Spring is one of the most exciting changes of seasons. Emerging from cold weather, people begin to get out and about again. As a chef, I practically live at the farmers market, chatting with growers about the best produce on offer for the week and taking advantage of the bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Early spring peas fresh from a local grower seem to taste sweeter than any available later in the year. When wild garlic leaves become available, I add the herb to everything from salads to mashed potatoes. In March, I go mad for asparagus that floods our markets. I like to steam the spear in a bamboo steamer. First, I flavor the water with ginger, garlic, and Chinese cooking wine, and then allow steam to permeate the asparagus.
There is nothing better than getting together with friends and enjoying a light flavor-filled meal gathered around the table. That’s what spring is all about. Angel Hair Pasta with Clams, Radishes, and Spinach is my healthy version of spaghetti with clams (spaghetti alle vongole). By limiting the pasta and increasing the vegetables, the dish not only tastes great but looks great too. After a visit to the farmers market, I can’t wait to whip up Quick-Braised Spring Vegetables — featuring peas, fava beans, asparagus, and baby spinach. It’s a testament to the season.
Angel Hair Pasta with Clams, Radishes, and Spinach
(Makes 4 servings)
8 ounces whole-wheat angel hair pasta
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
2 pounds Manila or littleneck clams, scrubbed
1/3 cup finely chopped shallots
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped Zest of 1 lemon, removed in wide strips with a vegetable peeler
1 fresh or dried bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup dry white wine Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 ounces fresh baby spinach (about 4 cups loosely packed)
4 large radishes, cut into small matchstick-size strips (about 1/2 cup)
2 scallions (white and green parts), thinly sliced on the diagonal
Bring large pot of salted water to boil over high heat. Stir pasta into boiling water and cook, stirring often to keep strands separated, for about 2 minutes or until tender but still firm to bite. Scoop out and reserve ½ cup of pasta cooking water. Drain pasta.
Meanwhile, heat large heavy skillet over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, add clams, and cook for 1 minute. Stir in shallots, garlic, lemon zest, bay leaf, and red pepper flakes. Add wine, cover, and cook for about 2 minutes, or until clams open. Using tongs, transfer clams to large bowl and cover to keep warm.
Simmer clam-wine broth until reduced by about one-fourth, about 2 minutes (pasta will absorb a lot of liquid, so don’t reduce too much). Stir in remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low.
Add pasta to skillet and toss to coat with liquid. Add clams and any accumulated juices in bowl to pasta. Add spinach and half of radishes and toss, adding enough of reserved pasta water to make a light sauce.
Using tongs, divide pasta and clams among four wide pasta bowls or place them in one large shallow serving bowl. Pour in broth. Drizzle olive oil over each serving and sprinkle with scallions and remaining radishes. Discard lemon zest and bay leaf and serve immediately.
Total Fat: 15 g
Saturated Fat: 2 g
Sodium: 236 mg
Carbohydrate: 51 g
Fiber: 9 g
Protein: 14 g
Diabetic Exchanges: 3 ½ starch, ½ vegetable, ½ lean meat, 3 fat
Quick-Braised Spring Vegetables
(Makes 6 servings)
1 spring onion or 4 scallions, trimmed and sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons low-sodium chicken broth or water
8 ounces asparagus, woody ends trimmed, stalks cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup shelled fresh fava beans (from about 1 pound pods), peeled (see Note), or sugar snap peas, trimmed and halved crosswise
1 cup shelled fresh English peas (from about 1 pound peas in the pod)
1/2 head escarole, torn into bite-size pieces (about 2 cups)
3 cups loosely packed baby spinach leaves
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice Kosher salt
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
Small chunk of Parmesan cheese, for grating
In large heavy skillet, combine spring onion, garlic, oil, and broth and bring to simmer over medium heat. Cover and cook for about 2 minutes, or until spring onion softens slightly.
Add asparagus, fava beans, and peas and sauté for about 2 minutes, or until beans and peas are heated through. Add escarole, spinach, and basil and sauté for about 2 minutes, or until escarole wilts and asparagus is crisp-tender.
Stir in lemon zest and juice. Season to taste with salt. Transfer to serving platter. Sprinkle with chives, grate Parmesan over, and serve immediately.
NOTE: Fava beans have an inedible pod and an outer skin that is edible only when beans are very young. To prepare fava beans, remove beans from pods. Next, bring large pot of water to boil.
Add beans and cook for 30 seconds. Immediately transfer beans to bowl of ice water. When chilled, drain beans and, using your fingers or small knife, peel outer skins from beans.
Total Fat: 8 g
Saturated Fat: 1 g
Sodium: 340 mg
Carbohydrate: 13 g
Fiber: 5 g
Protein: 6 g
Diabetic Exchanges: ½ starch, ½ vegetable, 2 fat
Excerpted from Good Food, Good Life by Curtis Stone. Copyright © 2015 by Curtis Stone. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or printed without permission in writing from the publisher.
This article is featured in the March/April 2017 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.
Most people associate pasta with Italian cuisine, but this main dish has a decidedly Spanish flair. Saffron, a popular spice in many Spanish dishes, infuses an earthy, hay-like flavor and beautiful yellow-orange color. Saffron is the dried tiny threadlike strands of the fall flowering crocus, also known as the saffron crocus—a member of the iris family. Although it’s the world’s most expensive spice by weight, very little is needed to flavor and color food.
Spanish cuisine is also ripe with olives. Note that if seasoning with salt, go a little lighter because olives contribute to the saltiness of the sauce as do the capers. The capers, which are the unripened, pickled flower buds of a prickly perennial plant native to the Mediterranean and some parts of Asia, round out the Latin flavor with their tangy, lemony essence.
Add your favorite green salad and you have a complete, nutritious meal featuring an old favorite—spaghetti—in a new Spanish style.
Makes 6 servings.
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
- 1 large stalk celery, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ cup chopped sundried tomatoes
- 8 ounces ground turkey (lean ground beef may be substituted)
- 2 (14.5-ounce) cans no salt added diced tomatoes
- 2 (6-ounce) cans tomato paste
- ½ cup water
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes or to taste
- Salt and ground black pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon crushed saffron threads, optional*
- ⅓ cup pimento stuffed queen olives, coarsely chopped (black olives may be substituted)
- 2 teaspoons capers, rinsed
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley, divided
- 8 ounces whole-wheat angel hair pasta
*Tip: Saffron is also available in powdered form. Be careful if buying the powdered variety because it is sometimes combined with turmeric or other less expensive substances. The powdered spice also loses its flavor more quickly than the threads. You can recognize good quality threads because they are bright red but have a dark shade with tips that have a slightly lighter shade, indicating that they are natural and have not been dyed to look darker. Some threads include a small amount of yellow, which usually means that they are not as strong.
Saffron is very sensitive to heat and light, so it should be stored in a cool, dark, and dry location. High humidity can cause it to smell musty and make it age faster. If stored properly, it can last for several years. Before cooking, place saffron in small bowl and add 1 to 2 tablespoons hot water. Let it sit until dissolved, about 20 minutes, before using.
- In large pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and celery and sauté for 4 minutes.
- Add garlic and sun dried tomatoes and sauté 2 minutes. Add turkey and sauté 6-8 minutes, until thoroughly cooked and beginning to brown.
- Stir in diced tomatoes and tomato paste. Add water-use less for thicker sauce. Mix gently until well combined.
- Sprinkle in red pepper, salt, pepper, dried oregano, saffron, olives, capers and half the parsley. Cover and bring to a boil.
- Uncover and reduce heat and let sauce simmer for at least 15 minutes, stirring gently and fairly frequently. Meanwhile, cook paste al dente according to package instructions. Set aside.
- Either add pasta to sauce and combine or rinse pasta with hot water and place on serving dishes and top with sauce. Sprinkle with remaining parsley. Serve.
Total fat: 7 g
Saturated fat: 1.5 g
Carbohydrate: 54 g
Fiber: 10 g
Protein: 16 g
Sodium: 490 mg