Jude’s Kitchen: spring is sprouting

The first little green sprouts of spring are the apple of every cook's eye and the first are now popping up locally, so enjoy them.

Jude's Kitchen: Pork & Rice with Asparagus

Even though the grass may not be ‘riz’, the calendar says spring has sprung, and little sprouts of green stuff can’t be far behind.

Not all are edible, but lots are. For instance, one of the first bits of green to appear from the frozen earth is chives, and they are fantastic paired with eggs, because of their delicate flavour.

Of course, as soon as the last frost has made its appearance, the asparagus pop up, and we’re lucky here in the Okanagan to be able to forage for wild asparagus.

Eggs are so adaptable that it’s quite possible to serve them for breakfast, lunch or dinner, particularly combined in an omelet or fritatta with seasonal vegetables, such as chives and asparagus, and I’m a big fan of adding mushrooms to eggs.

Cheese is also a good addition, and voila, you’ve got a complete meal, nutritionally, with just a whole grain biscuit or piece of toast on the side.

With spring we can enjoy a parade of baby vegetables, including micro greens, tiny herb leaves, radish and beet greens, spinaches and a range of little lettuce leaves, in all colours and textures, as well as baby vegies themselves, from little carrots to radishes and peas.

It makes me hungry just thinking of what’s just ahead of us.

Now is the time to get some of your favourite herbs started on the windowsill, ready to plant outside in a pot or the garden as soon as the nights aren’t so cool. They make an incredible difference to all kinds of dishes, allowing you to reduce your use of salt to add flavour to everything you make.

They really kick up the flavour of a simple salad, and for colour, you can even add flowers such as tiny violets or violas or the petals of roses, lilac or lavender, nasturtiums and calendulas. Do first make sure the flower you’re thinking of adding to a salad or other dish is safe to eat!

There are lots more recipes for seasonal produce in my new book, Jude’s Kitchen, published by the Okanagan Institute and available wherever books are sold. It’s organized by the seasons, too, so you can find what’s fresh locally as you work your way through it.

Spring Herb & Vegetable Omelet 

The great thing about eggs is that you can combine them with all sorts of wonderful vegetables, herbs and cheeses, and serve them at any time of the day.

4 eggs

2 green onions

1 c. (250 ml) baby spinach

4 mushrooms

4 stalks of asparagus

1/2 c. (125 ml) Swiss cheese

fresh chives to garnish

1 tbsp. (15 ml) butter

salt and pepper, to taste

Beat the eggs in a small bowl and chop up the green onions, spinach, mushrooms and  asparagus and set them aside. Grate the cheese and mince the chives.

Melt the butter in a mid-sized pan over medium heat and add the mushrooms, cooking and stirring for a few minutes. Add the green onions, then the baby spinach leaves, turning them about until they’re just wilted. Add the chopped asparagus and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Pour beaten eggs evenly over the vegetables and top with grated cheese. Cover the pan and cook for a few minutes, until the eggs are set on top and the cheese is melted.

Garnish with snipped chives and cut into wedges to serve.

Serves 2-4.

Pork & Rice with Asparagus

This is a meal in one pot, so it is really quick and simple, with few dishes, but lots of flavour and nutrition.

1 lb. (454 g) boneless pork

1 link of chorizo sausage

drizzle of oil

1 onion

4 mushrooms

2 celery stalks

1/2 red pepper

1/2 a small zucchini

5 tomatoes

2 garlic cloves

1 tsp. (5 ml) hot sauce

1 c. (250 ml) white rice

1 c. (250 ml) chicken stock

1 tbsp. (15 ml) fresh rosemary

1 tsp. (5 ml) dried thyme

salt and pepper, to taste

2 c. (500 ml) baby spinach

12 stalks asparagus

Cut boneless pork such as chops or steaks into bite-sized chunks.

Slice hot Italian sausage into small pieces.

Chop onions, mushrooms, celery, pepper, zucchini and tomatoes and mince garlic.

Brown the pork briefly in a drizzle of oil over medium heat in a deep frypan with a tight-fitting lid or a Dutch oven.  Add minced garlic partway through. Remove meat and garlic and add onions. Stir about until they begin to soften and then add mushrooms and celery and chorizo.

Cook for a few minutes, and add the pepper, zucchini, tomatoes (You could substitute a half tin of plum tomatoes), and hot sauce.

Stir it all together and heat for a minute or two before adding the rice, hot chicken stock, minced herbs, salt and pepper. Return the meat to the pan.

Combine and return to bubbling before covering tightly and putting into a 350 F oven, or turning the heat down to low.

Cook for 15 or 20 minutes, then stir in chopped asparagus and add fresh baby spinach on top and let sit (or cook, depending on whether the rice is done) for five minutes or so before serving.

Serves 4.