Season’s Eating

I try to eat seasonally most of the time. That means using fruits and vegetables that are in season but it also means that my cooking methods differ.  In cooler weather I use the oven more while warmer weather means more stove top cooking or dishes that involve little or no cooking at all.  (Of course we also do a lot more grilling in warmer weather but that will be the subject of many posts to come!)

Here are three recipes that fit the bill. They include peas and/or asparagus which are both in season right now and use only the stove top for preparation:

  • Snow Pea Salad
  • Spring Green Risotto
  • Wheat Berry and Asparagus Salad

Snow Pea Salad

This salad from Food and Wine features two different varieties of peas; snow peas are the flat variety that you often see in Chinese cuisine and English peas or garden peas are the shelled variety. I used frozen sweet peas for the garden pea portion.  The salad has an interesting garlic, mustard, and maple syrup dressing that I really enjoyed.  Peas are a good source of protein in and of themselves but when I ate this I added some brown rice to increase the protein content a bit more. Here is a picture before the rice:

pea salad

Spring Green Risotto

I am kind of a chef groupie and one of my favorite television chefs is Ina Garten, also known as The Barefoot Contessa.  Her food is elegant and classic without being too fussy. Risottos seem like a lot of work but I have found that you don’t necessarily have to dirty another pan to “simmer” your broth or baby sit the process as much the recipe says.  For a home chef who just wants to get a meal on the table it is sufficient to use room temperature broth and stir occasionally.  This Spring Green Risotto recipe from Ina includes leeks and fennel which you may not have used much but are available in most grocery stores.  Leeks look like a gigantic green onion and have a mild onion flavor. The greens are tough so you use just the white and light green parts. Fennel is a bulb that tastes of licorice.  The feathery tops are very flavorful and make a pretty garnish.  If you really like the flavor you can stir more of them in right at the end of cooking.  (You could substitute celery in place of the fennel but why not give it a try?)

leek fennel Spring Green Risotto

Wheat Berry and Asparagus Salad

Ahhhh….asparagus! One of my favorite vegetables.  And I had wheat berries in the freezer that needed to be used up. I saw this recipe in the Penzey’s spice catalog but I modified it for simpler preparation.

A wheat berry is actually an entire wheat kernel with the hull removed. If you like a chewier texture in your grains you will love them. And, although this is called a salad I ate it warm and it tasted great.  Can’t wait to try the chilled leftover for my supper tonight. Here are the wheat berries before cooking and my finished salad; recipe follows:

wheat berries wheat berry asparagus salad

Wheat berries take a while to cook but you can prepare the dressing and vegetable components of this dish while waiting:

Wheat Berries

1 cup hard red wheat berries

2 1/2 cups low sodium vegetable broth

1 teaspoon turmeric

¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Rinse your wheat berries and add them to large saucepan with broth, turmeric and red pepper flakes.  Bring to boil then reduce heat to simmer.  Cover and cook 1 ½ – 2 hours or until desired firmness.  You may need to add more liquid.  When the wheat berries have reached desired consistency remove lid and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated; watching closely so they don’t burn and stick to bottom of the pan.

Dressing

4 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 Tablespoon olive oil (I used sunflower oil)

1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 ½ teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon Greek seasoning (if you don’t have this you can substitute an additional teaspoon of oregano)

Combine dressing ingredients in blender and blend until emulsified.  (I used the small cup of my Ninja.) Set aside.

Vegetables

1 onion, thinly sliced

4-5 cups washed and finely chopped hearty greens (I used lacinato kale but you could use regular kale, spinach, or Swiss chard as well)

1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1 inch chunks

When wheat berries are done cooking stir in two tablespoons of your dressing and transfer them to a serving bowl.  Wash or wipe out the pot and return it to the stove over medium heat.  Add a couple of tablespoons of oil or broth to the pot and saute the onions for couple of minutes.  Add the asparagus and continue stirring and cooking for an additional 2-3 minutes.  Add the greens to the pot and stir to combine.  Cover and allow greens to steam for 2-3 minutes.  Remove from heat, stir in the remaining dressing and combine with wheat berries in serving dish.  Serve warm or chill.

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