for longer. When trimming asparagus to cook, bend the asparagus back close to the bottom and find the natural break in the stalk. Prepare as desired.