Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Fresh Vegetable Dinner Party

Despite the cold chill I feel when I bitterly make my way through WSU's Glenn Terrell mall, I know it deep down. Spring has sprung, and it is time to embrace the new, reject the old, and do a little bit of cleaning. Well, perhaps no cleaning for perpetually filthy little ol' me. But, as I still want to celebrate the changing of the season and squeeze all the joy I can out of spring, I have decided to cook. Spring is a time like no other. Scorned by all the cold and dread of the winter season, vegetables are hard to find fresh, and to eat fresh and local would mean to consume winter squash soup monotonously.

So what better way to celebrate the season anew than by hosting a dinner party, with meals made of fresh vegetables. As a vegetarian, fresh vegetables are like crack to my soul, and I eagerly await the time of year when I can head to my local farmer's market or co-op and buy delicious vegetables to put into some of my favorite recipes (or eat raw). In fact, the picture above is one I snapped at a beautiful local market. So, in this post, you will find some of the best vegetables of the season, as well as some great recipes to showcase these veggies. Almost all of these fresh vegetables can be found at your local co-op or farmers market, to find one in your area, visit http://www.localharvest.org/

Vegetable in Season: Asparagus

Recipe: Grilled Asparagus
This delightfully simple recipe will brilliantly showcase the heartiness and taste of your fresh asparagus. This recipe was taken from epicurious.com

1 1/2 pound medium asparagus
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt

1) Prepare the grill
2) Divide asparagus into 4 bunches and align these bunches in a flat row, skewering each bunch crosswise. Brush asparagus with olive oil and salt
3) Grill asparagus on an oiled rack set 6 inches over glowing coals. Grill each side 3-5 minutes, or until tender

Vegetable in Season: Spinach

Recipe: Spinach salad with Mushrooms and Parmesan
This recipe, like the asparagus recipe, is simple enough that the flavors of the fresh spinach (and mushrooms) can really stand out. This recipe, from marthastewart.com, asks you to bake your own croutons, but you can just use pre-made croutons

2 slices rye sandwich bread, cut into cubes
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
5 ounces baby spinach
5 ounces cremini or button mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced
2 ounces parmesan cheese shaved with a vegetable peeler
course salt and ground pepper

1)Make croutons: Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and on a baking sheet, toss the bread with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake until bread is golden, about 10-12 minutes.
2)Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a separate bowl. Add spinach, mushrooms, and cooked croutons. Top with parmesan.

Vegetable in Season: Artichokes

Recipe: Steamed Artichokes with Tarragon Butter
This recipe is, again, simple, to showcase the decadent, buttery flavor of artichokes. This recipe was taken from marthastewart.com

4 large artichokes, rinsed
coarse salt
1 fresh tarragon sprig, and 1 tablespoon finely chopped tarragon leaves
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1 lemon cut into wedges, for serving

1) Using kitchn shears, trim the sharp tips of the artichoke leaves, and remove an small leaves from the bottoms of the artichokes. Trim the stems and cut off the top quarter of each artichoke.
2) Fill a 10 inch steamer with enough water to come up about 2 inches up the sides. Add a pinch of salt and the tarragon sprig. Bring to a boil. Place artichokes upright in the steamer. Cover, and reduce heat, simmering until the bottoms of the artichokes are very tender when pierced with a butter knife. About 35-50 minutes.
3) Before serving, melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat, and stir inchopped tarragon, and season with salt. Serve artichokes with lemon wedges and warm tarragon butter for dipping.

So go forth, and seize all the flavors spring has to offer. Nothing is more quaint and intimate than a dinner party serving only the freshest vegetables, hand-picked by the host. This will prove an experience guests will truly enjoy. Bon appetit!

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