This spring will be unlike any other. Local market meanderings and the first garden gatherings with family and friends will have to wait. That said, spring and all its gifts, are blindly well underway. The first slim asparagus, tender pods of peas, skinny French beans and baby new potatoes are letting us know there is more ahead to look forward to.
These days I am seeking the things I can’t live without: the simple, the good and the nourishing. The two recipes I’m sharing today are no exception. They are fancy, but low key fancy. And they combine everything I love right now: alkalising broths, nutrient rich sauces, and tender spring greens. Nourishing food doesn’t stop the crisis, but it helps us better withstand it and reminds us that times of joy follow seasons of difficulty.
Magic Dipping Sauce
The first recipe is a magic artichoke and asparagus dipping sauce that I could literally eat on everything, everyday, if I had my way. Yes, I’m calling this dipping sauce ‘magic’ and I think it’s totally justified. Here’s why:
- It’s an amazing blend of tangy, creamy salty and cheesy
- It’s consistency is adaptable depending on how you want to use it
- It’s simple – you probably have most of the ingredients on hand already – and it comes together really fast
- It’s versatile – you can eat it on crackers, baked sweet potatoes, pasta, quinoa, a spoon
- It’s deeply flavourful and nutritious
A Symphony of Spring Vegetables
The second recipe is a festival of spring vegetables, made irresistible with a vibrant and nourishing swirl of herby pistou, good and oily, for stirring in. Just because the weather is turning warm and the days are lengthening, don’t forget about broths. Spring soups and stews can be light, refreshing, and make the best of the season’s produce. I make this stew in the early spring when the first of the tender green vegetables start to appear. I encourage you to substitute vegetables based on whatever is available at the time. Also, I used tiny new potatoes, but small white beans are equally delicious.
The Importance of Great Broth
You want to get the broth right. My favourite broth base is Miracle Broth. I make a batch of it every Sunday and use it as a base for quick but deeply nourishing meals throughout the week. A good plant-based broth works wonders to re-mineralise and alkalise the body and is a superior food when it comes to healing. In my experience, many people (especially women) are energy and nutrient depleted and drinking plant-based broth is one of the quickest and safest ways to build up the body so it has the energy and nourishment it needs to heal. Think of it as a tonic, loaded with vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and polyphenols.
Aside from the many health benefits of Miracle Broth, its flavour still allows the spring vegetables in the stew to shine and I like to make sure there is enough brothy goodness to make the dish feel soupy.
A Special Pistou
Years ago, before we moved to Provence, I read Richard Olney’s book “Lulu’s Provencal Table: The Exuberant Food and Wine from the Domaine Tempier Vineyard.” Reading it made me feel I had just spent an afternoon in Provence, in the company of delightful people, eating simple and full flavoured food fragrant with garlic, herbs, olives, and their oils.
Lulu’s pistou recipe calls for basil and tomato. I’ve riffed on her recipe and used parsley and capers instead. She also prefers to pound the herbs and garlic to a liquid paste with a pestle and mortar. This was the first of numerous lessons I learned from Lulu. They weren’t so much instructions in cooking as demonstrations of how to live, which resonated so much with the way I approach cooking. More than anything else, Lulu reinforced for me how life and food are intertwined. And how, more often than not, the most satisfying food is the least complicated.
Chop, Pound, or Blend?
Years on, my pistou technique has evolved in its own unique way. These days I prefer to chop all the ingredients by hand, rather than pounding or blending them into an emulsion or paste. When I dress a brothy stew with a pistou that has been hand chopped, the minuscule flecks of herbs separate from the oil in places and you get definition between the ingredients and bright flavours pop in a way they don’t when they’ve been blended or pounded into one. And this is a sauce that should pack some punch; a sunbeam to sit in while waiting for those warm spring outdoor gatherings with friends and family.
With pistou in your arsenal, the possibilities of how to use up any leftovers are endless: present it over soba noodles, with socca for swiping and dipping, over simply cooked vegetables such as sauteéd broccoli, roasted cauliflower, or wilted greens. Suddenly, you’ve got a fully-fledged, nutritious meal that’ll take you all the way through spring and beyond.Print
A simple, nutrient dense dipping sauce that you will want to eat on everything from crackers to baked sweet potatoes to a spoon.
1 x 280 gram jar of artichokes in olive oil
8 white asparagus spears
1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard
I clove of garlic
Drain the oil from the artichokes, set aside, reserving the oil for later. Trim the woody ends from the asparagus and slice into 1 inch lengths. Place in a steamer basket and steam until tender, about 5-6 minutes. Rinse under cold water and tip out onto a clean tea towel. Pat dry. Put the drained artichokes, asparagus, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, nutritional yeast and garlic into a blender. Blend until velvety and smooth, adding some of the reserved olive oil, in increments, until the desired consistency is reached. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste.
The dipping sauce will keep for up to one week in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
Keywords: spring, quick, plant-based
A festival of tender spring vegetables made irresistible with a garlicky swirl of herby pistou on top.
FOR THE PARSLEY & CAPER PISTOU
2 packed cups of parsley leaves, finely chopped
3/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2 tablespoons of capers, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons of lemon juice, plus grated zest of 1 small lemon
Large pinch of sea salt
FOR THE EARLY SPRING STEW
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
1 cup of green asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1 cup of French beans, trimmed and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1 cup of fennel, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 cup of fresh (or frozen) peas
6 baby new potatoes, scrubbed and sliced into thick coins
8 radish, trimmed and finely sliced
1 tablespoon of olive oil
2.5 pints of Miracle Broth
Handful of parsley leaves
First make the pistou. Whisk the olive oil and lemon juice together in a small bowl. Add the parsley, capers, lemon zest, garlic and sea salt and stir until well combined. Set aside.
Warm the olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the shallot and garlic. Sauté until soft but without colour. Pour over the Miracle Broth. Bring to a simmer over a high heat. Add the potatoes and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook the potatoes until they are soft – about 15-20 minutes. Add all the remaining vegetables, except the radishes and simmer gently for 3-4 minutes – you want the vegetables to retain some bite and vibrancy. remove the stew from the heat and stir a couple of tablespoons of pistou into the stew. Serve directly from the pot, accompanied by a bowl of the remaining pistou to be passed at table. Scatter with the radishes and parsley.
You’ll likely have leftover pistou. Keep it on hand for quick suppers later in the week. Store in a screw top jar in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Keywords: spring, stew, plant-based
How are you celebrating spring during isolation? I’d love to know. Leave a comment below so we can inspire one another.
“To be meaningful, certain dishes must gather together all the family or very dear friends around a single dish – but what a dish.” – Lulu Peyraud