Chef Curtis Stone’s Spring Fling

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 fresh spinach and the unexpected crunch and peppery flavor of radishes, this isn’t your run-of-the-mill pasta with clam sauce.
Photo by Quentin Bacon

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.

Per serving
Calories: 419
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

Spring Vegetables
Quickly braising your veggies with spring onion, garlic, olive oil, and a few tablespoons of chicken broth adds bucketloads of flavor to them, as does a good sprinkling of chives and grated Parmesan.
Photo by Ray Kachatorian

(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.

Per serving
Calories: 144
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.