Favorite Spring Vegetables and What to do with Them

 
Favorite spring vegetables and how to cook with them | Tons of great vegan meal ideas using delicious fresh spring produce like peas, radishes, leeks, fennel, spring onions, artichokes, asparagus and more!
 

When people ask me what my favorite season is, I always have to think about who is asking the question. Are they talking about my favorite season in terms of nature and its beauty? Autumn obviously! Are they asking in terms of my deep pluviophile nature, which loves grey and gloomy days and having any and every excuse to practice Hygge? Winter, of course! Are they talking about relaxing, being playful and enjoying my city's life to the max? Summer, of course! Or are they talking about vegetables? 

When it comes to seasonality, each person is so different! I remember my veggie vendor at the farmer's market once told me: "you are SO not a summer girl. You come in August looking for kale and asking where the heck are all the vegetables, and when I show you my peaches and nectarines you look so unimpressed!". He is so right, as much as I enjoy fruit, vegetables have the key to my heart and summer veggies are just not that abundant.

The fall is great for green leafy vegetables and squashes, and even the winter brings about some of my favorites, but spring has magic in it and it has nothing to do with all the flowers.

Have you ever been to a fancy restaurant where the most exciting dish always says: "...and sautéed baby spring vegetables"? That is always music to my ears because I know I'll be getting some of my favorites. I don't even have to ask! 

Today we're paying tribute to the spring veg, because they rock, they're so unique and varied in flavor and so quick and simple to cook. I'm going to tell you what my favorite spring vegetables are, and of course, quick preparation ideas so you can head right to your kitchen and make some asap.

These aren't all the glorious veggies that spring provides, but they're certainly my favorites:

Peas

Especially fresh peas you buy in the pod. I love putting on some music in my kitchen and opening the pods and running my fingers to release the perfect little green peas which are so fresh and sweet you can eat them raw, right then and there.

Favorite ways to cook them:

Sauté fresh peas (or frozen if you can't find fresh), with lots of thinly sliced shallots and some olive oil, salt and pepper. Once they're tender but still have some bite, pour them over mashed potatoes and add a dollop of dijon mustard on top and some grated lemon zest. You'll see!

Peas are also great tossed with pasta, and they're the perfect addition to a risotto we'll be taking about next.

 
Favorite spring vegetables and how to cook with them | Tons of great vegan meal ideas using delicious fresh spring produce like peas, radishes, leeks, fennel, spring onions, artichokes, asparagus and more!
 

Asparagus

Since I grew up in a country where asparagus is either non-existent or the price of a Rolex on the rare event of finding them, I've eaten my weight in asparagus since moving to Spain. The texture, color, shape, and versatility of this veg is something out of this world. I love them! They're perfect in everything from soups to quiche, to risotto, pasta, and even on the grill and in salads. It was hard to narrow it down to my favorite preparation, so here are my two favorite ways of preparing asparagus:

Favorite ways to cook them:

Make an asparagus, pea and lemon risotto! These flavors go really well together, but keep in mind that the asparagus should be the star of the dish and the peas and lemon should be little accents or additions. A great trick to get a very creamy risotto without using any dairy cream, is to reserve some of the asparagus when you cook them at the very first stage of the recipe, and purée them with a bit of the broth you'll be using and season it to taste. This will create a kind of asparagus cream, and you can add it back into the risotto at the final stage of the cooking to get the creamiest texture and the richest flavor. Don't forget to add the reserved asparagus spears to add on top! They're the best part! Top it with some lemon zest. Always add lemon zest fresh at the end to avoid any bitterness and get all the fragrance.

My second favorite way to cook asparagus is the easiest, simply rub them with some high heat oil, season with salt and pepper, and grill them on the barbecue until they have bit of char but still have some bite. Top with sea salt flakes and serve with garlic aioli. Never overcook asparagus as it changes their taste completely.

 
Favorite spring vegetables and how to cook with them | Tons of great vegan meal ideas using delicious fresh spring produce like peas, radishes, leeks, fennel, spring onions, artichokes, asparagus and more!
 

Artichokes

Don't worry, I know you know that artichokes are my favorite vegetable, and it seems unfair to add it in the midst of so many others. I promise we'll have one of our "Ode to the... (artichoke)" episodes soon (check out the mushrooms one here!). Since it's a spring veg though, I had to include it here even if just briefly! Artichokes are a thing of beauty, and their taste is like nothing else. Don't even get me started on their buttery texture! 

Favorite ways to cook them:

Artichoke hearts packed in oil, cut into wide but thin slices and used as a topping for pizza.

Steamed artichokes served with a vegan lemony hollandaise sauce or garlic aioli. You dip the bottom part of the leaves in the rich sauce and scrape them with your teeth, until you get all the way down to the heart. Carlos makes fun of me when I get to this part of my artichokes because I ignore everything around me and close my eyes while I dive into the decadent artichoke. Oh boy!

Spinach

Spinach is the coolest. You can eat the baby leaves raw, you can add it to smoothies, you can put it in sandwiches or wraps, you can steam it, sauté it, put it in quiches or pies. It's choc full of iron and it's so sweet and hearty.

Favorite ways to prepare it:

Raw, in an arugula, mache and baby spinach salad, with a lemony dressing, and anything you love on top. Here the greens and the lemon are the stars, so add lots. Add some gomasio on top if desired (ground sesame seeds with other spices), and some lemon zest.

Sautéed with shiitake mushrooms, soy sauce, turmeric and cherry tomatoes just like we did in this kale toast:

 
 

Leeks

You will always find leeks in my fridge. Always! People associate leeks with getting a recipe started. Aka, adding some to the first layers of flavor just like we usually do with onions or garlic, but leeks can be much more than that!

Favorite ways to cook them:

Cut them into 2 inch pieces and roast them in the oven until very tender. They'll be like butter. Serve with other roasted veggies or on their own with some hummus on the side for dipping, or any creamy lemon based sauce.

Thinly slice the leeks and sauté them with peas or corn. Add chipotle or cajun seasoning and some lime. Season with salt and pepper and serve with extra lime or lemon wedges. I show you how to do it in this video!:

 
 

Spring onions (green onions)

Spring onions are different from regular onions in that they shine when they get very lightly cooked, but you still let them have their bright green flavor and raw taste, not to mention the crunch! 

Favorite ways to prepare them:

Grilled. Yes, grilled! Grill up whole spring onions, and serve them with a romesco sauce for dipping. This delicious combination is a traditional dish in the region of Cataluña in Spain, in which Calçots (a type of spring onion) are grilled over an open flame until buttery, and eaten with your hands with the sauce in such a messy and delicious way you need a bib.

You can also use spring onions to top any Asian dish, curries, soups, use them raw in vegan sushi, and, my personal favorite, add a sprinkle of finely sliced green tops to mushroom risotto for the perfect crunch and pop of color.

Rhubarb

Rhubarb is such a strange veggie. It has the most gorgeous green to pink color and although it seems very tough, once you slowly stew it and cook it down, it is the perfect balance of flavor for sweeter fruits.

Favorite way to prepare it:

Stewed with strawberries to make jam (for sweet or savory dishes), or strawberry rhubarb pie!

 
Favorite spring vegetables and how to cook with them | Tons of great vegan meal ideas using delicious fresh spring produce like peas, radishes, leeks, fennel, spring onions, artichokes, asparagus and more!
 

Radishes

Radishes are gorgeous, they add beautiful pop of color and a lovely peppery taste, and believe it or not, they shine when they're roasted or sautéed. So they're not only yummy in salads which is what most people think when they picture radishes.

Favorite ways to prepare them:

Lightly roasted or sautéed along with carrots, parsnips and sweet potatoes, and tossed with some fresh herbs right before serving.

Thinly sliced and made into a pickle with some red onion.

Thinly sliced and added to miso soup.

Fennel

When I talk about my love of fennel, people often look stunned saying it's the only vegetable they don't like. I always reply: have you had them roasted? Roasted fennel is miles from the raw flavor which can be a bit more pungent and strong. When the sugar comes out during roasting, fennel turns buttery, and it's the perfect pairing for one of our weekly meals, which I'll teach you how to make right now!

Favorite way to prepare them:

Place pieces of leeks, pieces of carrot, and pieces of fennel (cut so that you can see all the layers in the bulb), in a casserole dish. Toss with some olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme and oregano or dill. Top with lemon slices, and top the lemon slices with slabs of tofu. Drizzle everything with olive oil, add some more salt, pepper and the herbs, and bake until the fennel and carrots are tender and golden, and the tofu is chewy and golden. Grab a bit of everything together, including the gooey lemon. It's one of my favorite meals. Serve it with some quinoa and dijon mustard on the side. 

I hope this has inspired you to start cooking with some spring veggies, perhaps in ways you haven't thought of before! What is your favorite spring veggie? Leave it below and tell us how you like to prepare it!


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