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Walnut Creek Magazine

Springing for Green

May 10, 2021 11:10AM ● 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 green ingredients that come together in 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.

ASPARAGUS 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.

GREEN GARLIC 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.

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

PEAS 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.


Serves 10
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
Bunch asparagus, steamed for garnish on top
*Truffle oil and or truffle salt
Grated parmesan cheese

Directions: 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 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, reduce heat. Add stock (or water), 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly on low heat, letting the liquid evaporate before adding more. Add fava beans and pea shoots in the last 2 minutes of cooking. Top with steamed asparagus spears, if desired.
*Garnish with truffle oil and truffle salt if available.  Sprinkle grated parmesan cheese on top before serving.


By CUESA: SF 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 
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup olive oil 
4 leeks cut in half lengthwise, then into ¼-inch slices 
1 cup baby carrots, sliced 
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

Directions: For the pesto: Place parsley, lemon zest, pine nuts, garlic, and cheese in a food processor or blender. Pulse for 30 seconds or until mixture becomes a rough paste. With the motor running, slowly pour the oil into 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 leeks begin to wilt, about 5 minutes. Increase heat to high. Add wine and stock, then bring to a boil. Add pasta, salt, and pepper. Bring soup to a boil, then lower and simmer, skimming off any foam, until the pasta al dente, about 10 minutes. Add asparagus and peas and simmer until vegetables are tender and bright green, 4 to 5 minutes. Add spinach and allow to wilt, about 1 minute. Ladle soup into bowls. Place a tablespoon of pesto on top and serve with grated cheese.


By Natural Chef Melissa Shaffer for WC Farmers' Market
1.5 pounds new or other small potatoes, cut into 1" bite-sized chunks
2 cups sugar snap peas, strings removed
1/2 bunch radishes (about 4-5), thinly sliced
1 cup mixed herbs of choice, roughly chopped: dill, mint, and parsley
Optional: 1-2 cups mixed greens or arugula per person
Optional: 1-2 soft or hard-boiled eggs per person
Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette:
1 large clove garlic, crushed or minced*
1 tsp lemon zest*
3 Tbs lemon juice*
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt

Directions: Bring a medium saucepan with salted water to a boil. Add sugar snap peas and blanch for 1 minute or until bright green but still crisp. Remove peas with a slotted spoon and place into a large bowl with ice water. Once cool, place on a towel to dry. Bring water back to a boil and add potatoes, cooking about 5-10 minutes or until easily pierced. Drain and let cool. Slice peas on the diagonal into 2-3 pieces each and place in a large bowl with radishes, potatoes, and herbs. Shake or mix dressing ingredients together, then toss with vegetables. Season with salt and pepper. Let sit for 10 minutes for flavors to absorb, then enjoy at room temperature or refrigerate for later use. (Optional: For a complete meal, serve on a bed of mixed greens or arugula and top with soft or hard boiled eggs.)

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