Ditch the frozen peas, fresh spring produce is here

By Georgia Clark-Albert, Special to the BDN
Posted April 29, 2013, at 11:27 a.m.

It’s not quite fiddlehead season yet, but other great fresh fruits and vegetables can be enjoyed early in the spring. After the long winter using frozen vegetables and less-than-tasty “fresh” produce, it is great to go to the grocery store and look at the options available.

Apricots

The peak season for fresh apricots is May through August. Apricots provide beta-carotene, potassium, vitamin C, and fiber. A serving of two medium apricots provides just 50 calories. Enjoy as a snack, added to salad or made into jams or salsas.

Asparagus

Asparagus is at its best from March through June. Asparagus doesn’t keep very long once it is harvested so store it in the coolest part of your refrigerator. Six medium spears provide 20 calories, iron, B vitamins, and vitamin C. Asparagus can be steamed, roasted, grilled or sautéed as a side to just about any meal.

Cherries

Sweet cherries are at their sweetest in late spring through early summer. One cup of sweet cherries has 100 calories and is a good source of fiber and potassium. Cherries have an added benefit of providing the antioxidant anthocyanin. Snack on cherries that are plump, firm and rich in color.

Fava beans

Fava beans (which are actually a legume) probably aren’t a spring staple in your kitchen just yet, but they are growing in popularity. Fava beans in their pods look like an overgrown sweet pea. Look for green pods that aren’t bulging. Use these beans for some added protein in a salad or soup. Their flavor is sweeter, smoother and richer than most other beans. Because of their high protein and fiber content, bean help to keep you feeling full longer. Nutritionally, ½ cup of raw fava beans has 250 calories, 43 grams of carbs (including 18 of dietary fiber), one gram of fat, 20 grams of protein, vitamins A and C, and potassium.

Morel mushrooms

A member of the truffle family, wild morel mushrooms are a springtime delicacy available early spring through late June. They have a nutty flavor, and are cone-shaped with a spongy texture which is great for soaking up sauce. Add these mushrooms to vegetable sautés, pasta dishes or salads.

Radishes

Radishes are an acquired taste. This root vegetable can have a mild or very sharp flavor depending on the variety. In one cup of sliced red radishes, you’ll get only 25 calories and a whopping 30 percent of your daily vitamin C requirement. The theory goes, the deeper the color and the more solid the root, the better the radish. Try the recipe below for a nectarine and radish salsa.

Rhubarb

Rhubarb usually grows in Maine from late April through July. This vegetable is sometimes mistaken for a fruit. The stalks are very tart but with added sweetener are great for pies, tarts, jams and sauces. Rhubarb is a good source of vitamin C, potassium, and manganese.

Vidalia onions

Vidalia onions are grown as a winter crop, so they are available in the spring and summer seasons. Vidalia onions are grown in southeast Georgia. They are sweet because of mild winters with few periods of freezing temperatures. They get regular rain and the low-sulfur soil keeps the bulbs from developing a pungent taste and prevents you from tearing up when you cut into them. One medium onion is 60 calories – fat free, cholesterol free, sodium free and a good source of vitamin C.

Nectarine and Radish Salsa from Cooking Light Magazine

Makes 4 servings

This salsa is good served with grilled chicken, pork or fish. It can be used as a topping for toasted tortilla wedges as well.

Ingredients:

2-1/4 cups diced nectarines

1-1/2 cups radishes, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced

½ cup chopped cucumber

¼ cup finely chopped red onion

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

2 teaspoon chopped fresh cilantro

1-1/2 teaspoons sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl; toss well. Let the salsa mixture stand for 30 minutes.

Nutrition information: 4 servings, each 1/3 cup provides 18 calories, 0.5 gram protein, 4 grams carbs, 0 grams fat, and 55 milligrams sodium

Crunchy Asparagus Salad

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

20 thin asparagus spears, trimmed of tough ends

1 (12-ounce) jar roasted peppers, drained

2/3 cup chopped toasted pecans

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

1-1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon sherry or white wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 pound mixed salad greens

Directions:

1. Pour one inch of water into a deep skillet and heat to boiling. Add asparagus and cook two minutes. Remove asparagus with a slotted spoon and dunk into a bowl of ice water. Drain asparagus and reserve.

2. Combine peppers, pecans, and basil. In a separate bowl, whisk lemon juice with vinegar, mustard and salt. Gradually whisk in oil until thickened.

3. Add salad greens to a large serving bowl. Top with asparagus and pepper mixture. Drizzle dressing over top and gently toss.

Vidalia Onion and Ricotta-Stuffed Grilled Chicken

Makes 4 servings

Recipe courtesy of The Vidalia Onion Committee

Ingredients:

1 Vidalia onion, thinly sliced plus more for garnish

1 cup ricotta cheese

4 tablespoons sharp cheddar cheese, grated

3 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoon fresh basil, minced

1 large egg

Salt and pepper

4 chicken breasts, washed and dried

Directions:

1. Preheat grill or grill pan to 350 degrees F. (moderate heat). Place onion slices on grill and cook until caramelized, about two minutes per side.

2. Combine grilled onions with ricotta and cheddar cheeses, flour, basil, egg, and salt and pepper to taste. Chill in refrigerator until ready to use.

3. Cut a two-inch slit into the side of each chicken breast. Spoon an equal amount of the cheese mixture into each of the breasts and secure with a toothpick. Season outside of chicken with salt and pepper.

4. Place chicken on a cooking spray-coated grill or grill pan and cook about five minutes per side or until fully cooked. Remove chicken and top with grilled Vidalia onion to garnish.

Georgia Clark-Albert is a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes educator at Penobscot Community Health Care in Bangor. She provides nutrition consultant services through Mainely Nutrition in Athens. Read her columns and post questions at bangordailynews.com or email her at GeorgiaMaineMSRDCDE@gmail.com.

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/04/29/living/blogs-and-columns-living/ditch-the-frozen-peas-fresh-spring-produce-is-here/ printed on April 23, 2014