Spring vegetables are limited to only a few favorites, but as the season progress more are added to the list. This makes it the time to expand the vegetable part of the daily menu as days grow warmer and more vegetables become available.
Although most young, fresh vegetables are best cooked simply with seasoned butter sauces, there is a wealth of other vegetable dishes that can add interest to the daily meals.Here are some recipes for vegetable casseroles and combinations of vegetables for serving now through summer.
One vegetable familiar to home gardeners is the Jerusalem artichoke. If it's not familiar to you it is a good new one to try.However, they actually have nothing to do with Jerusalem and are not really artichokes, and in the supermarkets they are sold under the name sunchokes. These knotty tubers are a variety of the sunflower plant and one story says they were discovered by Champlain in 1605 in the gardens of Indians on Cape Cod.
Today they are used both cooked and raw as a delicacy. Raw, they make excellent appetizers with a delicate mutty flavor. The crisp, crunchy texture lends itself well to salads. When cooked, the flavor is somewhat reminiscent of artichokes.
To prepare sunchokes for boiling or steaming, scrub tubers well, using a stiff brush. Cook in boiling salted water 10 to 12 minutes or until just tender-crisp. Don't overcook. Drain and cool slightly, then peel or rub the skin off. Cut in cubes or slices, season with melted butter, salt and pepper. One pound serves 3 to 4.
For steaming, wash thoroughly and steam for 20 to 25 minutes or until tender-crisp.
Boiled or steamed artichokes can be mashed but will not be a fluffy as mashed potatoes. Add butter and seasoning to the mashed vegetable or blend a cup of mashed artichokes with a cup of mashed carrots and season to taste.
Jerusalem artichokes are an excellent extender for meat loaf. A cup of cubed artichokes will give your meat loaf new interest.
Spinach is one of the vegetables that seems to be found in every cuisine. Although it is available fresh and frozen in the supermarkets year round it is at its best locally in early spring since it grows well in cool weather. Frozen spinach is a time saver because fresh spinach is somewhat of a chore to prepare. Still, fresh spinach is a must for some dishes.
To prepare, break the stems and tear them off just above where they meet the leaves. Plunge into medium-warm water, wash well, then plunge into cold water. Let stand in cold water for several minutes.
If the spinach is very sandy, give it 2 or 3 rinsings. Use 1/2 pound spinach per serving.
Spinach and Sour Cream 1 package frozen, chopped spinach 1 tablespoon butter 1 tablespoon flour 1 tablespoon finely chopped onion 1/2 cup sour cream Sal, pepper, seasoning salt to taste 1/4 cup bread crumbs for topping 2 sieved, hard-cooked egg yolks, optional
Cook spinach according to directions. Drain in sieve while blending melted butter, flour, onion. Stir in cream over low heat and correct seasoning according to taste. Combine spinach and sauce in buttered casserole, top with bread crumbs or sprinkle with hard-cooked egg yolks when ready to serve. Casserole can be kept in refrigerator until ready to serve, then heated about 30 minutes in 325 degree F. oven.
Spinach with Raisins 1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced 5 tablespoons oil 2 pounds spinach, cooked and drained 1/3 cup raisins 1/3 cup pine nuts Salt to taste
Saute garlic in oil until garlic is soft. Toss cooked and drained spinach with the oil and garlic and add nuts and raisins. Toss well and add salt to taste. Serves 4.
Layered Vegetable Casserole 3/4 pound zucchini (3 medium) 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese 3/4 cup regular wheat germ 1 egg 1 teaspoon salt 2 tablespoon flour 1/2 pound lean ground beef 1/2 cup minced celery 1 small onion, minced 1 medium clove garlic, minced 1/2 teaspoon pepper 18-ounce can tomato sauce
Shred zucchini and drain in sieve. Squeeze with back of spoon until dry. Mix zucchini with 1/2 cup cheese, 1/4 cup wheat germ, egg, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Press into bottom of 1 1/2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle with flour. Crumble beef into skillet. Add celery, onion, garlic, pepper, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Cook, stirring until beef is brown. Stir in remaining 1/2 cup wheat germ and half the tomato sauce. Spoon over zucchini base. Pour remaining tomato sauce on top. Sprinkle with last 1/2 cup cheese. Bake uncovered in 400 degree F. oven 30 minutes or until hot in center. Make 4 to 6 servings.
Spring Carrot Casserole 10 to 12 carrots 1 cup water 1/2 teaspoon salt 12 whole scallions 4 tablespoons melted butter 1/2 teaspoon salt 2 tablespoons honey Dash of pepper Grated rind 1/2 lemon Juice of 1/2 lemon
Cook carrots in covered saucepan with water for 9 minutes. Add salt and scallions and cook 3 minutes more. Drain, slice carrots lengthwise. Place in buttered casserole. Combine remaining ingridients then simmer a few minutes then pour over carrots. Heat, covered, in 350 degree F. oven for 15 minutes.