Spring Greens Recipes

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PHOTO: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
The spring greens recipes pictured here include spinach salad, spinach nicoise, and spinach frittata.

In most parts of North America, gardeners aren’t harvesting
bumper crops of edibles just yet, but many folks
do have an abundant supply of early greens already
popping up. That, of course, leads to the age-old
gardener’s problem of what to do with the extra
harvest.

Well, if you’re in such a situation and are tired
of simply boiling up the leafy vegetables, try using them
in a variety of dishes: You may be surprised to
find that the nutritious potherbs will blend well in
salads, casseroles, and even desserts! As an example,
we’ve put together a light, satisfying meal which features
several spring greens recipes. All use  spinach (one of the most popular
early vegetables), but you can very easily substitute
mustard, beet, or whatever other spring greens
your garden might be producing now.

Spinach Salad

Tender, crispy spinach is the star performer in one of the
best salads around. To make four hearty helpings of the
dish, wash and dry about a pound of greens, then tear them
into bite-sized pieces. Add 1/4 pound of raw, thinly sliced
mushrooms, and a couple of tablespoons of grated Parmesan
cheese, before tossing the salad with a light dressing such as sweet-and-sour or oil-and-vinegar. (If you’d like
to dress up the vegetable salad a little, you can mix in
two or three sliced hard-cooked eggs or sprinkle a
handful of whole wheat croutons over each bowl.)

Spinach Frittata

This dish — the Italian version of a vegetable omelet
— contains the tried-and-true combination of greens
and eggs. First of all, steam 1 cup of freshly picked and
chopped spinach leaves, and place the cooked greens in a
large mixing bowl. Then — in a separate bowl
— mix together 3 eggs, 1/2 pound of grated Monterey
Jack cheese, 2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese, one
finely minced clove of garlic, 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg, and
1/2 teaspoon of dried basil. Add the cooked spinach to this
mixture, stir it well, and spice it up with a dash of salt
and pepper.

After you’ve thoroughly blended all the ingredients, heat 1
tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy iron skillet. Pour in
the batter when the pan starts to sizzle, and
— as soon as
the frittata begins to “set” — gently lift the
omelet’s edges with a spatula to let the uncooked
central portion run onto the pan. When all the egg
has cooked (but before the “pancake” becomes dry), fold one
half of the frittata over the other and turn it out of the
pan onto a plate. (As an alternate cooking method, you can
simply bake the dish, at 350°F, for half an
hour, then brown it for a couple of minutes more under the
broiler.) This savory spinach treat tastes wonderful “as
is,” cut into wedges and served to four hungry folks, or perhaps with a little more grated Parmesan used
as a topping.

Spinach Niçoise

Granted, the notion does sound a bit strange, but greens
can be used to prepare a sweet course for your spring meal,
as well. This particular recipe is a variation on an apple
pie that has long been popular among the citizens of the
French city of Nice. Its unusual blend of flavors
will have spinach lovers lined up for seconds. To make the
Gallic dessert (which serves eight), you’ll first need to
peel 6 medium-sized cooking apples. Core the fruits and
slice them thinly, then cut each sliver into small
(about 1/2″ on a side) pieces.

Next, combine 1/4 cup of raisins and 3 tablespoons of dark
rum in a saucepan. Allow the mixture to boil for 2 or 3
minutes, then set it aside to cool. Meanwhile, cook and
drain about a pound of fresh, chopped spinach. Combine the vegetable with 1/4 pound of shredded Jack
cheese, 2 well-beaten eggs, 1/2 cup of brown sugar, and 1/4
cup of chopped walnuts. Complete the filling by stirring in
the rum-soaked raisins (drain them first, if necessary) and
the diced apples.

To prepare a crust for the pie, spread two tablespoons of
apricot jam evenly over the bottom of an unbaked
pie shell (an eight- or nine-inch whole wheat or wheat germ
crust will work best with this recipe). Then pour in the
filling and cover it with a top crust. Use your thumb and
forefinger to seal the edges of dough all around the pie,
prick several air holes in the top with a fork, and bake
the French confection for 30 minutes at 375°F. When the
crust is golden brown, pull the pie out of the oven,
dust a little cinnamon on it, and serve it piping hot.

Every gardener knows that a healthy crop of spring greens
can be all but overwhelming at times … but —
using just a bit of imagination and experimentation —
you’ll be surprised by the delicious fare you can whip up
from your early-season bounty. So don’t just boil
those greens. Put them into a variety of tasty —
and nutritious — dishes!

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Spinach Niçosie recipe is based upon a
dessert from
The Quick and Easy Vegetarian Cookbook
by Ruth Ann Manners and William Manners (copyright
© 1978 by the authors). It is reprinted by permission
of the publisher, M. Evans and Company, Inc.