By April, weary New Englanders are looking for anything to poke through the thawing ground. It is often a crocus, welcomed like an old friend.
To help lift our culinary spirits, we asked you to peek into your recipe collections for favorite dishes featuring spring greens. For The Recipe Box Project, in which readers share recipes with each other, we were looking for specialties made with asparagus, Swiss chard, watercress, spinach, mint, and other greens. From the pale green of asparagus soup, sent in by Hadley resident Pam Juengling, who calls the spears “Hadley grass,” to the dark green and golden custard in a crustless Swiss chard pie from Jane Woodes of Wellfleet, our kitchen was filled with fine fare.
Jane Ward of Amesbury sent in a risotto she makes with fresh peas from her Community Supported Agriculture share (we used frozen for now). She folds in a bright puree of peas and scallions, another vegetable that heralds the new season, into creamy arborio rice. Winchester resident Kinzie Moore Gensler writes that her favorite spring dish is jade rice made by adding a puree of basil, mint, cilantro, and spinach to ginger-scented long-grain rice.
Often the first shoots in the garden are herbs. “We can’t wait for the fresh mint,” writes Lee Appel of Rye, N.H., who makes a tangy yogurt and cucumber salad with refreshing spearmint. Crisp, peppery watercress is often tossed with lettuces to punch up a salad. Chie Ehara, an Arlington resident and Japanese expat, stirs a bunch into a velvety shrimp soup.
In New England, we’re forced to use the expression “spring greens” loosely. Some don’t come in until it’s almost summer. But these dishes are a painter’s bright palette. Which for now, is uplifting.