Snow turns to mud. Mud turns to bright shades of green bursting forth. Catching a glimpse of the first greens of the season poking up through the ground is certainly energizing, a harbinger of gloriously warmer days ahead. And it’s a promise of fresher tasting meals to come after a cold, dark winter featuring a steady rotation of heavier fare. You could be forgiven for not wanting to see another root vegetable.
There are so many greens, cultivated and wild, to add into your culinary repertoire for vibrant flavour nuances and plenty of nutrition. These days, there’s a cacophony of advice about what constitutes a healthy way to eat, but there’s one thing that virtually every diet agrees on: you should eat more greens. For very few calories, you get a payload of body-benefitting antioxidants and micronutrients from spinach, asparagus, and their ilk.
Get into the spirit of the season with these green-themed recipes that focus on what’s fresh and exciting. Consider them a springboard into refreshing flavours that will have you working everything from sprightly asparagus to peppery arugula into your diet every which way. It’s time to awaken your taste buds from hibernation.
A spread of vibrant pea hummus adds an extra layer of nuance to these lunch wraps—a great way to breathe new life into your sandwich routine. If desired, sorrel or basil can replace the mint in the hummus. And if you want to go plant only, slices of smoked/baked tofu are a good stand-in for chicken. Go ahead and use leftovers of the hummus as a dip or a spread for other sandwiches.
These saucy noodles will bring a fiery kick to your spring menu and show that delicious plant-based eating can spill over into different cuisines of the world. Dandelion greens or tender spring spinach are good stand-ins for watercress. Place the bottle of chili sauce on the table for anyone who wants to really bring the heat.
This frittata seems complex, yet it has a decided simplicity that makes for an exciting meal even on a busy weeknight. Whether store-bought or foraged from your lawn or local park, dandelion greens lend pesto a pleasant earthy bitterness. Spring arugula would serve well as a green substitution. Smoked salmon is a good stand-in for trout, or you can use previously cooked fresh trout or salmon.
These days, you can get asparagus, arugula, and green peas year round. But the local growing season for these items is fleeting, so when they’re available be sure to catch them while you can to add hyper-seasonal flair to your diet.
|Green||Tasting notes||Culinary uses|
|dandelion greens||One person’s weed-filled lawn might be another person’s salad bar. Recognizable by their jagged-edged leaves, dandelion greens are bitter tasting when raw, but less so when cooked.||Serve atop burgers or grilled cheese, toss with other salad greens, sauté and toss with scrambled eggs, add to pasta dishes, or purée in soups and sauces.|
|fiddleheads||The tightly coiled fronds of the ostrich fern have a crisp texture and a flavour that wanders somewhere between asparagus and broccoli.||From stir-fries to frittatas and pizza, you can use fiddleheads in almost any recipe calling for cooked asparagus. They’re also great when simply sautéed and seasoned with salt and olive oil.|
|garlic scapes||The curly shoots from the garlic plant have a less pungent punch and fresher vegetal flavour than formed garlic bulbs.||In any recipe that calls for garlic—sautés, sauces, pestos, stir-fries, and more—you can substitute garlic scapes. Since they’re milder, you may want to use more to get a stronger flavour. That also means you can use them raw, like you would green onions, without their flavour overpowering a dish.|
|garlic mustard||This wild edible has earned the title of being invasive in many geographical areas. The scallop-edged leaves have a taste that is, you guessed it, a cross between mustard greens and garlic. As temperatures warm, the flavour becomes more bitter.||Toss into mashed potato, stir into a pot of cooked grains, add straight-up into salads, or fold into minestrone and other chunky soups. It’s also another candidate for a pesto green.|
|ramps||Also known as wild leeks, ramps are a wild onion native to North America with a lively garlicky flavour. Both the small white bulbs and broad green leaves are edible.||Blend all parts of ramps into pestos or use in recipes like you would garlic. They’re also great when pickled to extend their season. Or toss a bunch of whole ramps on the grill to pick up a bit of smoky char and then serve with squirts of lemon juice.|
|sorrel||The perennial herb that is related to rhubarb has a noticeable tang, which is why it’s been called “lemonade in a leaf.” Its lip-puckering flavour, however, wanes with cooking.||Treat it like you would other delicate greens or herbs and add to salads, sandwiches, lentil stews, pesto, soups, and even smoothies.|
When it comes to greens, herbs prove that amazing things can come in small packages. Concentrated in flavour compounds, they’re the rock stars of healthy eating by exciting and rousing the taste buds.
Nearly every spring-minded dish imaginable, from soups to salads and frittatas, can benefit from fresh tastes of thyme, basil, mint, and other herbs. Not to be overlooked, the range of herbs will imbue dishes with extra nutritional potency as they contain an arsenal of important micronutrients and antioxidants.
In fact, the liberal use of herbs such as parsley and oregano are thought to be one reason why the famed Mediterranean diet is so darn healthy. This is all to say that whatever you’re cooking, be sure to keep a bunch of green herbs nearby to ramp up the flavour and nutrition with very little effort.
If you struggle to eat enough green vegetables, or simply want to top up the nutrition you’re already getting from your daily salads, adding a scoop of greens powders into your daily routine can be a wise move.
Made by dehydrating various vegetables, fruits, and other compounds and then crushing them into a fine powder, greens powders are typically a nutrient-dense, antioxidant-rich product. They’re definitely an insurance policy worth taking out.
Flavours and dissolvability have improved, making it easy to add them to water, smoothies, and a bowl of yogurt. But what these powders are not is a direct substitute for vegetables and fruits.
Get J-C Poirier talking about food, and the word “honest” will be sprinkled throughout the conversation like the Diamond Crystal kosher salt the Michelin-starred chef uses in the kitchen of his Quebecois bistro, St. Lawrence, in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Honest food Poirier’s favourite food is “honest food.” As a culinarian, and one paying homage to his French-Canadian heritage, he’s all about “being honest with his food.” But unlike the opaque marketing buzzword that “honest” has become in the food world, Poirier applies it with earnestness to the cooking that inspires him and that he hopes to encourage in others, including with his recently released cookbook, Where the River Narrow s (Appetite by Random House, 2022) . “What I mean is, you’ve got to be attentive to yourself as a chef or as a cook. It comes by knowing yourself and your background, and where you come from,” Poirier says. “Being honest is offering a part of who you are. That’s how I know the difference between good cooking and great cooking.” Honest roots Poirier comes by his greatness at cooking, well, honestly. All apron strings lead back to his bon vivant mother, who was as convivial as she was creative in the kitchen of the family’s Saint-Jérôme, Quebec, home. She bought local and stretched a dollar. She also pushed boundaries with the young taste buds around the table, exposing Poirier to quinoa before it became a household grain and making her own tofu. Honest training The magic of cooking and gathering over a meal compelled Poirier to eventually enrol in culinary school. He spent a year training in classical French techniques before putting them to the test in the storied Les Remparts in Old Montreal. Poirier was drawn to the physical aspect of cooking, but like many young people forging their own path, he was eventually lured away from the place that reared him. Vancouver beckoned. After stints at Rob Feenie’s Lumière, and even in his own Italian-inspired dining rooms and eateries, a meal in Paris inspired Poirier to get back to his roots in the kitchen. In 2017, he opened St. Lawrence, a cozy 40-seat space that’s like “entering my grandma’s house.” “It’s being authentic to myself,” he says. Honest legacy Poirier retraces his professional journey and personal growth in < Where the River Narrows > using recipes that channel timeless and foundational French and Quebecois cooking techniques, and a more relaxed Poirier at home. If he’s being honest, Poirier hopes the book will be a legacy to share with his two young daughters, Aïla and Florence. It also serves as a business card for a restaurant that’s earning prestigious accolades, including Chef of the Year and Restaurant of the Year by Vancouver Magazine . Last fall, dining authority Michelin bestowed one of its coveted stars upon St. Lawrence, too. Honest values That success can be linked to the professional values Poirier upholds in addition to raw talent. He leads by healthy example, eschewing alcohol, especially on the job, and espousing work-life balance by opening St. Lawrence only four days a week. He also offers employment benefits, including four weeks of vacation every year. His staff stay, and success follows honestly. Looking ahead, Poirier knows only that he will stay true—to himself and his craft. “I’ll just keep going forward and try to be me,” he says. “And my team? Try to be better and better every day at what we do, and the rest will come.” Key ingredients Quality over quantity is as much a mantra for J-C Poirier as honesty, especially when it comes to ingredients. That’s why he encourages home cooks to splurge on premium options. They make a significant difference to the end result, he argues, and because of their quality, you’ll need less of them, too, extending their value. Poirier’s essential top-shelf ingredients grass-fed, cultured butter organic all-purpose flour for baking; whole wheat, buckwheat, and Red Fife flours for bread making top-notch oils for a variety of purposes, including grapeseed oil for cooking, first-pressed canola oil for salad dressing, and extra-virgin olive oil for finishing dishes Diamond Crystal kosher salt for seasoning food and Maldon sea salt for a finishing touch to add texture high quality vinegars, including red wine, balsamic, and apple cider Cooking for the health of it French food doesn’t always conjure healthy eating. After all, the French eat four times as much butter and 60 percent more cheese than the average American. There are health-conscious ways to stay true to both your inner gastronome and the cuisine, however. For J-C Poirier, it’s cooking with emotion, logic, and love, and remembering the following. Less is more “I don’t need a 10 ounce piece of beef. I need maybe four or five, and a really high quality,” Poirier says. “I pay the price for it, but I just eat less.” Eat the seasons “In the summer, I will buy all the vegetables from the farm,” he explains. “When it’s asparagus season, we eat asparagus. In the winter, we eat potatoes and parsnips and sunchokes.” Cook for yourself—and from scratch “A lot of people buy processed food, and that has a higher amount of salt or sugar than if I start from scratch and control what I put in there.” Watch your fat Use high-end, pure versions of butter and cooking oils rather than refined options or those cut with other ingredients that could negatively impact health. “It’s being a little more aware, I think, of what people are buying,” Poirier says. Excerpted from < Where the River Narrows: Classic French & Nostalgic Québécois Recipes From St. Lawrence Restaurant > by Jean-Christophe Poirier. Written with Joie Alvaro Kent. Copyright © 2022 Jean- Christophe Poirier. Cover and book design by Jennifer Griffiths. Photography by Brit Gill, except page 148. Photo on page 8 by Amy Ho. Photos on pages 2, 5, and 6 courtesy of the author. Published by Appetite by Random House, a division of Penguin
Tourtière is, for me, the dish that best represents Québec. It can be traced back to the 1600s, and there’s no master recipe; every family has their own twist. Originally, it was made with game birds or game meat, like rabbit, pheasant, or moose; that’s one of the reasons why I prefer it with venison instead of beef or pork. Variation: If you prefer to make single servings, follow our lead at the restaurant, where we make individual tourtières in the form of a dome (pithivier) and fill them with 5 ounces (160 g) of the ground venison mixture. Variation: You can also use a food processor to make the dough. Place the flour, salt, and butter in the food processor and pulse about ten times, until the butter is incorporated—don’t overmix. It should look like wet sand, and a few little pieces of butter here and there is okay. With the motor running, through the feed tube, slowly add ice water until the dough forms a ball—again don’t overmix. Wrap, chill, and roll out as directed above.
My love of artichokes continues with this classic recipe, one of the best ways to eat this interesting, underrated, and strange vegetable. Frozen artichoke hearts are a time-saving substitute, though the flavour and texture of fresh artichokes are, by far, much superior and definitely preferred.