Memorial Day has come and gone, so too me, that means summer is officially here and the farmers markets are overflowing with tasty treats—asparagus and spinach are first up.
Here’s what I do: Freeze any vegetables you don’t use right away.
Freezing most vegetables is as simple as you can get. Start with the freshest and best then clean and trim the vegetables.
For asparagus, I usually cut it into 1- to 2-inch pieces. Bring a large pot of water (unsalted) to a boil. Add the asparagus and par-boil for just one minute or so. Drain and rinse with cold water. This stops the cooking process.
Par-boiling like this does several things; it kills any bacteria in the food which will make it last longer and it sets the color.
I like to package my vegetables in quart-size Ziplock freezer bags. As you seal the bag, squeeze out any air and lay flat. These stack up nicely in the freezer.
While I would normally label items I place in the freezer with a date, that’s not necessary for vegetables since I freeze them as I harvest them and always use them up before the next year’s harvest.
This dish calls for arborio rice and you should try to use that when making risotto as it makes a difference in the texture of the dish. Arborio rice is easily available in supermarkets although it may be in the ethnic foods aisle. This recipe also calls for leeks, another one of my favorite springtime vegetables.
You can pick leeks up at farmer markets or in the produce section. They look like very large green onions. When using leeks, be sure to clean them thoroughly as sand often get in between the growth layers. Be sure to use all of the white part and another 3 inches or so of the green. Discard the very top of the green stem as that is often very tough.
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 large leek, halved and sliced thinly
- 1 Tablespoon garlic, minced
- 2 cups uncooked arborio rice
- dash of freshly ground black pepper
- 8 cups vegetable stock or chicken stock
- 12 sun-dried tomatoes, sliced thinly on the diagonal
- 1 cup asparagus, sliced thinly on the diagonal
- 1-1/2 cups sliced mushrooms
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
- 1/4 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese
In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, leek and garlic and cook, stirring, for about three minutes. Add the raw rice and pepper and cook another five minutes. Remove from heat and add the tomatoes.
In a separate pot, heat the vegetable stock or chicken broth to boiling and then pour over the rice mixture. Bring this back to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and cook 12 minutes, stirring frequently.
Meanwhile, steam the asparagus, mushrooms and basil until the asparagus is just tender – about 5 minutes. Add this to the rice mixture and mix together. Continue to simmer the rice mixture until the rice is just done, about 5 minutes more. Stir in the Parmesan cheese just before serving.
Fettuccine with herbs and spinach
- 8 ounces raw fettuccine
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 cup Italian herbs, coarsely chopped
- 6-8 cups coarsely chopped fresh spinach
- 1 can pitted black olives
Cook the fettuccine per package directions and drain. Set aside. In a saute pan or large fry pan, heat the olive oil and saute the crushed garlic. Add the Italian herbs and the fresh spinach. Cook until the spinach is heated through and wilted. Drain the olives and slice. Add the olives and cooked fettuccine and toss to coat.
Italian herb refers to mixed fresh herbs, containing thyme, parsley, rosemary, basil, oregano, or a similar combination. You can improvise with what you find at the market.