Skip to main content

Walnut Creek Magazine

Springing for Greens - Healthy Recipes for Spring

Mar 26, 2016 11:10AM ● By Brian O

By Anneli Rufus

Spring is the season of green. As the warm weather approaches and produce begins to reach its peak, farmers’ markets, grocery stores and restaurant menus are packed with fresh fava beans, green garlic, asparagus and peas. Many of spring’s green ingredients come together in light but deeply satisfying, healthy recipes.

A Mediterranean staple for thousands of years, big flat fava beans are tedious to shell, but for those dedicated chefs willing to go through the toil of removal, favas are worth the effort, packing a protein-rich punch in soups, salads, pasta dishes, and appetizers. Mashed and salted, mixed with onions, garlic, lemon and cumin, they're the chief ingredient in Egypt's national dish, ful madamas.

Finicky asparagus — a member of the lily family — grows only in sandy soil and should not be harvested for the first three years after planting. Fabulous in stir-fries, chowders, wrapped in prosciutto, or roasted with lemon zest, asparagus is loaded with potassium, folic acid and vitamins A, B6, and C.

It’s exactly what it sounds like: emerald-stalked immature bulbs that have been harvested earlier than the hard white bulbs commonly found in supermarkets. Still unmistakably garlicky, green garlic's flavor is milder than that of the white type, and it's blessedly easier to peel.


Full of flavor and nutrients, tender salad greens such as peppery arugula, lemony sorrel, and delicate mâche are a sure sign of spring's arrival. They first show up at farmers' markets in "baby" forms, harvested before the leaves reach full size. Enjoy them at their freshest in delicious salads. 

What else is on the menu these days? Intensely pretty and fiber-rich fresh spring peas, perfect in everything from Asian stir-fries to pilafs to mint-spiked side dishes to soup. Subtly sweet and dazzlingly green and fresh only at this time of year, pea leaves and pea sprouts are a seasonal favorite in Chinese cuisine.


By Chef Debbie Shavar Buttercup Grill


2 cups arugula leaves

1 large fennel bulb, tough outer leaves removed, thinly sliced

1 large Fuji apple, thinly sliced

1/4 cup goat cheese crumbles


3 tbsp. olive oil

1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp. finely diced shallot

1 t. honey

Pinch of salt & pepper

Put all ingredients in Mason jar and shake!

Directions: Toss arugula, fennel and Fuji apple in a large bowl.  Add dressing and toss until all ingredients are coated.  Add goat cheese and toss gently. Serves 4 - 6 people. 

Chef Alison Negrin


2 cups Arborio rice
1/4 cup butter
1 ½ tablespoon olive oil
1 cup white wine
3 cups chicken stock or water, warm
1/4 cup chopped garlic
1 cup diced onions
Kosher salt and black pepper
2 cups shelled fava beans
2 cups pea shoots
*Truffle oil and or truffle salt
Grated parmesan cheese


To shell and cook fava beans:
Bring a small pot of salted water to boil. Add sliced garlic and a handful of fresh herbs 
(rosemary, thyme or sage) to flavor beans during cooking.
Add a splash of olive oil and cracked black pepper.
Add the beans to the pot and boil for 2 minutes.  
Turn off heat and let beans sit in water until cool enough to handle.  
Squeeze beans to remove from shell, discard outer layer, save beans for risotto.

For Risotto:
Heat oil in a large sauté pan.  
Add onions, sauté for 10 minutes.
Add garlic and cook for 3 minutes.  
Add white wine and rice and turn heat down. 
Add stock (or water), 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly on low heat, letting the water evaporate before adding more.  
Add fava beans and pea shoots in the last 2 minutes of cooking. 
 *Garnish with truffle oil and truffle salt if available. 
Sprinkle grated parmesan cheese on top before serving.

 Contra Costa Certified Farmers’ Market

1 pound asparagus, cut in 1 inch pieces 
1 bunch pea shoots, sliced thin 
3 tablespoons olive oil 
1 tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar 
1/2 cup goat cheese
1 Meyer lemon 
1 orange 
3 stalks of thinly sliced spring onion
Salt and pepper to taste 
Sauté asparagus and onions in 2 tablespoons of oil for 3 - 4 minutes until bright green.
Let vegetables cool to room temperature and toss into a salad bowl with the pea shoots. 
Grate the peel from both lemon and orange into the salad bowl. 
Finish peeling and slice the orange into the salad bowl. 
Squeeze half the lemon into the salad. 
Mix in the last tablespoon of olive oil and the rice vinegar. 
Toss and garnish with crumbled goat cheese. 
Season to taste with salt and pepper.


CUESA’s Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market

Serves 6 to 8

Parsley Lemon Pesto
1 cup loosely packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
Zest of two lemons, about 2 tablespoons
¼ cup pine nuts
1 teaspoon minced garlic 
? cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup olive oil 
4 leeks cut in half lengthwise and then into ¼-inch slices and rinsed well
1 cup baby carrots, peeled and trimmed, cut into ?-inch circles 
1 teaspoon minced garlic 
½ cup white wine
2 quarts vegetable or chicken broth 
2 cups dried bow tie pasta 
Salt & pepper
12 ounces fresh asparagus, cut on the diagonal into ½-inch pieces 
1 cup fresh peas 
2 cups loosely packed baby spinach leaves
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, for passing

For the pesto: Place parsley, lemon zest, pine nuts, garlic, and cheese in a food processor. Process for 30 seconds or until the mixture becomes a rough paste. With the motor running, slowly pour the oil into the mixture and process until smooth. Refrigerate if not using it right away. 

For the soup: In a pot, heat olive then add leek, carrot, and garlic. 
Sauté until the leeks begin to wilt and soften, about 5 minutes. 
Increase heat to high. Add wine and cook until almost dry.
Add stock and bring to a boil. 
Add pasta, salt, and pepper. 
Bring soup back to a boil, then lower and simmer, skimming off any foam, until the pasta is just soft, about 10 minutes. 
Add asparagus and peas and simmer until asparagus tender and bright green, 4 to 5 minutes. 
Add spinach and allow to wilt, about 1 minute. 
Ladle the soup into bowls. Place a heaping tablespoon of pesto on top of each bowl of soup and serve with grated cheese.

Upcoming Events Near You
Stay Connected with our Weekly Newsletter
Best spots for food, booze, and fun.
Social Media