In Good Season: The First Flavors of Spring

Spring vegetables are here — artichokes as big as softballs, new potatoes (golf ball size,) fresh carrots with leafy green tops, butter lettuce. Things don’t get much better until they come out of the garden in your own back yard.

Food writer Susan Herrmann Loomis tells of cooking fresh peas and carrots together with a few pearl onions and a head of lettuce.

“It was so good I felt I’d never eaten a fresh pea or carrot before. Get the best vegetables you can and try it — elegant to eat, and to look at.”

Good advice.


Spring Vegetables

  • 1½ Tbsps. unsalted butter
  • 1¾ lbs. carrots, peeled and cut into rounds
  • 10 ounces pearl onions, peeled & thinly sliced
  • 3 shallots, peeled, cut in half lengthwise, then sliced
  • Salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 pounds fresh peas in their pods to make 4 cups shelled peas
  • 1 head butter lettuce, leaves separated, heart left intact

Melt the butter in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the carrots, onions and shallots, stirring until vegetables are coated with butter. Season lightly with salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the carrots have softened but still have plenty of texture. (About 8 minutes.)

Stir in the water, season with salt and pepper, and continue cooking, covered, until the carrots are just done, about 8 minutes. Add the peas and stir. Then lay the lettuce hearts and leaves over the vegetables, cooking until the leaves are wilted and peas done to your liking. About 10-15 minutes. Adjust seasonings and serve.

Another spring vegetable dish involves the unbeatable combination of salmon, pea pods and new potatoes. This is done the old fashioned way, in a casserole and baked in the oven. (This half hour gives you plenty of time to toss a salad, take the dessert out of the freezer and perhaps feed the cat. Casseroles have some redeeming features after all.)


Salmon, Peapod and New Potato Casserole

  • Vegetable cooking spray
  • 4 salmon fillets, 6 ozs. each
  • 2 Tbsps. softened butter
  • 1 Tbsp. dried tarragon
  • 1 small lemon, thinly sliced
  • 1 8-oz. package frozen pea pods, thawed & drained
  • 12 baby new potatoes, halved
  • ½ Tbsp. black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1/3 cup apple cider

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly coat a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Place salmon fillets in the dish and spread each fillet with ½ tablespoon softened butter. Sprinkle fillets with tarragon and cover with lemon slices. Place pea pods and potatoes randomly around the fillets. Sprinkle with black pepper and pour the cider over the entire dish. Cover and bake 35-40 minutes, or until the fish flakes and the potatoes are soft.

If you are pressed for time you might consider wrapping some vegetables in heavy-duty aluminum foil, ready to cook when you’re ready. This was originally an outdoor grill technique, but it works just as well in the oven.

All you need will be vegetables, seasonings, ice cubes and margarine. Baking takes 20-25 minutes if the oven is preheated to 450 degrees.


Herbed Vegetable Packet

Yield 4 to 6 servings

  • 2 sheets heavy duty aluminum foil
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 3 cups broccoli florets
  • 2 medium carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium yellow squash or zucchini, sliced
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 tsp. garlic salt
  • 2 ice cubes
  • 2 Tbsps. margarine or butter

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Center the vegetables on the foil. Sprinkle with seasonings and top with ice cubes and margarine.

Bring up the sides of the boil and double-fold. Double fold the ends to form one large packet, leaving room for heat circulation inside. Bake 20-25 minutes on a cookie sheet.

(On a preheated grill, this will take 15-20 minutes, covered.)


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