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Spring… Days are filled with sunny walks, whispering breezes and playing around in the crumbly earth.

 

A few weeks ago I had mentioned this beet root soup to you and here it is. Soups and other cool weather foods are slowly being replaced with lighter recipes.

 

Here at home the garden slowly emerges and by some sudden magic is filled with abundance. Alliums are pushing their way towards the sky and blankets of ground covers stretch far and wide.  I love spring; everything takes on a new attitude. New vegetables break out into the market stands and appetites are excited to be tantalized by fresh experiences.

 

Earthy beets, sweet seductive carrots and creamy Japanese sweet potatoes all made it into this wonderful light soup.

And the color, so vibrant!

 

Continue below for the recipe and have a great weekend.

Beet Root Soup Recipe [Serves 4]

2 Tablespoons coconut oil

1 ½ cup leeks, halved & finely julienne

1 large garlic clove

3 beets, peeled & chopped [approx. 2 cups]

1 Japanese sweet potato, peeled & chopped [approx. 1 cup]

2 medium carrots, peeled & chopped [approx. ½ cup]

1 herb bouquet [2 parsley springs, 2 thyme sprigs, 1 bay leaf wrapped in a leek leaf & tied with twine]

5-6 cups chicken stock -or- vegetable stock

Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste.

1. Sauté leeks in coconut oil on medium to low heat until tender.

2. Add garlic and cook for a few minutes, just to cook out the raw garlic flavor.

3. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a gentle simmer.

4. Cover and continue to cook until everything in tender.

5. Remove herb bouquet and puree soup.

6. Season with salt and pepper and serve with a little touch of cream or crème fraîche.

Fresh, light and flavorful…

 

 

My mind has been on fresh flavors lately, gearing up for spring in anticipation for the farmer’s markets to open with loads of fresh produce. I mainly go for the spring peas and ramps at this time, but getting out and enjoying the warmer sunshine is welcoming after a bleak winter.

 

 

The raw fennel and beet salad made several days ago was simple, but it was what we needed; a good boost of nutrition. No brisk walk later!

 

The Chioggia beets were not intentionally used in this salad, but somehow a few landed in the cart while picking the deep red variety. I didn’t even know they were there!  I love the look of these beets when shaved very thin and leaving them uncooked; vibrant and sweet with a bit of earthiness. So here they are, in this salad.

 

 

Another salad was made a few days later, for a light dinner. The wonderful Vietnamese type salads you can make are great for a more substantial meal where lettuce wouldn’t be enough. Of course J. sighs when I make a dish that will need to be photographed before we can eat. Luckily this was a quick recipe, a few quick snaps and it was time to eat. J. loves these kinds of meals; the flavors are fresh, garlicky and spicy.

 

The special ingredient is the sauce for this shrimp noodle salad. You take equal parts lime juice and sugar, and then season with fish sauce, garlic and chilies to your liking.

 

 

I think fresh energizing flavors is what we all need, and a little bit of warm sunshine to shake off the winter blues…don’t you think?

 

Coconut Shrimp Noodle Salad [Serves 2]

 

10 whole shrimp, peeled & de-veined

½ cup shredded coconut

1 egg white

Sea salt to taste

 

8 ounces rice noodles [cooked per package instructions]

 

1 large purple carrot, julienne

1 small cucumber, thinly sliced

2 large radishes, julienne

2 handfuls mixed greens -or- chopped romaine

¼ cup fresh mint leaves

¼ cup Thai basil leaves

 

¼ cup fresh lime juice

¼ cup cane sugar

2 Tablespoons fish sauce

½ garlic clove, minced

½ teaspoon crushed chilies

 

Mung bean -or- other kind of sprouts [optional]

 

Preheat oven to 350°F.

 

1. Coat shrimp with beaten egg white and coat with coconut.

2. Place shrimp on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper coated with coconut spray.

3. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until shrimp is opaque and coconut starts to color.

 

4. While shrimp is cooking, combine lime juice, sugar, fish sauce, garlic and chilies in a small bowl.

5. Fill bowls with lettuce then rice noodles.

6. Place shrimp and prepared vegetables over noodles and pour sauce over and enjoy.

 

*note: A traditional Vietnamese salad uses pickled carrots and radishes which you can do in a snap with some rice vinegar and a little sugar to balance. Drain the vegetables after 30 minutes of marinating and continue with recipe.

 

Beet & Fennel Salad Recipe [Serves 2-4]

 

1 large fennel bulb, shaved -or- julienne

2 medium golden beets, shaved into rounds

2 medium Chioggia beets, shaved into thin rounds

1/3 cup fresh peas

 

4 Tablespoons grape seed oil -or- olive oil

2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 Tablespoons fresh lime zest

3 Tablespoons fresh orange juice

2 ½ teaspoons cane sugar -or- honey

1 Tablespoons shallots, minced

¼ teaspoon sea salt

 

1. Toss fennel, beets, peas and some of the feathery fennel tops together in a bowl.

2. Whisk together everything except the oil and marinate for 10 minutes.

3. Just before serving, which oil into the juice in a little stream until emulsified.

4. Toss with vinaigrette and enjoy.

Hope you all had a wonderful holiday weekend. It was a pleasant weekend here, visiting several gatherings. To my surprise, this year a few of us broke out in song, singing all of the classic holiday tunes. It was a welcoming event for the not so typical snowy weather and everyone’s tight schedules. A nice pause from the hustle and bustle the holidays can be. This is what I like about the holidays, a bit of cheer, enjoying the company of family and friends.

With the tight schedule and all of the things to do, I had hoped to have made a dessert, but settled on a chocolate Swiss roll that was delicious from a much loved bakery in town. This one is definitely on the make a recipe for list and to share with you.

 

In a few days it will be a new year, a new year of possibilities, more cooking and of course more photography. Thank you everyone for visiting and your wonderful comments!

 

Braised Lentils & Vegetable Recipe

1 cup French lentils, picked over

2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 large garlic clove, peeled & cracked

½ teaspoon sea salt

1 small bay leaf

 

4 cups assorted vegetables, peeled & cut to similar sizes

[Such as: turnips, carrots, beans, beets, Brussels sprouts, parsnips, etc…]

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

 

Chopped fresh chives

 

preparing the lentils:

1. Place lentils, vinegar, garlic, sea salt and bay leaf in a pot and cover generously with cold water.

2. Bring to a simmer and cook for approximately 15-20 minutes until just tender.

3. Drain and discard garlic and bay leaf. Meanwhile…

 

preparing the vegetables:

1. Place prepared vegetables in a wide pan, with light chicken stock or water just to cover.

2. Season with sea salt.

3. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook until tender, drain.

 

To complete the dish, warm the lentils with butter in a sauté pan over low heat. Add in the vegetables. Adjust seasoning with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. This is a great recipe to serve with grilled or roasted poultry.

 

*note:  If you plan on using beets as I did here, braise them separately so they will not taint the other vegetables. As for using green tender vegetables such as beans and brussels sprouts, add them in in the last few minutes of braising to maintain their bright green color.

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