Early summer vegetables promise kitchen masterpieces

There are a variety of green vegetables in the early garden season besides lettuces. Chives are among the first herbs to arrive. And dandelions, love them or not, are even earlier.

Rather than picking dandelion greens from your lawn go into the coulees or bluffs to find more tender leaves. They are surprisingly tasty and a touch bitter. They can be as tender as young spinach.

Asparagus is another early vegetable. Once you have an established patch, they are mostly labour-free and get better with age. Pick them young and small or use the larger stalks in soups.

Roasted baby potatoes with chive pesto

  • 1 3/4 lb. baby potatoes, halved lengthwise 1 kg
  • 1 tbsp. plus 1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil 15 mL, 125 mL
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 c. packed chopped fresh chives, plus more for garnish 125 mL
  • 1/2 c. packed chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley 125 mL
  • 2 tbsp. slivered almonds, chopped walnuts, or pine nuts 30 mL
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice 5 mL

Preheat oven to 425 F. In a medium bowl, toss potatoes with one tablespoon oil to coat; season generously with salt and pepper.

Spread potato halves in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast potatoes, turning occasionally, until tender and golden brown, 25-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine 1/2 cup (215 mL) chives, parsley, almonds, and garlic in a processor. Pulse until finely chopped. With machine running, gradually add remaining oil through feed tube and process until incorporated.

Transfer chive pesto to a small bowl. Stir in lemon juice, then two tablespoons water. Season pesto with salt and pepper.

Transfer potatoes to a platter. Drizzle with half of pesto. Sprinkle with additional chopped chives.

Serve with remaining pesto.

Fresh pea soup

  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter 30 mL
  • 2 c. chopped leeks, white and light green parts 500 mL
  • 1 c. chopped yellow onion 250 mL
  • 4 c. chicken stock 1L
  • 5 c. freshly shelled peas or 2 – 10-oz. packages frozen peas 1.25 L
  • 2/3 c. chopped fresh mint leaves, loosely packed
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt 10 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper 2 mL
  • 1/2 c. creme fraiche 125 mL
  • 1/2 c. freshly chopped chives 125 mL
  • garlic croutons, for serving

Heat the butter in a large saucepan, add the leeks and onion, and cook over medium-low heat for five to 10 minutes, until the onion is tender.

Add the chicken stock, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Add the peas and cook for three to five minutes, until they are tender. Frozen peas will take only three minutes.

Remove from heat, add the mint, salt, and pepper.

Puree the soup in batches. Place one cup (250 mL) of soup in a blender, place the lid on top, and puree on low speed. With the blender still running, open the venthole and slowly add more soup until the blender is three-quarters full. Pour the soup into a large bowl and repeat until all the soup is pureed.

Whisk in the creme fraiche and chives and taste for seasoning.

Serve hot with garlic croutons.

The recipe is from Ina Garten.

Sauteed dandelion greens with eggs

I love this recipe, and it is so easy to prepare for a brunch, breakfast or casual lunch.

  • 4 c. chopped dandelion greens, thick stems removed 1 L
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter 10 mL
  • 1 large leek, white and light green parts only, finely chopped
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/4 c. crumbled feta cheese 60 mL

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the chopped dandelion greens and blanch for one to two minutes. Drain the greens thoroughly, using a wooden spoon to drain and press out as much liquid as possible.

Melt the butter in a 10-inch (25 cm) sauté pan set over medium heat. Sauté the leeks until tender, about five minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the drained dandelion greens one handful at a time. Cook each handful until wilted, then add more.

When the greens are wilted, crack the eggs into the pan on top of the greens. Top with feta cheese and cook uncovered until the whites of the eggs are set, about five minutes.

Grilled Asparagus Pizza with Gremolata

This citrusy gremolata can be used on salads and fish or chicken dishes. Keep it on hand throughout the summer.

  • 1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing 125 mL
  • 1/2 c. chopped parsley 125 mL
  • 2 tsp. chopped oregano 10 mL
  • 1 1/2 tsp. grated lemon zest plus three tablespoons fresh lemon juice 7 mL, 45 mL
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper 1 mL
  • kosher salt
  • black pepper
  • 1 lb. thin asparagus, trimmed 500 g
  • pizza dough
  • 1 1/2 lb. fresh mozzarella 750 g

In a small bowl, whisk the 1/2 cup (125 mL) of olive oil with the parsley, oregano, lemon zest and juice, the garlic and crushed red pepper. Season the gremolata with salt and black pepper.

Light a grill and oil the grate.

Brush the asparagus with olive oil and season with salt and black pepper. Grill over moderately high heat, turning, until lightly charred, three to five minutes. Transfer to a carving board and let cool; cut into two-inch lengths.

On a lightly oiled large baking sheet, stretch one ball of pizza dough to a 12-inch (26 cm) oval or round and brush with olive oil.

Grill the dough over moderate heat until lightly charred on the bottom, two to three minutes.

Flip the crust and scatter half each of the mozzarella and asparagus on top. Close the grill and cook until the cheese is melted and the crust is firm, three to five minutes. Transfer to a large board. Repeat with the remaining dough, mozzarella and asparagus. Drizzle the pizzas with the gremolata, cut into wedges and serve.

Fiddleheads

Fiddleheads grow wild in the boreal forests of the prairie provinces, throughout the Maritimes and in parts of British Columbia.

Serve boiled or steamed with butter and sea salt. They are delicious as a side dish with a steak or chicken dinner. Add cooked fiddleheads to omelets, quiche and salads.

These must be cooked and never eaten raw, or you will experience gastrointestinal problems like bloating and gas.

  • 1 lb. fiddleheads 500 g
  • 1 c. water 250 mL
  • 1 tsp. salt 5 mL
  • butter

Clean fiddleheads thoroughly in cold water. They can be gritty. Bring one cup (250 mL) water and salt to a boil. Add fiddleheads. Bring back to a boil and cook about four minutes.

Drain and add butter to your taste.

Sarah Galvin is a home economist, teacher and farmers’ market vendor at Swift Current, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. She writes a blog at allourfingersinthepie.blogspot.ca. Contact: team@producer.com.

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