Spring produce wakes up even the most tired of winter staples
By the time April rolls around, local foods are in a sorry state: Potatoes are beginning to sprout, long-neglected cabbages continue to be ignored, and turnips wore out their welcome back in February. But then spring sashays in, as much of a tease as ever. Crunch returns to our plates in the form of delicate lettuces and greens, then again in the sharpness of scallions and the sweetness of peas. Bright red radishes, peeking their rosy shoulders through the soil, must surprise even the farmers.
The following recipes bridge the seasons. Fresh chard adds a punch to the roasted root sweetness in a hash, which works just as well at brunch as it does served in tortillas for dinner. A crunchy salad of spicy radishes, juicy kohlrabi, apple, cabbage and fresh peas is a refreshing change from grocery store spring mix. Gnocchi is a project, but it makes the noblest end for potatoes past their prime and, served simply with brown butter and lemon, allows fresh asparagus—the truest indicator that spring has arrived—to shine.
Potato Gnocchi with Browned Butter, Lemon & Asparagus
1½ pounds floury potatoes (Russet or otherwise)
1¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
½ cup finely grated pecorino or Parmigiano Reggiano
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound asparagus, washed, ends snapped off, and chopped into 1-inch segments
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Bake potatoes on oven racks for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a sharp knife pierces them easily.
- While potatoes are still hot, peel them and force them through a food mill or a ricer, and spread onto a baking sheet to cool to room temperature.
- Once cooled, transfer to a floured surface and form into a ring. Beat egg yolks with salt and pour into the center of the ring. Using a fork and your fingers, gently incorporate egg and salt into potato until it appears uniformly golden.
- Flatten potato-egg mixture out slightly, and sprinkle flour and cheese over. Gently knead the flour into the potato until a shaggy dough forms. Try not to overwork. When the dough has a smooth, uniform texture, divide it into six portions.
- Re-flour your work surface and roll each portion into a rope with a roughly 1/2-inch diameter. Cut each rope into 1/2-inch square pillows. Toss gnocchi with flour and spread onto a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
- Bring at least five quarts of water to boil in a large pot. Add 1 tablespoon salt and reduce heat slightly. Divide gnocchi into four batches and, one batch at a time, add them to the simmering water. Gnocchi will sink, but will float to surface in about 45 seconds. After about a minute, skim the floating gnocchi onto a cooling rack. Repeat with all remaining gnocchi.
- Meanwhile, warm 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat with 1 tablespoon butter until butter stops foaming and changes from yellow to golden brown. Add asparagus and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Sauté until bright green, about 2 minutes.
- Remove asparagus and melt remaining tablespoon butter into the skillet. Add gnocchi and cook until underside of gnocchi begins to form a golden brown crust. Toss gnocchi and continue to brown until each appears uniformly golden and chestnut brown in spots. Return asparagus to the pan with the gnocchi and toss to combine. Serve with lemon wedges.
Sweet Potato, Turnip & Swiss Chard Hash
2 sweet potatoes (about 1 pound)
1 bunch Swiss chard
1 large turnip
2-3 slices bacon (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash, peel and cut turnips and sweet potatoes into the size of dice.
- Toss turnips and potatoes with olive oil, salt, paprika, thyme and pepper, and spread into a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast 20 to 25 minutes, shaking pan after 10 minutes to agitate vegetables and help them brown more evenly.
- While the turnip and potatoes roast, prepare the chard by washing it well and trimming the ends of the stalks. Strip the leaves from their ribs by pinching the bottom of the stalk between thumb and forefinger, and gently but firmly pulling the leaf through.
- Chop or tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces and finely chop the chard stalks and scallions, including the scallion greens.
- When ready to assemble the dish, mince bacon and add it to a 10- to 12-inch skillet. Warm skillet over a medium flame until bacon sizzles and the fat begins to render. If omitting bacon, warm an additional tablespoon of olive oil in the same manner.
- When the bacon begins to brown, add scallions and chard stems, and sauté together for a minute until vegetables begin to soften.
- Add sweet potato, turnip and chard leaves, and toss to combine. Cook for one minute until chard begins to wilt. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
Springtime Chopped Salad & Buttermilk Scallion Dressing
1 bulb kohlrabi, washed and peeled
1 medium sized apple, washed and cored
½ small head of green cabbage
1 bunch red, Easter Egg or breakfast radishes, washed with greens removed
1 pint sugar snap peas, or a combination of sugar snap and snow peas
3-5 stems fresh flat leaf parsley
¼ cup thick plain yogurt
¼ cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon brown rice
vinegar or lemon juice
¼ cup mayonnaise
3 scallions, including greens, washed well and chopped finely
½ teaspoon cracked black pepper
½ teaspoon salt
- In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine dressing ingredients and shake well.
- Wash and de-thread peas and chop on the bias, approximately a 45-degree angle.
- Remove core from cabbage and shred finely.
- Pinch parsley leaves from stems and discard stems.
- Using a mandolin slicer, a food processor fitted with a julienne blade, or a sharp chef’s knife and a steady hand, cut kohlrabi, radishes and apple into matchsticks. If desired, leave one to two radishes sliced thinly but not julienned.
- Toss everything together with dressing to taste.
- Reserve any remaining dressing. Keeps up to 1 week.
Emily Teel is a food freelancer dedicated to sustainable, delicious food in Philadelphia.
See more of her work at emilyteel.com.