From Spring to Summer


I love cooking with ingredients that are in season. Selecting fruits and vegetables from the farmers market, apart from bringing freshness and taste to the table, is also the best way to really feel each season.

Winter is long over so we say goodbye to hearty soups, warm stews and winter vegetables. Spring brings fascinating, lively green veggies like asparagus, artichokes, beans and peas.

With a bunch of beautiful artichokes in hand and following Le Cordon Bleu techniques book, I successfully managed to discover the artichoke’s heart. Laugh not dear reader; it’s not as easy as it sounds. The first time I tried, I failed completely: Not being able to locate the heart, I ended up with a bunch of leaves, sucking the bottom part, having completely destroyed the heart. However my book suggests that this actually is a way of preparing the artichoke, dipping the leaves in a simple vinaigrette, so I guess I did end up somewhere, just not where I was supposed to!

Asparagus is another of my favorite spring ingredients, something we never used to cook at home, not sure why. I simply love them. They have become (after strawberries) the reason I look forward to spring every year. I bought a bunch and had all these plans of making asparagus and mushroom lasagna, pair them with salmon or make a hollandaise sauce but they were so nice and fresh that I decided just to steam them and season them with a bit of olive oil, coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. I continued perfecting my technique of poaching eggs and promised to myself that next time I will prepare that hollandaise!

Today I am cooking fresh peas at home. You may ask why bother with fresh peas? Well, although frozen ones can be quite tasty, I always prefer buying fresh and not only for their superior taste: I actually love the process of removing the peas from the pods. I sit on my red couch, two big bowls on my lap, peeling the fresh peas with the tv on but silent, listening to music. With my hands busy, my mind always drifts off, usually to new recipes I could try. During one of my trips to London this year I tasted peas with mint for the first time. That combination of flavors was very new to me but the mint really gave the dish a breath of fresh air. Now I know how I’ll use the mint from my balcony!

But for now, I will prepare a traditional Greek dish: peas “stewed” with tomatoes, potatoes and dill. It needs some time to cook but the result is amazing. Mama K’s recipe calls for potatoes in big chinks but this time I cut the potatoes in small cubes, so that both potatoes and peas have the same size and cook nicely together.

A large pot. Olive oil and onions. Stir until golden. Add potatoes and peas. Give them a stir. Cover with tomato sauce and, this is Mr N’s trick, some chicken broth. Otherwise you can use water. Season with salt and pepper, a tiny pinch of cinnamon and fresh dill. Bring to the boil. Lower the heat and let it simmer, adding water/broth if needed. When the potatoes and peas are cooked through your dinner is ready. Crumbled feta cheese and warm crusty bread on the side and you have your traditional Greek “arakas me ntomata” (peas with tomato) dish! Enjoy dear reader and get ready because summer is just around the corner. I’m making ice pops next week!