New Ways with Favorite Veggies

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A fresh crop of vegetables is heading our way, and if you’re as winter-weary as I am you’re eager to make the most of it. I love classics like steamed asparagus, thinly sliced radishes and rhubarb pie, but venturing beyond these tried-and-true preparations can be wonderfully rewarding.

This is particularly true when the produce in question is both so gorgeously fresh and so reasonably priced. My advice is to stock up on the season’s bounty, and then maximize your enjoyment by giving some of these non-traditional recipes a try.

Asparagus

One of my greatest discoveries over the last few years is that many of the veggies I thought of only in their cooked form are actually delicious and refreshing eaten raw.

Sweet potatoes, butternut squash and zucchini are on that list, as is asparagus. Shaved thinly and dressed with a tart dressing it’s wonderfully fresh and grassy in this Lemony Asparagus Salad.

For a double treat, try the delicious combo of peas and asparagus pureed in Pea and Asparagus Soup, then given a unique garnish of raw asparagus ribbons.

Radishes

I’m devoted to radishes. I’ll munch one anytime for a tongue-tingling snack, and I amuse my family by eating them thinly sliced over morning oatmeal (don’t laugh; a popular early season variety is known as French breakfast radishes).

Spring means fresher, milder radishes and seasonal heirlooms, so now is a great time to explore their many uses. This healthful Halibut with Radish Relish showcases their crispness and bright flavor in a quick, no-cook topping.

Or you can try sautéing them for a unique side dish, as in this Asian-accented Pan-Seared Radishes with Miso.

Pan-Seared Radishes with Miso

Pan-Seared Radishes with Miso

Artichokes

Spring artichokes are hard to resist: not only are there the smaller “baby” around to tempt us, but big-hearted globe artichokes are can usually be found at a price that  makes me what to eat them daily.

For a one-dish meal, nothing beats the great flavor and heavenly aroma of this braisedChicken and Artichokes with Farro.

And when it comes to stuffing and baking them, I’m thrilled with modern recipes that replace the standard bread crumbs with hearty whole grains; Baked Artichokes Stuffed with Red Quinoa is a superb one.

Peas

Snap peas, green garden peas and graceful pea shoots: All are spring favorites, and you get a refreshing dose of all three in this not-to-be-missed Green Pea Salad with Orange Blossom Honey.

Or pair sweet garden peas with another seasonal star, earthy baby carrots, for a classic contrast of colors and flavors; this Carrots with Peas and Pancetta brightens the combo with pancetta and a hit of red wine vinegar.

Carrots with Peas and Pancetta

Carrots with Peas and Pancetta

Rhubarb

If the only way you think of rhubarb is in pie, think again. While it’s true that this early spring vegetable is so often found in desserts that many people consider it a fruit, it’s actually a surprising member of the buckwheat family. Next time you see it in the market try considering it for savory preparations.

It makes a fabulous spread for Ham and Rhubarb Jam Toasties, a recipe you could make vegan by replacing the ham with smoked tofu or meatless “turkey” slices.

And for the first pickling project of the season, a batch of Rhubarb Refrigerator Pickles can’t be beat for versatility: Eat them whole, or try them as a garnish for everything from cheese to roasts to drinks.

By Alice K. Thompson

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