Kitchen Wit & Wisdom: Time for a taste of spring

Winter, spring, summer and fall each offer their own unique fruits and vegetables for distinct seasonal flavour.

Spring has arrived, and with longer days and warmer weather comes a new crop of fresh produce. This is the perfect season to “spring-clean” our diets, so out with the heavy fall and winter foods and in with spring fruits and veggies, because in-season produce reaps the most value. It won’t be long before radishes, green onions, lettuce, spinach, asparagus and strawberries will be plentiful in our own gardens and local markets. Until then, it’s almost time to forage for fiddleheads and morel mushrooms in the wild.

Today’s pasta recipe looks, smells and tastes like a cool, sunny spring day and adding a delicious easy spinach salad side-dish to your meal will bring extra smiles this spring.

Spingtime Pasta


1 bunch fresh basil

3 cups chicken broth, divided

1/2 cup olive oil

2 cloves garlic

1 lb. fettuccine pasta

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 large leek, white and light green parts only, chopped

1 bunch green onions, chopped

2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced

2 pinches salt

2 zucchinis, diced

1 cup chopped sugar snap peas

1/2 cup shelled English peas

1 bunch asparagus, stalks diced, tips left whole

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, or as needed

Fill large pot with lightly salted water and bring to rolling boil. Hold basil bunch by the stems and dip basil leaves in boiling water until bright green, about 2 seconds. Immediately immerse basil in ice water for several minutes until cold to stop cooking process. Once basil is cold, drain well. Remove leaves from stems and discard stems.  Stir fettuccine into same pot of boiling water, bring back to boil, and cook pasta over medium heat until cooked through but still firm to the bite, about 8 minutes. Drain.

Blend basil leaves, 1 cup chicken broth, 1/2 cup olive oil and garlic together in blender until smooth.

Heat remaining 2 Tbsp. olive oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Cook and stir leek and green onion in hot oil until softened, about 5 minutes. Add jalapeno and salt; cook and stir until jalapeno is soft, about 5 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high. Stir 2 cups chicken broth, zucchini, sugar snap peas and English peas into jalapeno mixture; bring to simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Add asparagus and continue cooking until asparagus is soft, about 3 minutes more.

Pour 1/4 cup basil-garlic mixture into zucchini mixture and cook and stir until heated through, about 1 minute. Remove from heat.

Place pasta in large bowl; pour zucchini mixture over pasta and pour remaining basil-garlic mixture over the zucchini mixture. Spread Parmesan cheese over top. Toss mixture briefly to combine and tightly wrap bowl with aluminum foil. Let stand until pasta and vegetables soak up most of the juices and oil, about 5 minutes. Toss again.


Spinach Salad

2 Tbsp. sesame seeds

1 Tbsp. poppy seeds

1/2 cup white sugar

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup distilled white vinegar

1/4 tsp. paprika

1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 Tbsp. minced onion

10 oz. fresh spinach, rinsed, dried and torn into bite-size pieces

1 quart strawberries, cleaned, hulled and sliced

1/4 cup almonds, blanched and slivered

In medium bowl, whisk together sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sugar, olive oil, vinegar, paprika, Worcestershire sauce and onion. Cover, and chill for one hour.

In a large bowl, combine the spinach, strawberries and almonds. Pour dressing over salad, and toss. Refrigerate 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Cathi Litzenberger is The Morning Star's longtime food columnist, appearing every Wednesday and one Sunday per month.

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