Eating “Spring Lite”

Once again spring is making its way to Vermont. We have survived the winter and now long for the warming of the days. However, old man winter likes to hold on as long as possible in our Green Mountains. There would still be snow on the mountain trails in the middle of summer if winter had its way. Spring around here is a very short season, we have to make it through mud season and pack away all those turtle necks and outerwear before we can plant our gardens in May. Sometimes summer comes right after winter with very little spring at all. Despite the weather inconsistencies, we mountain folk can tell when its spring because the ‘Smokin’ Bowls’ hut closes at the junction of Routes 11 and 30 in order to welcome the arrival of the ice cream ladies, and the maple sugar man is back under his canopy—all of which means that now we can set our sights on summer.

When we remove all those heavy winter clothes, it’s not unusual to discover a little added winter avoir du poids. We feel the need to start eating lighter, thinking about getting out the barbecue or harvesting some early lettuces, radishes and even early peas from our garden. Recipes using eggs are not a bad idea either, as eggs are indicative of spring’s rebirth. We might also consider main course soups or salads with fruity desserts. No more heavy stews and roasts, cakes and cookies are on hold for the time being and “healthy” is the key to our cooking. So, without further ado here are some recipes to tickle your palate while you enjoy the fleeting rites of spring.

(A good way to start a spring meal)
Serves at least 8

2 Cups shredded lettuce
½ Cup each minced onion and scallion or 1 Cup scallions
3 TBS butter 3 Cups fresh green peas (about 2 pounds)
3 Cups chicken stock
1 TBS minced mint leaves
Pinch of sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Cup heavy cream (less if desired)
2 TBS butter.

In a saucepan sauté 1 cup shredded lettuce with onions/scallions in 3 TBS butter, cover with a buttered piece of wax paper and the lid till ingredients are softened.

Add peas, chicken stock and mint, sugar, salt and pepper. Bring liquid to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes. Cool.

Blend the mixture till smooth or use a food mill if necessary. Return mixture to saucepan and add cream. Reheat soup and swirl in butter that has been cut into bits. To serve, garnish with 1 TBS cooked peas.


(Something very French about this recipe)
Serves at least 10

1 Cup minced celery
½ Cup thinly sliced scallion
¼ Cup butter
1 Head of soft lettuce like butter crunch, shredded
1 Pound sorrel, shredded
1 TBS fresh chervil or 1 tsp dried
5 Cups chicken broth
1 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan cheese

Sauté celery and scallion in butter with a cover of buttered wax paper and the lid over low heat till the vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes.

Add shredded lettuce, sorrel and chervil. Cook stirring for 10 minutes. Add chicken broth and sugar, simmer for 30 minutes.

At this point the soup may be blended till it is smooth and reheated or served as is. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then serve hot with grated parmesan cheese to sprinkle over.


(Love those early radishes)
Serves 8

Juice of one lemon
2 TBS sugar
¼ tsp salt
4 large navel oranges, peeled and sliced with no pith
1 Cup radishes, shredded coarsely
Lettuce leaves of your choice

Combine lemon juice, sugar and salt for dressing.

Mix orange slices with shredded radishes. Mix carefully with dressing and serve chilled on lettuce leaves.

(Use any firm ripe pear of your choice)
Serves 4

2 Medium pears, quartered, cored and sliced lengthwise about 1/8 inch thick
1 TBS plus 1 tsp lemon juice
2 tsps olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 Large bunch of arugula, mesclun or endive
1 Cup Pecorino Romano cheese shavings, about 1 oz.

Combine lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss with pears.

Make a bed of greens on individual plates, arrange pear slices on top and scatter pecorino over each salad.


(A nice light supper)
Serves 2 to 4

1 TBS sesame seeds
2 TBS peanut or canola oil
1 Medium onion, finely chopped
1 Clove garlic, minced
1 Green pepper seeded and chopped
1 Pound spinach, cleaned, dried and shredded
6 to 8 eggs, beaten
¼ tsp each dried thyme, oregano, basil and rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste

Roast sesame seeds till golden, set aside.

Pour oil in a frying pan big enough to hold all ingredients. Sauté onion, garlic and green pepper till onion is limp, about 5 minutes. Add spinach and cook about 2 minutes.

Beat eggs with herbs and pour over vegetables in pan. Cook till eggs are set, lifting edges to let egg run under. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve.

(Good for a dinner party)
Serves 4

2 Cornish game hens
1 TBS butter
½ medium onion, minced
1 TBS flour
1 Cup strong beef broth
1 tsp Kitchen Bouquet
Salt and pepper
2/3 Cup fresh strawberries or raspberries mashed or pureed

Split Cornish hens in half and broil till cooked through. Set aside and keep warm.

To make sauce, melt butter in skillet, add onion and sauté till tender. Sprinkle flour over and cook 3 minutes. Remove from fire and add beef broth, stirring till smooth and thick. Add Kitchen bouquet, salt and pepper to taste. Add strawberries/raspberries and stir well. Strain sauce through a fine sieve if desired, return to pan, heat and serve hot over hens.


(A good side dish for a barbecue)
Serves 4

1½ Pounds beet greens
1 Garlic clove, minced
2 TBS olive oil
1 TBS red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
Bacon bits

Wash leaves and shake off excess water. Cook in a pan in water that clings to leaves for about 3 to 5 minutes till just tender. Drain and chop finely.

Sauté garlic in oil, stir in greens, add vinegar, salt and pepper and stir till heated through. May be served with bacon bits sprinkled on top.

(We can’t say “no” to pie)

2 (9 inch) pie crusts
4 Cups rhubarb
2 Cups sugar
Grated rind of one orange
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
2 TBS cornstarch
2 TBS butter
Fit one pie crust into bottom of a 9” pie pan. Reserve other piece for top crust.

Cut rhubarb into ½ inch slices. If rhubarb is old peel first. Sprinkle with cornstarch.

Mix sugar, spices and orange peel together, then mix with rhubarb. Fill pie crust with mixture, dot with butter, and cover with crust. Poke some holes in crust or make a design in the top crust as vents.

Bake in a 425 degree oven for 30 minutes then reduce to 325 degrees and bake 15 to 20 minutes longer.◊

Barbara Little is a regular columnist for STRATTON MAGAZINE.