Fresh Take: 5 Recipes Using Spring Produce
It’s spring! That means new beginnings, colorful blooms, and an assortment of fresh produce in season again — and we’re here to help spark your creativity.
From burgers to cake, plant-forward food is easy to make, and even easier to eat when you have nature’s bounty on your side. April marks the arrival of foods like fresh peas, artichokes, and rhubarb coming into season. While you can find these ingredients at other times of year, spring is an ideal time to cook with them, because they aren’t being shipped from overseas. Locally grown produce not only tastes better, it’s better for you. From a gorgeous salad that’s surprisingly quick to prepare, to a toast that’s green and delish (without a single avocado!), spring has plentiful options for fast, fun meals. Dive into these recipes for dishes that are as comforting, vibrant, and light.
Can’t find the fresh version of an ingredient your area, or want to make one of the below recipes at a different time of year? Opt for frozen over canned preparation for best taste and health value.
Asparagus & Cucumber Ribbons Salad
Let’s talk about a spring salad that’s sure to impress. Asparagus is packed with vitamins and minerals, and by shaving it, you also shave away cooking time because it’s the perfect texture to eat raw. As for presentation, sometimes the fanciest-looking culinary tricks are deceptively simple, and this is one of them! The special tool needed to create the ribbons is one that’s probably living in your drawer right now: a vegetable peeler. Any vegetable peeler — serrated or straight, horizontal or vertical — will do, and once you discover how fast it is to craft such beauty, the veggie world is your bounty! This method works equally well with rainbow carrots, zucchini, or anything else you can think of.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
- 1 bunch asparagus, bottoms trimmed off
- 1 large cucumber
- 4 cups salad greens
Lemon Maple Vinaigrette Dressing:
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp whole grain mustard
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 3 tbsp neutral oil such as grape seed or avocado
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ½ tsp salt
- ⅛ tsp cracked black pepper
1. Make salad dressing by mixing all ingredients except oils in a bowl, or shaking in a closed mason jar, until mustard is dissolved. Add oils and shake or stir until combined, then set aside.
2. Use a peeler to create ribbons out of asparagus and cucumber by peeling long strips off each; stop when you can no longer continue comfortably.
3. Toss salad ingredients with dressing in a large mixing bowl.
Pea Pesto Crostini
Peas have been getting the spotlight lately as a common ingredient used in protein powder. At 8 grams of protein per cup of fresh peas, they’re a terrific source of plant-based protein in their natural state, too! Even if you think you don’t like peas, this recipe is worth a try. For one thing, it’s likely you just don’t like canned peas (who does?!), and for another, while they add sweetness and protein to this pesto dip, they’re blended in — meaning you might not even notice them there. Pairing peas with pesto is a simple way to get more of their benefits while thickening this Italian basil-based sauce into a hearty dip.
Prep Time: 15 minutes active, 15 minutes inactive
- 1 batch pea pesto, recipe follows
- 1 loaf sliced crusty bread
- 1 tbsp olive oil
Additional garnishes if desired: balsamic vinegar, cherry tomatoes, basil sprigs, more olive oil and/or edible flowers
- 1 cup fresh peas, steamed or boiled for 1 to 2 minutes
- 2 cups basil leaves
- ⅓ cup raw nuts such as pine, cashew or walnut
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¾ tsp salt
- 1 pinch ground black pepper
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Lay bread slices down in a single layer on a lined baking sheet and drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil.
3. Toast until lightly golden, about 12 minutes. Let cool until touchable.
4. While crostini toasts, make pesto by blending all ingredients in a blender until creamy, leaving some texture.
5. Top each crostini with ½ tbsp pesto; garnish if desired.
There are plenty of pre-made veggie burgers on the market, and they’re the perfect choice when you’re looking for something meaty and grill-able. But when you want a burger made with fresh ingredients, you couldn’t ask for one that comes together more quickly, or is more healthful, than this one.
Fresh artichokes have uses that go far beyond dipping their leaves! If you’ve already done that and have some steamed or boiled artichoke hearts on hand (you’d need approximately four prepared artichokes — if not, jarred, frozen or canned work just fine!), this is an ideal use for them. The flavor they lend this veggie burger couldn’t be any more warm-weather friendly with its uniquely rich tartness. Add to that hints of lemon and dill, and you have a burger that will leave you feeling satiated but not weighed-down.
Prep Time: 10 minutes active, 30 minutes inactive
- 1 cup cooked artichoke hearts, finely chopped
- 2 cups cooked chickpeas
- 1 cup quick cooking rolled oats
- 2 tbsp vegan mayonnaise
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp dried dill weed
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp lemon-pepper seasoning
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Mash chickpeas in a bowl, then add remaining ingredients and mix well.
3. Form into four patties on a lined baking sheet.
4. Bake until golden and firm, about 30 minutes.
Rhubarb Upside Down Cake
It’s no shock that rhubarb was originally used for medicinal purposes; its super-tart flavor can be pretty intense, and it requires TLC to become something yummy. High in everything from the fiber your gut needs to brain-preserving vitamin K, rhubarb is worth getting to know and love, even if it takes some sugar to get there! We crafted an upside down cake to help intro you to this sourpuss rhizome, with a light vanilla base that sings of comfort and warm weather. Be sure to use either a nonstick pan or to line with parchment paper so that the big unveiling is seamless!
Prep Time: 15 minutes active, 45-50 minutes inactive
- 3 cups rhubarb, chopped or sliced
- 3 ½ tbsp flour (white or gluten-free all purpose)
- ½ cup sugar
- ¼ cup vegan butter or margarine, softened
- 1 small pinch of salt
- 1 ½ cups flour (cake flour if available)
- 1 cup sugar
- ½ cup vegan butter or margarine, softened
- 2 vegan eggs
- ½ cup non dairy milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp salt
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Dot the bottom of a lined and greased 9-inch cake pan, springform pan, or cast iron skillet with the butter or margarine from topping ingredients.
3. Mix remaining topping ingredients together in a mixing bowl and set aside.
4. In a mixer, cream sugar and butter or margarine together until fluffy (about 2 minutes)
5. Mix flour, sugar, salt and baking soda together in one mixing bowl; mix milk, vanilla extract and vegan eggs together in another.
6. Alternate adding wet mixed ingredients and dry mixed ingredients to butter/sugar mixture, in two or three phases, until batter is formed.
7. Stir rhubarb topping before pouring it into cake pan, then pour cake batter on top of it.
8. Bake until cake is done, 45-50 minutes. Let cool thoroughly.
9. Invert cake onto a serving platter, loosening sides with a knife first to ensure it comes out in one piece.
Oven Roasted Beet Chips
To go with your burger or just to eat alone, beet chips are a flavor-filled, baked alternative to potato chips. Choose both golden beets and red ones if available, as that will make for the prettiest presentation, as well as a wider variety of health benefits. (Different colors = different antioxidant compounds.) While they won’t be a crispy as a fried potato, this oven-roasted treat has plenty of crunch — plus, they’re anti-inflammatory and beneficial for blood pressure.
While you can slice the beets thin enough by hand if you have strong knife skills, the process will be much more quick and consistent with either a mandoline or a food processor slicing blade; use the thinnest slicing blade in either case.
We’re presenting two baking methods here: a quick one and a slow one. The quick one will yield chips in under a half hour that will be partially browned; the slow method requires a bit of down time, but results in a crisp, colorful chip similar to what you’ll see in stores.
- 4 cups unpeeled beets
- 2 tbsp neutral oil such as grape seed or avocado
- 1 tsp seasoned salt
- ⅛ tsp ground black pepper
Quick Method Instructions:
Prep Time: 10 minutes active, 25 minutes inactive
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Slice beets as thinly as possible, preferably with a mandoline or food processor (see above).
3. Drizzle half the oil, salt and pepper onto a lined baking sheet (you may need two sheets), then lay beet slices down. Drizzle with remaining oil and seasonings.
4. Roast for about 25 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned in spots.
Slow Method Instructions:
Prep Time: 10 minutes active, about 2 hours inactive
1. Slice beets as thinly as possible, preferably with a mandoline or food processor (see above).
2. Toss beet slices gently with oil and salt in a mixing bowl and set aside for one hour.
3. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
4. Drain any liquid that has accumulated and lay beets flat on a lined baking sheet (you may need two sheets). Sprinkle pepper on top.
5. Bake for one hour, or until crisp and firm to the touch.
Food styling by Ariane Resnick, C.N.C.