Showcasing Spring Produce

Risotto. Photo by Keri White

Spring has sprung, and markets are bursting with local, seasonal produce. This means fresh asparagus, peas, herbs, ramps, fiddleheads, baby greens and gloriously juicy berries.
In the last week, I celebrated spring’s bounty with both sweet and savory, once at breakfast and once at dinner in delicious presentations.

The savory dinner option was an offering from my neighbor “I,” who has bestowed her culinary gifts upon me in the past. I am truly fortunate to live next to a culinary-obsessed individual who happily shares her creations with me when she has a surplus. Her risotto showcased asparagus, peas and basil to great advantage.

The sweet breakfast option came via my daughter, who returned from a morning power walk craving pancakes. But ever healthy and fitness oriented, she was not going to dive into the carb bomb offered by traditional pancakes. No, instead she concocted a wholesome blend of oats, banana, peanut butter and various seeds to create the flapjacks and topped them with fresh berries. I was impressed by how tasty, fluffy and flavorful they were and planned to file them in my “breakfast for a crowd” stack of recipes.

Neighborly Risotto | Dairy
Serves 4

Note: My neighbor recommends blanching the asparagus and cooking the peas then adding them to the risotto near the end of the cooking process; this ensures that the vegetables are cooked to perfection and not mushy.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped, or ½ teaspoon dried
1 cup arborio rice
½ cup dry white wine
3 cups vegetable broth
8 ounces asparagus, trimmed, chopped into 1-inch pieces and steamed for 2 minutes
1 cup frozen peas, cooked
2 cups spinach (chopped if large leaves)
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Handful of fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

In a small saucepan, heat the broth and wine to a simmer.

In a large saucepan, heat the oil with the onions and thyme. Sauté over medium until fragrant. Add the rice and stir until it’s coated. Add one cup of simmering broth and stir constantly until it is absorbed. Add another cup and stir until it’s absorbed. Add ½ cup, add the spinach and continue stirring and adding hot broth in ½ cup increments until all but ½ cup of broth is used.

Add the asparagus and peas and the final bit of broth. Stir until absorbed.

Taste to ensure the rice is cooked; it should be cooked through, soft but not mushy, with a teeny bit of firmness at the very center — think al dente pasta. If it is not cooked to your liking, add another ¼ cup of hot broth or water and stir until absorbed.

Remove it from the heat, add the lemon zest, juice, Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper to taste, then add the basil and stir. Serve immediately.

Healthy oat-banana pancakes. Photo by Keri White

Healthy Oat-Banana Pancakes | Pareve
Serves 2-3

My daughter used soy milk, but any non-dairy milk can be substituted.

1½ cups rolled oats
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons chia seeds
2 tablespoons flaxseeds
2 very ripe bananas
2 eggs
½ cup soy milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Oil for cooking
2 cups fresh berries
Maple syrup, honey or agave, if desired

In a blender, mix the oats, cinnamon and seeds. Blend until the ingredients are finely ground into a coarse, flour-like texture. Add the bananas, eggs, soy milk and vanilla; blend again until the texture is consistent.

Heat a large skillet over medium/medium-low and add the oil.

When the oil is heated, ladle ½ cup portions of batter into the pan. When bubbles appear on top of the pancakes, flip (this takes 3-4 minutes). Cook the other side for another few minutes and, when done, remove it from the pan.

Repeat the process with the remaining batter and serve the pancakes with fresh berries and maple syrup, if desired.



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