By April, weary New Englanders are looking for anything to poke through the thawing ground. It is often a crocus, welcomed like an old friend.
To help lift our culinary spirits, we asked you to peek into your recipe collections for favorite dishes featuring spring greens. For The Recipe Box Project, in which readers share recipes with each other, we were looking for specialties made with asparagus, Swiss chard, watercress, spinach, mint, and other greens. From the pale green of asparagus soup, sent in by Hadley resident Pam Juengling, who calls the spears “Hadley grass,” to the dark green and golden custard in a crustless Swiss chard pie from Jane Woodes of Wellfleet, our kitchen was filled with fine fare.
Jane Ward of Amesbury sent in a risotto she makes with fresh peas from her Community Supported Agriculture share (we used frozen for now). She folds in a bright puree of peas and scallions, another vegetable that heralds the new season, into creamy arborio rice. Winchester resident Kinzie Moore Gensler writes that her favorite spring dish is jade rice made by adding a puree of basil, mint, cilantro, and spinach to ginger-scented long-grain rice.
Often the first shoots in the garden are herbs. “We can’t wait for the fresh mint,” writes Lee Appel of Rye, N.H., who makes a tangy yogurt and cucumber salad with refreshing spearmint. Crisp, peppery watercress is often tossed with lettuces to punch up a salad. Chie Ehara, an Arlington resident and Japanese expat, stirs a bunch into a velvety shrimp soup.
In New England, we’re forced to use the expression “spring greens” loosely. Some don’t come in until it’s almost summer. But these dishes are a painter’s bright palette. Which for now, is uplifting.
In this unusual dish, aromatic basmati or jasmine rice is combined with an emerald green puree made with basil, cilantro, spinach, and mint. Winchester resident Kinzie Moore Gensler sent us this recipe, which she adapted from “Fusion Food Cookbook,” by Hugh Carpenter and Teri Sandison. Gensler writes, “I have been making this for over 15 years. Paired with salmon, this makes a bright cheery dish. The sauce alone is delicious on grilled fish or chicken. I make several batches and freeze in ice cube trays for later use.”
|1½||cups long-grain basmati orjasmine rice|
|2||tablespoons canola oil|
|3||cloves garlic, chopped|
|1||piece (1 inch) fresh ginger, grated (to make 1 tablespoon)|
|2¼||cups chicken stock|
1. Place rice in a colander. Rinse it with cold water for about 1 minute until the rinse water is no longer cloudy. Drain thoroughly; set aside.
2. In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the rice and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes more.
3. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, set the cover on askew, and simmer for 20 minutes or until all of the liquid is absorbed. Remove from the heat. Set the lid firmly on the pan and let steam for 10 minutes.
|1||cup firmly packedspinach leaves|
|¼||cup fresh mint leaves|
|½||cup fresh cilantro leaves|
|12||fresh basil leaves|
|2||scallions, cut into 2-inch lengths|
|2||tablespoons sherry orwhite wine|
|2||tablespoons white vinegar|
|2||tablespoons dark sesame oil|
|1||tablespoon soy sauce|
|2||teaspoons hoisin sauce|
|½||teaspoon Asian chili sauce (sambal oelek)|
|Extra fresh mint, cilantro, and basil leaves (for garnish)|
1. In a blender, combine the spinach, mint, cilantro, basil, scallions, sherry or white wine, vinegar, sesame oil, soy and hoisin sauces, sugar, chili sauce, and salt. Puree until the mixture is smooth.
2. Fold the sauce into the rice with the whole mint, cilantro, and basil leaves. Adapted from Kinzie Moore Gensler and “Fusion Food Cookbook”
Watercress and shrimp soup
Velvety pink shrimp float among sprigs of peppery watercress in a light chicken stock. Chie Ehara, a Japanese expat who now resides in Arlington, sent us this Asian-style soup. “I try to show the beautiful green colors in the dishes I make so that we can feel spring from the food. In Japanese culture, we eat with our eyes and feel the season.”
|1||pound shrimp, peeled and deveined|
|1||tablespoon rice wine or white wine|
|2||tablespoons vegetable oil|
|1||piece (2 inches) fresh ginger, smashed and finely chopped|
|2||cloves garlic, finely chopped|
|2||scallions, finely chopped|
|3||cups chicken stock|
|1||tablespoon soy sauce, or moreto taste|
|1||bunch fresh watercress, stemmed, leafy ends cut in half|
|Salt and pepper, to taste|
|2||tablespoons cornstarch mixed with ¼ cup cold water|
|Grated rind of ½ lemon (forgarnish)|