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Bring a change to spring vegetables

Alan Tangren
John Hart/jhart@theunion.com | The Union

Dear Alan: I love the abundance of artichokes and asparagus available at this time of year, but my family gets tired of the usual mayonnaise or melted butter and lemon on the side. What can I do to bring excitement to our table?

Spring is the season of change, so it’s a good time to bring new life to the dinner table. You are right. We are seeing the first of the spring vegetables, especially asparagus and artichokes, which are lower in price now than at any other time.

And they are coming from nearby farms. Look for specials on these items at local stores.



Butter and lemon are good friends of artichokes and asparagus. The combination of richness and tart flavor compliment both. But what could be more spring-like than fresh herbs?

Try this recipe from the Chez Panisse Café for Italian-style salsa verde, served with warm or room temperature artichokes or asparagus.




Salsa Verde

(Adapted from Chez Panisse Café Cookbook)

Makes about 2 cups

1/2 cup chopped Italian (flat leaf) parsley

1/4 cup finely chopped green onions or shallot

1/4 cup chopped fresh mint or basil

2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and coarsely chopped

2 anchovy filets, rinsed and chopped (optional but good)

Grated zest of ½ lemon

3/4 cup best olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

Fresh ground black pepper

2 tablespoons lemon juice Mix together the parsley, green onions or shallots, chopped herbs, capers, optional anchovies and lemon zest.

Stir in the olive oil, salt and half a dozen grinds of pepper. At this point the sauce may be covered and refrigerated for several hours. Just before serving stir in the lemon juice.

If you are a little more adventuresome, you should definitely try homemade Hollandaise sauce for more formal occasions when you really want to impress your family and friends. It is the perfect marriage of lemon and butter. We made this a few weeks ago at a Tess’ cooking class.

The recipe is one inspired by my beloved colleague Julia Child, and it worked perfectly.

Stove-Top Hollandaise

(From Julia Child)

Makes 1 to 1 1/2 cups

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons water

1/4 teaspoon salt

Big pinch of freshly ground white or black pepper

3 egg yolks at room temperature

2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter

1 1/2 sticks melted unsalted butter

Additional salt, pepper and lemon juice.

Place lemon juice, water, salt and pepper in a small saucepan and simmer until reduced by half. Place egg yolks in a medium, heavy-bottomed, nonreactive saucepan.

Beat yolks for a minute or so until thick. Cool the lemon reduction and slowly beat into egg yolks.

Add one tablespoon of cold butter to the yolk mixture and place over moderately low heat. Stir slowly but constantly with a wire whisk.

In a minute or so, look for foam to appear on top of yolks and a few wisps of steam. Remove from heat and stir until yolks are thick and smooth. Beat in the second tablespoon of cold butter to stop the cooking.

Off heat, add the melted butter by teaspoonfuls, beating until each is absorbed. Continue until sauce thickens into a heavy cream. Beat in larger spoonfuls of butter until all has been added. Correct seasoning with salt, pepper and lemon juice.

For a lighter sauce add a tablespoon or two of hot water or vegetable stock.

If you are not ready to serve, set pan over warm, not hot, water to hold for 30 minutes or so.

Chef Alan Tangren spent 22 years as a chef in the kitchens of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, eight of those years spent as the Chez Panisse forager. He teaches cooking classes and directs monthly Chef’s Tables at Tess’ Kitchen Store, 115 Mill St. in Grass Valley. Learn more at http://www.tesskitchenstore.com


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