A quick-and-easy way to make tasty soft polenta: Use a packaged, precooked polenta “log” cooked with vegetable broth and springtime vegetables. If you’ve never used green garlic, you’re in for a treat: It is milder and easier to use than dried—you chop the fresh garlic head without having to peel individual cloves. Most people double-shell fresh fava beans, available at farmers’ markets in spring, but I remove only the outer pod, which makes them much easier to prepare (you can substitute edamame or peas for the favas, if you like). Serve the polenta over a bed of garlicky greens and/or your favorite grain.
extra-virgin olive oil
spring onion or regular onion, sliced into half-moons
green onions, white and green parts, cut into 1-in. lengths
green garlic, white and light green parts, diced, or dried garlic cloves
Heat oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the spring onion and the white parts of the green onions and cook until softened and beginning to brown. Reduce the heat to medium. Stir in the tops of the green onions, the green garlic, tomato paste, polenta, and fava beans and cook for a few minutes.
Add the broth and the chiles, if using, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the polenta is creamy and all of the vegetables are soft. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve topped with parsley.
April vegetable soups are light and brothy compared to winter’s dense stews. Here is a favorite, highlighting spring’s fennel, leeks, romaine lettuce, sugar snap peas, spinach, fava beans, and dill. What’s lovely about this soup is the unexpected crunchiness of the romaine ribs and the creaminess of the avocado. For extra richness, I cooked the vegetables with both olive oil and homemade ghee. Inspired in part by a March 2014 recipe in Sunset magazine.
extra-virgin olive oil and/or ghee
fennel bulb, diced
leeks, white and light green parts only, sliced thinly
Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the potatoes, mushrooms, and fennel. Cook until vegetables are softened. Meanwhile, cut the ribs from the romaine leaves and finely chop the ribs and leaves, keeping them separate.
Add the ribs to the pot along with the leeks, lemon zest, dill, and salt and pepper; stir and cook a minute or two. Add the broth, cover, and bring to a boil. Turn heat down and simmer until the vegetables are cooked through.
Stir in sugar snap peas and fava beans and cook for a minute or two until fava beans are completely soft. Add spinach and lettuce leaves and stir until just wilted. Season to taste with salt and pepper. To serve, top each bowl with avocado and more fresh dill.
Many recipes simmer carrots with dried fruit and citrus, so why not try beets in place of the carrots and see what happens? If you don’t want your mixture to turn red, use Chioggia or golden beets instead of red beets. Serve with brown rice or your favorite grain and a side of greens (spinach, chard, kale, or collards) cooked with olive oil and garlic.
coconut oil, extra-virgin olive oil, or ghee
onion, cut into half-moons
dried fruit, such as prunes, apricots, raisins, cherries, and/or cranberries
fresh lemon juice
orange zest and juice
Heat oil in a large covered saucepan or dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and beets and cook until slightly softened. Cut prunes and apricots into small pieces and add to pan. Stir in citrus juices with an equal amount of water. Add orange zest, walnuts, cinnamon, and salt. Bring to a boil.
Turn down heat and simmer, covered, until all ingredients are soft and integrated, adding water as needed so the mixture doesn’t burn. Adjust seasonings. Serve with more walnut pieces and parsley on top.
Instead of your classic butter, sour cream, and chives to accompany a baked potato, why not try flavoring your potato with Italian-influenced ingredients—mushrooms, onions, tomato paste, and basil—and serve it with optional toppings to make your baked potato into a complete meal?
large potatoes, scrubbed
extra-virgin olive oil
onion, cut into half-moons
spinach, cut into strips
fresh basil, cut into thin strips, or dried basil
optional toppings for serving: thinly sliced green onions, white beans, steamed or microwaved mashed cauliflower, steamed or microwaved sliced zucchini, crumbled tofu, chopped fresh herbs, capers or chopped olives, walnut pieces, toasted sunflower seeds
Preheat the toaster oven or standard oven to 375ºF. Pierce the potatoes and bake until completely soft. Keep warm.
Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until softened, then add the mushrooms. When the mushrooms have released their juices, stir in the tomato paste, spinach, and basil. Remove from heat but cover and keep warm.
Put toppings in small serving dishes. To serve, slice open and mash the potato inside its skin, add mushroom-onion mixture, and add desired toppings to the potato or on the side.
Here you make a pasta sauce by reserving and flavoring some of the pasta-cooking water (inspired by foodnetwork.com).
extra-virgin olive oil, ghee, or coconut oil
jalapeño chile, minced
sugar snap peas, strings removed and chopped
brown rice pasta or other gluten-free pasta
garlic cloves, minced
Swiss chard, center ribs removed and leaves thinly sliced
fresh parsley and dried herbs, such as thyme, fennel seed, or herbes de Provence
vinegar or lemon juice (optional)
Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add onion, mushrooms, chile, and salt. Cook until softened. Add sugar snap peas and continue cooking.
Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain pasta, reserving 1 to 2 cups of pasta-cooking water. Set aside.
Add garlic and chard to the pan and cook for a minute or two. Transfer vegetables to a serving bowl; reserve the pan. Toss pasta with vegetables in the serving bowl.
Heat reserved pasta-cooking water in the pan. Add oil or ghee and reduce the liquid. Add herbs and cook for another minute or two. Pour sauce over pasta and vegetables. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and a splash of vinegar if using.
What makes this dish creamy is the chana dal (split baby garbanzo beans). If you can’t find them, use yellow split peas. Why add beets? They give texture plus sweetness to balance the savory in the garlic and rosemary, but you can substitute potatoes, carrots, zucchini, or another vegetable if you like.
extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil, or ghee
beets, preferably Chioggia or golden beets because they don’t bleed, cut into ½-in. dice
Heat oil in a saucepan with a tight-fitting lid over medium heat. Add beets for a minute or two and then the lentils and chana dal. Cook, covered, stirring often, until beets begin to soften.
Add broth (about 3 parts broth to 1 part lentils/chana dal) to pan, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook, covered, until the legumes are almost soft. Stir in rosemary and garlic and cook until rosemary has fallen off the sprig and legumes are completely soft. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Looking at what was in the fridge and pantry, I came up with this take on a traditional Mexican entrée. Dried chipotle chiles add a spicy, smoky flavor, and the raisins add a hint of sweetness. In step 6, you could microwave the rolls in 2-minute intervals, covered with a microwave-safe top or plate, until bubbling and heated all the way through if you like.
potatoes, cut into chunks
dried chiles, mild, medium, and/or hot
pitted green olives, chopped
roasted pecan and walnut pieces
store-bought green or red salsa
Steam potatoes until very soft. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool.
Steam or microwave intact collard leaves until soft. Remove center rib and cut leaves in half lengthwise. Pile leaves on a work surface.
Meanwhile, cut chiles into small pieces. Put chiles and raisins in a glass measuring cup and pour boiling water over just to cover. Soak until chiles and raisins are completely soft, then use scissors to cut them into tiny pieces while soaking.
Pour the chiles, raisins, and some of the soaking water onto the potatoes and mash with a large fork, spatula, or potato masher. Stir in olives, cumin, nuts, and more soaking water as needed to create a mixture that is integrated, but not mushy. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Preheat toaster oven or standard oven to 375º. Put a dollop of potato mixture on the end of a collard leaf, roll up, and put seam side down in a baking dish. Repeat with each collard leaf. Pour salsa over the rolls and cover with foil.
Bake, checking every 20 minutes or so, until bubbling and a fork easily pierces the rolls. Uncover and let cool a minute before serving.
This one-bowl meal brings an exciting mix of flavors in every bite. The citrus dressing adds sweetness, saltiness, and sparkle (thanks for the idea, Josie). Use lentils that keep their shape when cooked, such as brown or French lentils—not red lentils, which turn creamy. You can roast broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, or any other vegetable in place of the brussels sprouts.
chopped raw vegetables, such as radishes, kohlrabi, jicama, fennel bulb
lime or lemon juice
toasted sesame oil
hard-cooked eggs, peeled and sliced
green onions, thinly sliced
toasted sunflower seeds
Preheat toaster oven or standard oven to 400º. Line a baking pan with parchment paper.
Put 1 part lentils, 2 parts broth or water, and a sprinkle of salt in a saucepan with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat. Cover, bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer until lentils are soft. Turn off heat but keep lentils warm.
Meanwhile, toss brussels sprouts with oil and roast cut side down in the lined baking pan until browned and soft. Sprinkle with salt. Transfer to a bowl.
Make salad dressing: Whisk together orange juice, lime juice, sesame oil, and mustard in a small bowl, tasting as you go.
Assemble individual salads in bowls: Layer lentils, brussels sprouts, raw vegetables, egg slices, green onions, and sunflower seeds. Drizzle with dressing and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Heat oil in a large saucepan with a tight-fitting lid over medium heat. Add chile pieces and cook, stirring, until fragrant and softened.
Add quinoa to pan and toast, stirring, until just golden. Season with salt.
Add broth (use 2 parts broth or water to 1 part quinoa), bring to a simmer, and cook, covered, for about 15 minutes. Turn off heat and blend with an immersion blender if you like. Stir in coconut, and let stand, covered, for at least 5 minutes.
Sounds like an odd combination for a pasta dish, but the flavors bring to mind a salad Niςoise because of the potatoes, herbes de Provence, and the briny olives and artichoke hearts. My household enjoys spicy tang, so we used pickled jalapeño chiles in place of the vinegar.
extra-virgin olive oil
onion, sliced into thin half-moons
potatoes, cut into ½-in. dice
brown rice or other gluten-free pasta
marinated artichoke hearts
greens, such as kale or collards, center ribs removed and leaves chopped
pitted green olives, chopped
vinegar, such as white wine or white balsamic
herbes de Provence
Heat oil in a large pan. Add onion and mushrooms and cook until softened. Add potatoes and a sprinkle of salt and cover and cook until potatoes are just soft.
Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain, reserving a cup or two of the cooking water.
Add artichoke hearts, greens, and olives and cook until greens are wilted. Mix in pasta. Season to taste with vinegar, herbes de Provence, salt, and pepper.