Spring vegetables brighten up mealtime

Executive chef James Rigato shells fresh spring peas at The Root Restaurant and Bar in White Lake,...
(Patricia Beck/Detroit Free Press/MCT)
Story by Susan M. Selasky
(Detroit Free Press (MCT))
Wed, Apr 25, 2012
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Once spring arrives, cooking and eating habits change. We make way for bright, delicate tastes and move away from the hearty, longer-cooking vegetables that carried us through the winter.

Change of season, change of vegetables.

Chefs and home cooks get in the mood for a little something green.

Spring offerings are exciting for chefs like James Rigato of the Root restaurant in White Lake. “It’s easier to be a chef in the spring ... because everything starts to become more available,” Rigato said. “And people tend to want to eat lighter fare.”

“I like to keep vegetable dishes vegetarian and bring out their true flavor,” added Jesse Bartol of Sweet Layla June Catering in Commerce Township, Mich., a former chef for Weight Watchers. “Vegetables have a wonderful flavor. I don’t think they need the help that people sometimes try to give them.”

Bartol also encourages cooks not to be intimidated by vegetables like artichokes, one of her favorites.

“People tend to treat them in a high-maintenance way and shouldn’t,” she said. “You just steam, peel the leaves, reveal the heart, scoop out the inedible hairy choke.”

What’s left, Bartol said, is a perfect receptacle for her Eggs Sardou.

ASPARAGUS SALAD WITH PEAS AND CRISP PROSCIUTTO

You can make the vinaigrette a few days in advance and fry the prosciutto several hours in advance. This salad is terrific as a starter to accompany broiled or baked fish or grilled chicken.

FOR VINAIGRETTE:

  • 2 teaspoons minced or pressed garlic
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped chives
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Pinch of sugar to taste

FOR SALAD:

  • 1 1/2 pounds asparagus
  • 1 cup shelled fresh English peas or good-quality frozen peas
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 thin slices prosciutto, cut into slivers
  • 6 cups mixed butter lettuces and arugula

In small bowl or glass measuring cup, whisk together all the vinaigrette ingredients. Set aside.

Peel and trim asparagus stems if needed. Bring a large skillet of salted water to a boil. Add the asparagus and boil for 2 to 4 minutes, or until crisp tender. Add the peas during the last minute of cooking. Do not overcook. Transfer to a bowl and run cold water over the asparagus and peas to stop the cooking.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the prosciutto and saute until crisp, about 1 minute. Remove to paper towels to drain.

Arrange lettuce and arugula on plates. Top with asparagus and peas. Drizzle with vinaigrette. Serves 6.

Per serving: 237 calories (69 percent from fat), 19 grams fat (3 grams sat. fat), 11 grams carbohydrates, 9 grams protein, 506 milligrams sodium, 10 milligrams cholesterol, 5 grams fiber.

— Adapted from Food & Drink magazine, spring 2009 issue

EGGS SARDOU

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 4 whole artichoke hearts, boiled until tender, trimmed of choke, leaves discarded or reserved for other use
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
  • 4 large eggs
  • Sauted spinach (see note)
  • 1 cup Hollandaise sauce (see note)
  • 2 ounces smoked salmon or smoked trout, cut into thin slices
  • Paprika for garnish
  • Chopped chives

In a skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the artichoke hearts and a pinch of salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until just warmed through, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.

Into a large saute pan or deep skillet, pour about 2 inches of cold water and the vinegar. Bring to a simmer over high heat, then reduce the heat so that the surface of the water barely shimmers.

Break the eggs into individual saucers, then gently slide them one at a time into the water and, with a large spoon, lift the whites over the yolks. Repeat the lifting once or twice to completely enclose each yolk. Poach until the whites are set and the yolks feel soft when gently touched, 3 to 4 minutes.

Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon, and place on a large plate.

Arrange the warm artichoke hearts on each of 4 plates and top with the sauteed spinach. Lay 1 egg on top of each bed of spinach and drizzle with warm Hollandaise sauce. Garnish with the chopped smoked salmon, a dusting of paprika and chives; serve immediately.

To saute the spinach: Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet. Add 1 pound fresh trimmed spinach and 1 teaspoon minced garlic. Saute, stirring until wilted, about 1 to 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Keep warm.

To make the Hollandaise sauce: In the top of a double boiler or in a large bowl set over a pot of simmering water, whisk 3 egg yolks with 2 teaspoons water until the yolks are thick and pale yellow, removing from the heat as needed to prevent the eggs from overcooking. Gradually add 1/2 cup melted butter, whisking constantly to thicken. Whisk in 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon salt and pinch of cayenne pepper to blend. Adjust the seasoning to taste. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm until ready to serve, stirring occasionally.

Serves 4.

Per serving: 254 calories (46 percent from fat), 14 grams fat (7 grams saturated fat), 21 grams carbohydrates, 17 grams protein, 996 milligrams sodium, 235 milligrams cholesterol, 9 grams fiber.

— From Jesse Bartol of Sweet Layla June Catering in Commerce Township

BACON, PECORINO AND CREAM RAGOUT WITH SHRIMP AND PEAS

  • 1 pound slab bacon, cut into small cubes
  • 1 small to medium onion, peeled, diced small
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup Chardonnay
  • 3 cups cream (substitute milk or half-and-half)
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for garnish
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 16 ounces linguine cooked according to package directions
  • Olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 4 cups fresh chopped mustard greens
  • 1 1/2 cups lightly blanched English peas
  • Fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish

In a large wide pot, place the bacon cubes and cook slowly over low to medium until crispy. Drain off fat. Add onion to the same pot and cook until soft. Add garlic. The moisture from the onions and garlic should begin to lift the sticky bits from the bottom of the pot. Add flour. Stir until flour becomes absorbed and paste-like, making sure not to burn it.

Once flour is absorbed, add wine and cook until it is absorbed, about a minute. Add the cream. Reduce the heat to low and stir often until thick and heated through, about 30 minutes. Stir in the Pecorino Romano and season with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste. At very end, squeeze lemon juice into sauce. Taste again and adjust if necessary. Keep sauce warm.

Meanwhile, cook the linguine in boiling salted water until al dente. In a large skillet, heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil. Add the shrimp and saute lightly until opaque. Add a splash of white wine to the pan. Add the sauce, fresh mustard greens and peas. Add cooked pasta right from the water straight into the skillet. Cook together for about a minute adding a splash of olive oil, fresh chopped parsley and a light sprinkling of Pecorino. Transfer to a bowl, making sure to place the shrimp on top of pasta. Top with shaved Pecorino and a drizzle of olive oil. Serves: 6 (generously).

Per serving: 848 calories (41 percent from fat), 38 grams fat (12 grams saturated fat), 74 grams carbohydrates, 50 grams protein, 966 milligrams sodium, 292 milligrams cholesterol, 6 grams fiber.

— From James Rigato, executive chef, Root restaurant, White Lake.

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