Summer and fall are filled with delicious fruits and vegetables to cook with but spring has to be my favorite cooking season of all. Everything is so bright, so colorful, so fresh tasting. I love seeing what strikes my fancy at the farmers’ market and then coming home and figuring out what to do with it all. The haul above yielded some fantastic meals, some simple, some elaborate. Here are a few ideas for what’s available at the market (at least in Southern California) these days:
Put An Egg On It
This was my first time purchasing eggs at the Farmers’ market because I always thought they were so expensive but after reading the Omnivore’s Dilemma, I’ve really been examining how I buy my food and I’ve been trying to find more humane sources for animal products specifically. These eggs are from a local apple orchard where I also bought the beautiful lilacs. I was drawn to the beautifully colors and finally took the $6 plunge. Since picking these up I’ve had a poached egg for breakfast pretty much daily and tried to incorporate some of the other produce underneath- I get an extra serving of veggies, use up some of the produce, and so far it has all been super tasty. The eggs are pretty great too- it’s hard to explain but they’re just very… EGGY. The yolk is creamier, the white firms up better; I really do think it is worth it to go for the good stuff.
Poaching an egg took me some time to master but I’ve got it pretty well down now. Get a small non-stick skillet and fill with about one inch of water and a splash of white vinegar. Heat over medium-high until the bottom of the skillet has little bubbles all over and it is steaming. Carefully crack the egg so that it doesn’t quickly break apart but you’re able to sort of pry the opening apart, then hold it directly over the water and drop it in as gently as possible, so that the white stays condensed over the yolk. Don’t touch it for a minute or so until the white is starting to form, then use a slotted spoon to fold the white over the yolk as much as possible. After a couple minutes when the bottom white is well-formed, use the slotted spoon to gently flip the egg over in the water so the rest of the white can cook. After another couple minutes when you see no more runny white, you can use the slotted spoon to take the egg out of the water and allow it to drip all the excess moisture off before serving.
Those beautiful carrots had bushy green tops so I washed them well and sautéed them in olive oil and then topped with my egg- totally light and delicious. Another day, prior to poaching the egg in the simmering water, I blanched some asparagus tips and then plunged them in an ice bath while poaching the eggs. A couple pieces of sourdough toast with a little butter, sliced asparagus, and the poached eggs, well salted and peppered, were a delightful spring treat.
Creamy Fava Bean and Asparagus Pasta with Lemon (Serves Two)
I’ve been dreaming about a fresh spring pasta for months now and was thrilled to see fava beans at the market to make my dream a reality. Pulling some ideas from a few different recipes I came up with the above. One taste and I knew it was exactly what I’d been dreaming of.
1 lb fava beans, shelled
1 bunch (about 10 stalks) asparagus, trimmed and sliced into 1″ pieces (Do you know how to find where the tender part of asparagus ends and the rough part begins? Hold each tip of a stalk and gently try to bend it in half- the stalk will split where the tender part ends)
Zest from one meyer lemon or two regular lemons
Juice from half of a meyer lemon or one regular lemon
12 oz long pasta- spaghetti, linguine, bucatini- whatever you’ve got handy
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
Salt and freshly-cracked black pepper
A few leaves of basil or flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch asparagus for one to two minutes until bright green, then plunge into an ice bath. Boil fava beans for three to four minutes until bright green and plunge in an ice bath. Dump water (it turns a muddy brown from the favas) and refill with salted water and bring to a boil. While water is coming to a boil, remove each fava bean from its filmy casing. When water is boiling, cook pasta according to package instructions and drain, reserving a half cup of pasta water.
In a deep saute pan or dutch oven, whisk heavy cream, olive oil, and lemon zest over medium heat until just beginning to boil. Add pasta, asparagus, fava beans, cheese, lemon juice, and a splash of pasta water and vigorously toss everything together for a few minutes so that the cheese melts and the creamy sauce coats the pasta. Add a little more pasta water if it is too thick. Taste and season with salt and pepper, and serve in large bowls topped with chopped herbs and a little more grated cheese.
Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote with Lemon and Ginger
After combing the interwebs for rhubarb recipes, I saw a lot of variations on jams and compotes and combined a few to create this one. I didn’t have the energy to go through the whole canning rigmarole so this won’t last longer than a couple weeks but it is a delicious topping for yogurt or ice cream and turned out better than I could have imagined. Even if you don’t consider yourself a rhubarb fan, the combination of flavors here really works well to diminish its bitterness and is spring in a bite.
3 cups 1/2-inch-wide pieces fresh rhubarb (cut from about 1 pound)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 1-pint container fresh strawberries, hulled, halved if small or quartered if large
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped or grated
Zest from one meyer lemon
Splash of meyer lemon juice
Combine rhubarb, sugar, ginger, squeeze of lemon juice (to maintain rhubarb color) and 1/4 cup water in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Bring to simmer, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. Simmer gently until rhubarb is tender but not falling apart, stirring occasionally, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in strawberries and lemon zest. Transfer to bowl and chill until cold, about 1 hour.
I used this recipe for fried baby artichokes and they were delicious; I’ve made them twice since and you can bet I will continue as long as they’re available at the market. This article isn’t as insistent as others I’ve read so I will be for them- be sure to rub whatever sides of the artichoke you cut with lemon juice so it doesn’t oxidize.