Friday, 3 September 2010

Eight Great ... Spring Vegetables

It's high time I did another post in my Eight Great series! And seeing as a) I'm doing the healthy thing at the moment and b) I firmly believe that cooking is an art as well as a craft, I thought I'd do one on seasonal produce. So I fondly present:

Eight Great Spring Vegetables! (And Some Fruits Too)

1. asparagus
Mmmm, asparagus! When I was a kid, I hated it! Blech! I can't remember the first time I tried it again, but now I'm quite enamoured of it. To be honest, it probably came about because I was looking for excuses to eat Hollandaise Sauce, which is my favourite food. Now I like asparagus for what it is. The crisp taste and long, upright stalks epitomise Spring for me.
I would probably have it in:
Asparagus and Hollandaise Tart or Asparagus and Goat's Cheese Frittata


2. corn
Biting freshly cooked corn straight off the cob is one of the simple pleasures in life. Its origins being South America, it evokes the exotic - chilli, salsas and Mexican tortillas. It's also found in Asian food such as chicken and sweet corn soup, and more homely foods like fritters and breads. I love how the kernels burst between my teeth and the flavour just sings of sunshine and the colour yellow.
Some o' the good corn:
Corn, Cauliflower and Chicken Pies or Chilli Corn Muffins


3. zucchini
The fresh, green taste of zucchini fits well in Mediterranean dishes as well as stir fries. They do just as well as corn grated into muffins or breads. I like to add long strips to a pan of roasted vegetables, about half an hour before the bell goes off so they're cooked at the same time as the potatoes and pumpkin. The strips are also great brushed with a little extra virgin olive oil and given the once-over on my George Foreman.
Zucchini lovin':
Zucchini, Chorizo and Fetta Pasta or Zucchini and Haloumi Fritters


4. tomatoes
Now, I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with tomatoes. I hate raw tomatoes! I'm not ashamed to pick them out of sandwiches and burgers in any kind of social situation. However, I just adore a good tomato-based pasta sauce or a sprinkling of roasted cherry tomatoes in my salad - just as long as they've been cooked to within an inch of their lives. It's hard to believe now that tomatoes originated in South America and have only been known in Europe for the last 500 years. They seem like they just belong in Spanish and Italian cooking. The cheeky little boogers!
They've wended their way into:
Spicy Tomato, Ricotta and Thyme Pasta or Tomato Curried Sausages


5. mandarines
I know that many people spell it 'mandarin'. But Wikipedia says both spellings are OK and we all know the interwubs never lies, right? *cough* Mandarines have a sunny look and feel that reminds you that summer is coming. The main reason I like them is because they're easier to peel than oranges ... and they're sweeter. They're great just on their own, but sometimes you want something a little more sophisticated from your fruit.
So I would make:
Mandarine Filo Rolls with Cardamom Clove Syrup or Chilli, Chicken and Mandarine Stir Fry


6. snow peas
When I was a kid, I hated peas and beans of any kind. Snowpeas brought me around with their crunchy texture and exotic flavour. With snowpeas in the mix, you don't need to put much more into a stir fry or salad to feel that you've had a satisfying culinary experience. They're the perfect foil to the heaviness of a black bean sauce or the dense sweetness of pumpkin. In France they're known as mangetout which means "eat all", which is appropriate, I think!
I'm ready to whip up:
Singapore Noodles with Lamb and Snow Peas or Chicken and Snow Pea Chinese-Style Pancakes

7. strawberries
Strawberries are summer! But they first appear in spring, and remind me that warmer weather is on the way. Actually, different varieties ripen at different times, so we can enjoy strawberries most of the year. Personally I find strawberries are often too tart for my taste, but with that bright red colour and shaped like a love-heart, I just have to forgive them! Being a sweet-tooth, my favourite ways to eat strawberries are in jams, syrups and chocolate fondue. Strawberry yoghurt and ice cream are also fab. I went for some classic recipes with this one.
Some "berry" good desserts : [sorry, I just had to!]
Strawberry Jelly with Rosewater Cream or Strawberry Shortcake


8.broad beans
Broad beans, also known as Fava beans, are another food that I couldn't stand until just recently. I remember tasting them when I was a little kid and having to exert all of my self control not to spit them out! Then at Easter this year I was having lunch at a winery. The first course of the set menu included a Fava bean salad. It slipped my mind that they were the same thing as the hated broad bean, just in disguise. When the salad arrived at the table, I was quite perturbed. Perhaps it was just the wine talking, but I decided to try one. It was delicious! I was amazed at how my tastes could have changed so completely over the years. Ever since then I've been busting for them to come back into season so I can try cooking with them for myself.
As soon as I see them at the grocery, I'm going to make:
Broad Bean, Bacon and Spinach Risotto or Broad Bean Dip with Rosemary Crisps

Eat and enjoy!


Previous Eight Greats...More Food...
... Blogs I Just FoundIn The Kitchen: Muffin Tops
... Products I'd Like To Get My Hands OnEaster Baking: Greek Tsoureki Bread

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