S.P.R.I.N.G. – Five spring vegetable recipes to enhance a plant-based lifestyle

Spring is in full bloom and this is the perfect time to take advantage of nature’s bounty. There is so much produce to choose from it is hard to choose just one or two favorites. For this edition, the MCM staff decided to have fun with acronyms! Using SPRING as our inspiration, we are highlighting different veggies for each letter and including a plant-based recipe for each. Prepare to harvest your garden or hit your local farmer’s market and fill your plates with a healthy rainbow of flavors as you follow along from “S” to “G”!

First up, “S” is for Spinach

Packed with iron and vitamins A and C, spinach is a super food that is equally delicious raw or cooked.

Raw Spinach Cheesecake

Here is a unique and show stopping recipe that incorporates fresh spinach and basil. The cashew cream lends a luscious yet light texture to this most creative “cheesecake”.  A bit of prep time required but it is fairly simple. The raw cashews must be soaked for three hours and the sundried tomatoes for 20-30 minutes. Once you’ve made the cheesecake you pop it in the freezer for another 3 hours. There is no baking time since this is a raw dish, so the assembly is quick.

Dairy-free, vegan, gluten-free

Preparation time: 7 hours including 3 hours to soak the cashews in advance and 3 hours to freeze the cheesecake after assembly.

Serves 6-8

Crust Ingredients:

  • 1 cup unsalted, raw, organic sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup flaxseed
  • 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Cheesecake Filling:

  • 2 cups raw, organic cashews
  • 2 tablespoons organic lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups lightly packed fresh, organic baby spinach
  • ¼ cup fresh organic basil

Directions:

  1. Place cashews in a glass bowl, cover with water and soak for 3 hours. Rinse well under running water and drain.
  2. Cover the sun-dried tomatoes with boiling water and leave to soak for about 20-30 minutes. Drain once soft.
  3. To make the crust, use a food processor or blender to process sunflower seeds until broken down, but not completely ground. Add drained sun-dried tomatoes, flaxseed, oregano, sea salt, and olive oil and process until the mixture sticks together.
  4. Press the mixture evenly onto bottom of a spring-form round cake tin and set aside.
  5. Place cashews into blender with water and lemon juice and blend until smooth and creamy. Add nutritional yeast, garlic, sea salt, and black pepper and blend again. Finally add washed spinach and basil and blend just until incorporated.
  6. Spoon the mixture onto the crust layer and smooth out the top. It will be of thick consistency.
  7. Place into freezer for about 3 hours to set.
  8. Remove from the tin once set.
  9. Garnish with fresh spinach or basil leaves and a sprinkling of sunflower seeds.

Note: In the unlikely event there are leftovers, store in freezer for up to one week.

“P” is for Spring Garden Peas

They are bright, sweet, and if prepared properly, slightly crunchy. Spring is the only time of year that fresh peas taste better than frozen. Their high sugar content begins to dissipate immediately after they are picked, causing them to become starchy and flavorless. Look for plump, medium to small sized garden peas and prepare them as soon as possible. Bonus if you find pea shoots or sprouts…they make a terrific garnish.

Vegan Spring Green Pea Salad

Dairy-free, vegan, gluten-free

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup diced red onion
  • 2 cups fresh green peas
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 1 cup beets, sliced
  • 8 slices tempeh bacon, diced
  • 1 cup vegan ranch dressing (buy prepared or see recipe below)

Directions:

  1. Soak diced red onion in cold water for 5-10 minutes; drain
  2. Combine the onions, peas, parsley, avocado, beets, and tempeh bacon in a medium mixing bowl.
  3. Add ½ cup of dressing, stir gently.
  4. Drizzle with more dressing to taste.

 Vegan Ranch Dressing

  • 1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp vegan mayo
  • 1/4 cup dill pickle juice
  • 1/3 cup oat milk
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp parsley, dried
  • 1 tsp dill, dried
  • 1 tsp chives, dried
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Whisk all ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Store in refrigerator up to one week.

Note:  You can sub almond or soy milk, but oat milk has the most similar taste to dairy milk.

“R” is for Ramps

If you see a sign on the side of the road for ramps, pull over! Trust me. This seasonal delicacy will delight your taste buds. The window of opportunity is small. If you have never tried them before, you are in for a treat. Not a scallion or a wild leek, they are cousins of the alliums but possess a flavor all their own.

Here is a simple recipe that allows their true colors to shine through.

Grilled Ramps with Lemon and Sea Salt

Dairy-free, vegan, gluten-free

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 2 bunches fresh ramps
  • Olive Oil
  • Fresh lemon juice
  • Sea Salt

Directions:

Rinse ramps well, trimming off bottoms and any wilted outer leaves. Brush with olive oil and place on prepared indoor or outdoor grill. These are delicate vegetables so using a mesh grill mat is a good idea. Grill for 2-3 minutes over medium heat. Remove from grill and arrange on a serving platter. Squeeze fresh lemon wedges over ramps and sprinkle with sea salt. Then dive in. Your taste buds will thank you!

 “I” is for Iceberg Lettuce

Iceberg Lettuce has gotten a bad rep the last few years as kale and arugula take center stage. But don’t count it out. Iceberg is the still the best vehicle for cool, crispy lettuce wraps, a delightful springtime treat.

Asian Plant-Based Lettuce Wraps

Dairy-free, vegan, gluten-free

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 1 T plus 1 t sesame oil
  • ¼ cup hoisin sauce
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 11/2 T rice wine vinegar
  • 1 T chili garlic sauce
  • 1 T fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 t coconut sugar or agave
  • 16 ounces ground plant-based meat substitute
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large red onion, diced
  • 8 oz water chestnuts, drained and finely chopped
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced – reserve one for garnish
  • 1 head iceberg lettuce
  • 3 T crushed dry roasted peanuts
  • Crispy rice noodles, optional garnish

Directions:

  1. In a medium mixing bowl stir together 1 t sesame oil, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, garlic chili sauce, ginger and sugar or agave. Reserve.
  2. Heat remaining sesame oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.
  3. Add onion and cook until tender, 3 -4 minutes.
  4. Add garlic and ground plant-based meat substitute. Cook 3-4 minutes.
  5. Stir in chopped water chestnuts and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Add in green onions and sauce mixture. Cook another 1-2 minutes.

To serve, spoon several tablespoons of the mixture into the center of a lettuce leaf. Garnish with sliced green onion, rice noodles, and crushed peanuts.

“N” is for New Potatoes

New potatoes are harvested in spring and early summer. Smaller and thin skinned, their taste is sweeter than a traditional potato, making them perfect candidate for potato salad and roasted potatoes.

Roasted New Potatoes with Onions and Garlic

Dairy-free, vegan, gluten-free

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Serves 4-6

  • 2 pounds of new potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup dry onion flakes
  • 3 teaspoons parsley flakes
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • ? teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375
  2. Combine all ingredients in a large zipper plastic bag and shake vigorously to coat potatoes. Alternatively, combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl, stirring well so potatoes are evenly coated with seasonings.
  3. Spread potatoes on a large cookie sheet
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes

And last but not least, “G” is for Garlic

Roasted Garlic Cream Sauce

This simple, tasty sauce can be used as an alfredo sauce on pasta, the ideal white sauce for homemade pizza, topping for crostini, or a tasty dip

Dairy-free, vegan, gluten-free

Preparation time: 20-25 minutes

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 6 large cloves garlic, split in half
  • olive oil (for drizzling, omit for oil-free)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 (16-oz) package silken tofu
  • 6 cloves roasted garlic
  • 3 T vegan parmesan
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 2 T olive oil (optional)
  • 1 t sea salt
  • 1/2 t onion powder

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 400F
  2. Place garlic in small, oven-proof dish
  3. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt
  4. Bake for 10-12 minutes, turning over halfway through. Watch carefully and remove when browned.
  5. Put all sauce ingredients in a blender or Vitamix and blend on high until well combined.
  6. Adjust seasoning as desired.
Lori Rodgers – Lori’s passion for food and fine dining began at an early age. She started reading Gourmet at 8, and was fortunate to have a father who included her in his travels to cites across the US, often frequenting restaurants she had read about in the magazine. After studying hotel and restaurant management at FSU for two years and thoroughly enjoying the summer program in Switzerland, she graduated with a degree in International Business with a minor in Spanish. Lori owned and operated the family business, Bert Rodgers Schools of Real Estate for 25 years, indulging her cooking hobby by whipping up meals for family and friends on the weekends. She has two teenagers who have adopted a vegan lifestyle, adding a new challenge to Lori’s cooking repertoire. Lori recently sold the business and is embarking on a new chapter and new career, returning to her true calling, cooking and exploring the multifaceted world of food!
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