Written by : Sarah Putman Clegg 

The Flavors of Spring

Eating with the seasons gives our lives a welcome rhythm and variety, a sense of deep-seated wellbeing. What better way to celebrate the arrival of spring than to feast on the special fresh ingredients it brings? After the heavy, starchy root vegetables of winter, the vibrant green veggies of spring are just what our bodies crave.

Fresh Pea Soup with Mint and Garlic Croutons

Serves 4–6

For the soup:

3 cups shelled English peas (about 3 pounds peas in the pod)

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

6 green onions, white and tender green parts, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 cups chicken stock

1 bunch fresh mint, 2 sprigs reserved, the rest tied with kitchen string

1 medium Yukon gold potato, peeled and chopped

1/4 cup crème fraiche or sour cream, plus more (optional) for serving

For the Garlic Croutons (optional):

Stale sliced baguette

1 peeled garlic clove

Olive oil spray

Bring a pot of water to a boil, season with salt, and add the peas. Cook until just tender, about 5 minutes. Drain, then immerse in a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking. (Alternatively, cook the peas with a cup of water in a microwave for 5 minutes. If using frozen peas, reduce cooking time to 3 minutes.) Set cooled peas aside.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until tender but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Stir in the stock, potato, and a large pinch of salt, and add the bundle of mint. Raise the heat to bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the potato is tender, 15–18 minutes. Discard the mint bundle.

Pluck the leaves from the remaining mint sprigs and slice them thinly. Add half the mint, half the crème fraîche, half the peas, half the potatoes, and half the broth to a food processor and puree. Pour into a bowl and repeat to puree the remaining ingredients. Return the soup to the saucepan, season generously with salt and pepper, and reheat briefly. Serve with garlic croutons, if desired, and/or a dollop of crème fraîche.

To make the croutons, preheat the oven to 375°F. Spread the stale baguette slices in a single layer on a baking sheet. Rub each with garlic and spray with olive oil. Toast in the oven for 5 minutes, then remove from the oven, flip the slices with tongs, spray again with olive oil, and toast for 5 minutes more.

Orange Beef & Asparagus Stir-Fry

Serves 4

1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

1/2 cup beef or chicken stock

3 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons mirin or sake

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon brown sugar

Sriracha sauce, chili oil, or other hot sauce to taste

3/4 pound flank steak, sliced thinly against the grain into 2-inch-long strips

2 tablespoons peanut oil or grapeseed oil

1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

1 yellow onion, thinly sliced

Zest of 1 orange

1 knob fresh ginger, peeled and minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup roasted cashew pieces

Steamed rice for serving

In a large measuring cup, combine the orange juice, stock, soy sauce, mirin, cornstarch, sugar, and Sriracha. Stir with a fork to dissolve the cornstarch and sugar, and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a wok or large frying pan over high heat. Add the asparagus and stir-fry until nearly tender, 2–4 minutes, depending on thickness. Add the onion, gingerroot, and garlic and stir-fry until the onion is translucent. Remove the vegetables to a bowl.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and add the beef. Stir and toss until just barely still pink. Add the reserved vegetables, cashews, and orange juice mixture (after giving it a quick stir) and the zest. Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook for 1 minute. Serve at once over steamed rice, passing additional hot sauce at the table.

Grilled Zucchini Salad with Thai Flavors

Serves 4

Yogurt Dressing

1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro

2 tablespoons minced red onion

Zest and juice of 1 lime

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon jarred Thai green curry paste

1 pound zucchini (3 small), halved lengthwise

1 red bell pepper, quartered and seeded

1/2 head butter lettuce, torn

To make the dressing, in a large measuring cup, combine the yogurt, cilantro, red onion, lime zest and juice, and vinegar. Stir with a fork, taste and season with salt, and set aside.

Preheat a grill or the broiler to high heat. In a large bowl, mix the olive oil and curry paste. Add the zucchini and red bell pepper and toss with your hands to coat. Season with salt and pepper and toss again. Grill or broil the vegetables until just charred on the edges but still firm, about 3 minutes per side. Remove from the heat and let cool. Slice the zucchini crosswise and on a slight angle into 1-inch pieces. Scrape the loose skin from the pepper (you needn’t remove it all) and slice into 1/4-inch-thick strips. Put the vegetables in a large shallow bowl. Pour most of the dressing over and toss to coat. Add the lettuce and remaining dressing and toss again. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve right away.

For more spring recipes, pick up the June issue of Live Happy magazine. 

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