With Monday having been the first day of Spring, I’m into all things “fresh” right now. Out with soups and stews and in with veggies, seafood and wraps. I love this time of year because I feel like everyone has a little extra “pep in their step”, no longer bogged down by scarfs and hats, excited for warmer days… and the lighter food that comes with it.
In an attempt to both lighten up my calorie intake and to add some new items to my usual meal rotation, I recently made roasted baby artichokes with pan seared bass and Thai turkey lettuce wraps. Both of them came out amazingly – satisfying my desire to get fresh! Both meals were also only required one pot to prepare (I do EVERYTHING in my Le Crueset braiser) – an added bonus that I do appreciate about the typically braised and baked heavier meals of winter.
For the lettuce wrap, I cooked ground turkey in a bit of sesame oil, and added my typical Asian-inspired spices (ginger, garlic and chili sauce). I threw in diced red pepper, baby corn, bamboo, water-chestnuts and re-hydrated Shitake mushrooms. I found all of these items (other than the fresh red pepper) in the Asian aisle at my local Mariano’s and was pleasantly surprised at the lower cost of these when they come in canned form vs. what I sometimes see in the fresh vegetable section. Perhaps the best surprise was that re-hydrating dried Shitakes was super easy (just soak in warm water for 10 mins) and again, much more affordable than fresh ones. I added all of these to the pan and continue to cook for a few minutes, adding some soy sauce and a pre-made Hoisin that I also picked up in the Asian aisle.
I spooned into Bibb lettuce “cups” and topped with cilantro and peanuts for a crunchy, bright, flavorful and healthy meal.
My baby artichokes and bass meal was another simple and quick yet satisfying dish. You prep baby artichokes the same way you would the larger ones, just not cutting off the entire stem, but rather peeling it since with these, the stem is tender enough to eat. Once having peeled the stem, I plucked off the rough outer leaves and cut off the tips of the remaining ones. I then cut the artichokes into fourths, tossed in grapeseed oil and placed cut-side down into my hot, also oiled pan. After about 7 minutes, I flipped to the other side, and moved them all to one side of the pan, making room for my bass filets. Simply sprinkled with salt and pepper they only needed a few minutes on each side. I then threw in some minced garlic and the juice of one lemon, topping both the fish and the artichokes and covered the pan to let simmer for a few more minutes. I served with a premade side of rice. The whole meal only took about 20 minutes, and it was divine.
If you’re looking to “brighten up” your spring recipes, The Chopping Block has several spring-themed classes being offered right now. Check out the tempting menus:
- Watercress Salad with Radishes, Goat Cheese and Yogurt Dressing
- Herb Crumb-Crusted Rack of Lamb with Parsley-Mint Pesto
- Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with Sherry-Mustard Vinaigrette
- Strawberry-Almond Cake with Whipped Cream
- Sweet Pea Hummus with Radish "Chips", Sugar Snap Peas and Pita Chips
- Grilled Salmon and Asparagus with Dill-Yogurt Sauce
- Fregola Salad with Artichokes, Scallions and Fresh Herbs
- Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream.
- Watercress and Radish Salad with Green Goddess Dressing
- Skillet Baked Eggs with Spinach, Leeks and Feta Cheese
- Turkey Breakfast Sausage
- Crispy Home Fries
- Coffee Coffee Cake
Most of these classes are offered multiple times at both of our locations in Lincoln Square and the Merchandise Mart, so please check our class calendars for the best fit for your schedule.
And for the ultimate spring celebration, don't miss Chef Maria Clementi's upcoming Chef Dinner: Farmers' Spring Table which features a satisfying and delicious vegetarian plant-based meal. Each course of the dinner will spotlight the delicacies of the spring harvest.