Spring Pea Soup

Spring Pea Soup

Spring officially begins in just days and if you're anything like me, you're ready to trade the rich, heavy foods of winter for lighter, fresher fare. We're in that in-between time of less available produce at the end of winter but before the lush abundance of high summer salad days. Enter lovely lighter soups made of verdant sweet peas, tender greens and fresh herbs; the holy trinity of early spring. Here's my take on a classic with suggestions to make it your own. Frozen peas are fine to use but good stock is a must.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion roughly chopped
  • 1 small carrot peeled and roughly chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves peeled
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 3 sprigs fresh mint
  • 1/2 bunch fresh parsley stems removed
  • 4 cups fresh green peas or 2-10oz bags frozen green
  • peas
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. In a medium-sized stock pot, melt the butter over medium high heat. 

  2. When butter foams, add onion and carrot, cooking until onion is translucent.


  3. Add the garlic and bay leaf and cook a minute or two longer, stirring occasionally.


  4. Add white wine, and continue cooking until most of the wine has cooked away.


  5. Add your vegetable or chicken stock and lemon juice and bring to a low simmer. You may need to adjust the heat.


  6. As soon as it reaches a simmer, add your green peas.


  7. Bring back to a low simmer and let cook until peas are bright green, about 7 minutes.


  8. Remove from heat and let cool slightly, about 10 minutes. Be careful not to overcook once you add your peas, or you'll end up with murky pond water soup instead of vibrant green soup!


  9. Carefully ladle or pour the soup into a blender along with the mint and parsley and puree until smooth. I like a really smooth pea soup but you may prefer it a little chunkier.


  10. Add salt and pepper to taste. If soup has cooled, you can rewarm it over low heat for a minute or two.


  11. **Here are some suggestions for garnishing your soup that will take it from simple to stellar.

    -Crumbled bacon

    -Sour cream or creme fraiche

    -Shredded parmesan

    -Julienned fresh mint leaves

    -Toasted chopped pistachios or almonds

    -Drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil

    -Lemon zest

Spinach, Mushroom & Ricotta Stuffed Shells

Spinach, Mushroom & Ricotta Stuffed Shells

Ingredients

Ingredients

  •  16 jumbo pasta shells Cook a couple of extra shells to allow for a few breaking while the pasta cooks.
  •  1-1/2 tbsp olive oil
  •  2 tsp fresh garlic minced
  •  4 cups packed fresh spinach leaves, roughly-chopped
  •  12 oz skim-milk ricotta cheese
  •  1 cup shredded skim-milk mozzarella cheese
  •  1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese plus more for serving
  •  1 large egg
  •  1 tbsp fresh basil finely chopped
  •  1 tsp kosher salt
  •  1/2 tsp freshly-ground black pepper
  •  1-1/4 cups marinara sauce

Instructions

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cook the pasta al dente, according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the garlic and cook until it begins to brown, about a minute or two. Add the spinach and cook, stirring occasionally, until the leaves begin to wilt but are still bright green, about 3 to 4 minutes. The spinach should be reduced by half. Remove from the heat and let cool.
  3. In a mixing bowl, stir together the spinach, ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, egg, basil and salt and pepper until thoroughly combined. Pour 1/2 cup of the marinara sauce into the bottom of a shallow 8-inch by 8-inch baking dish. Stuff each pasta shell with a generous amount of the spinach and ricotta mixture, and place in the baking dish.
  4. Cover with the remaining sauce and bake covered with aluminum foil for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking until the top begins to brown and the sauce begins the bubble, another 10-15 minutes. Serve warm with a dusting of Parmesan.

Simple Cucumber and Tomato Salad

Simple Cucumber and Tomato Salad

Use more or less of these ingredients as you like. You can also cut vegetables in larger pieces if you desire or slice your cucumbers.

Ingredients

Ingredients

  • 2 cups pickling cucumbers can used sliced if pickling cucumbers are not available
  • 1 cups diced tomatoes look for vine-ripened tomatoes or slice firm ripe grape tomatoes in half
  • 1/2 cup sliced green onions use the larger bulb onions if you can find them or red onions
  • 1/2 cup diced green and or red bell peppers - optional
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup good olive oil
  • Small amount of sweetner of your choice; ½ tea sugar or a few drops of stevia
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients well, chill and eat. Should be eaten in 1-2 days for best freshness.

Pesto

Pesto

Ingredients

Fresh Mint Pesto Ingredients

  • 2 cups loosely packed fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup almonds toasted
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp water
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Fresh Herb Pesto Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed torn basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley
  • 2 tbsp oregano leaves
  • 1 tbsp rosemary leaves
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts toasted
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp water
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Process: Add everything to your processor and whirl it around until it has a thick paste-like consistency. I like mine on the chunky side but you may like it smoother. If it's too thick, add a bit of water.
  2. Pesto can be frozen in ice cube trays and added to other recipes long after herb growing season is over. Just fill ice cube trays, freeze, then pop into a plastic baggy to store in the freezer.