Spring brings rain, sun, fresh produce


Spring is back, and with it comes rain, sun, more rain, but most importantly, the best, freshest local produce.

As farmer’s market season around the state begins this month, here are some recipes designed to take advantage of veggies fresh out of the ground from a long winter chill.

So as the sun stays up longer, pull up a seat on the patio with some friends and serve up a little slice of spring succulence.

Fresh Asparagus Soup

Asparagus is one of many tasty veggies ripe and ready for spring feasts.

Using a pound fresh asparagus, join it with 3/4-cup chopped onion and a half-cup of vegetable broth, bringing the broth to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer until the veggies tenderize.

Once finished, set a few spears aside for garnish while running the rest of the mixture through a blender until smooth.

Melt a tablespoon or so of butter in the same saucepan, sprinkling in while stirring two tablespoons of flour, a teaspoon of salt and a pinch of black pepper to taste. Allow this mixture to cook for about two minutes, but don’t let the flour start to brown. Stir in another 1-1/4-cups veggie broth and bring the mixture back to a boil.

Next, stir in the puree and a cup of milk, then whisk in about a half cup plain yogurt and a teaspoon of lemon juice. Stir until the whole thing is heated through, then serve, garnishing with a few tips and sprinkle with some Parmesan cheese.

Remember, however, no appetizing soup is complete without its corresponding salad.

Strawberry-Spinach Salad

This salad combines two more seasonals back in force, the sweetness and tartness of strawberries with the bitterness of garden-fresh spinach.

In a large bowl, mix one fresh bunch of spinach with about 10 large sliced strawberries, setting the bowl aside.

Then, in a blender, place about 1/3-cup sugar, a teaspoon of salt, 1/3 cup white wine vinegar, and about 1/2-cup vegetable oil, blending until smooth. Stir in a tablespoon of poppy seeds. Pour this mixture over the spinach and strawberries and toss it, coating throughout.

Now that the starters are out of the way, wow your dinner guests with the finale, a course that combines fresh seasonal meats and veggies.

Lamb and Artichoke Risotto

This recipe is designed to make use of your leg ‘o lamb leftovers, so feel free to gorge the night before but save yourself about two diced cups of lamb.

First, heat 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a tablespoon of butter in a large suacepan over medium heat. Next, stir in a half-cup chopped onions or shallots, whichever you prefer. Let those saute for two or three minutes, pouring in two cups of uncooked Arborio rice, letting it get coated in the oil-butter mixture for about a minute.

Now, pour in a half-cup red wine, allowing the rice to soak it up for two or three minutes. Next, add 5-3/4-cups chicken broth in half-cup increments, allowing the rice to absorb it each time.

After about 20 minutes, the rice should be tender but still firm. Remove it from the heat and stir in another 1/4-cup of broth, 3/4-cups grated Asiago cheese, the lamb leftovers, three cloves of minced garlic and one 6.5-ounce jar of artichoke hearts (but for the purposes of this column, feel free to do like me and cook your own artichokes for a fresh equivalent).

Stir it all together well and combine it with the rice, serving it warm.

Finally, that leaves one tasty reintroduction to the season left: Dessert.

With strawberries readily available again, and with rhubarb coming back into season, what better way to make the meal come full circle than with a fresh pie?

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumb Pie

For this one, begin by beating a large egg in a mixing bowl.Add a cup of sugar, two tablespoons flour and a teaspoon of vanilla, mixing well. Next, gently fold in a pint of halved fresh strawberries and about 3/4-pound of fresh rhubarb, precut into 1/2-inch pieces. Next, pour this all into your crust (store-bought works, but where’s the fun in that! Premake your own for best results).

But what makes this pie stand out from other strawberry-rhubarb pies is the topping.

Combine 3/4-cup flour with a half cup brown sugar and a half-cup oats. Cut in a 1/2 cup of cold butter until the mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle this all over the fruit and bake it all for 10 minutes at 400 degrees. Turn the oven down to 350 and let it go for another 35 minutes until the top is golden brown and bubbly. Let it cool and polish off a a piece or three.

With local farmer’s markets getting started, now’s the time to get the freshest ingredients from the source (Silverdale’s opens April 22). So head on down to your local farms, farmer’s markets or produce stands and dive into a green spring.

These recipes and more like them can be found online at www.allrecipes.com.

Aaron Managhan is the sports editor for the CK Reporter. His column appears the first Saturday of the month.

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