Fresh and Green

Recipes for renewal from Chef Heidi Fink

  • Mar. 25, 2020 7:30 a.m.

– Words and recipes by Chef Heidi Fink Photography by Don Denton

I am starting to get tired of winter fare. My appetite for rich stews and rib-sticking carbs has turned to a craving for fresh, green, crunchy, bitter and sour — flavours that remind me of spring and renewal. We might still be in the throes of winter, but my palate is reminding me that West Coast spring is just around the corner.

The notion of seasonal produce at this dreary time of year has always been fascinating to me. What is still considered “in season” in these hushed and cold months at the beginnings of spring? Many winter-storage vegetables and fruits are getting past their prime (although still delicious); many spring greens have yet to emerge or are in their earliest stages. How can I concoct something that satisfies my need for freshness without departing too much from the rhythms of our local growing season?

We can honour this time of year with a combination of local foods, greenhouse fare and a few imported seasonal items. For the last, citrus has always been my February go-to. The markets are overflowing with beautiful grapefruits, sweet limes, tangelos, Meyer lemons, blood oranges. Their sour, sweet or bitter juices taste of freshness and renewal, and perfectly complement winter vegetables than run to peppery, bitter or sharply green.

For the rest, I rely on a combination of greenhouse herbs, in-season greens (kale, arugula, chicory and the like), along with crunchy winter-storage vegetables and fruits (green apples, cauliflower, fennel, celery and pomegranate, to name a few).

Foods like this ignite a sluggish digestion, liven up a bored palate and possibly help to shed some winter pounds. More than that, they taste absolutely delicious. They satisfy my need for fresh and green.The flavour hit of fresh herbs, peppery greens, crunchy vegetables and sour citrus in late winter gives me the same feeling as when I emerge from a slow hibernation into the weak sunlight, to feel the fresh air and taste it.

I like to create simple dishes from these basic ingredients. Salads, soups, side dishes, plates of raw veggies or perhaps a smoothie. The recipes I’m sharing here are among my favourites in terms of flavour, texture and visual appeal. From a tart yet creamy green smoothie to the sweet crunch and bitter juice of a shaved fennel and grapefruit salad to the garlicky herbaceous hit of a re-imagined Green Goddess dressing, these “Recipes for Renewal” have got you covered. Spring, we are ready for you!

GREEN SMOOTHIE

Serves 2

Refreshing, slightly creamy and not too sweet, this smoothie is perfect for breakfast or an afternoon snack. The unsweetened oat milk provides a lovely mouthfeel and light sweetness; feel free to substitute another milk of your choice.

1 medium ripe banana, peeled

¼ ripe avocado, peeled and chopped

2 cups (500 ml) packed spinach leaves

1 small or ¾ large green apple, peeled, cored and chopped

1 to 1½ cup (240 to 370 ml) unsweetened oat milk

Optional – ½ scoop unflavoured protein powder

Place all ingredients in a blender and purée until smooth. Pour into two glasses and serve immediately.

Iam starting to get tired of winter fare. My appetite for rich stews and rib-sticking carbs has turned to a craving for fresh, green, crunchy, bitter and sour — flavours that remind me of spring and renewal. We might still be in the throes of winter, but my palate is reminding me that West Coast spring is just around the corner.

The notion of seasonal produce at this dreary time of year has always been fascinating to me. What is still considered “in season” in these hushed and cold months at the beginnings of spring? Many winter-storage vegetables and fruits are getting past their prime (although still delicious); many spring greens have yet to emerge or are in their earliest stages. How can I concoct something that satisfies my need for freshness without departing too much from the rhythms of our local growing season?

We can honour this time of year with a combination of local foods, greenhouse fare and a few imported seasonal items. For the last, citrus has always been my February go-to. The markets are overflowing with beautiful grapefruits, sweet limes, tangelos, Meyer lemons, blood oranges. Their sour, sweet or bitter juices taste of freshness and renewal, and perfectly complement winter vegetables than run to peppery, bitter or sharply green.

For the rest, I rely on a combination of greenhouse herbs, in-season greens (kale, arugula, chicory and the like), along with crunchy winter-storage vegetables and fruits (green apples, cauliflower, fennel, celery and pomegranate, to name a few).

Foods like this ignite a sluggish digestion, liven up a bored palate and possibly help to shed some winter pounds. More than that, they taste absolutely delicious. They satisfy my need for fresh and green.The flavour hit of fresh herbs, peppery greens, crunchy vegetables and sour citrus in late winter gives me the same feeling as when I emerge from a slow hibernation into the weak sunlight, to feel the fresh air and taste it.

I like to create simple dishes from these basic ingredients. Salads, soups, side dishes, plates of raw veggies or perhaps a smoothie. The recipes I’m sharing here are among my favourites in terms of flavour, texture and visual appeal. From a tart yet creamy green smoothie to the sweet crunch and bitter juice of a shaved fennel and grapefruit salad to the garlicky herbaceous hit of a re-imagined Green Goddess dressing, these “Recipes for Renewal” have got you covered. Spring, we are ready for you!

GREEN GODDESS DIP OR DRESSING

Makes 1 ½ cups (375 ml)

An updated spin on the classic herb and mayo salad dressing, this one pumps up the ratio of herbs and uses avocado for creaminess. Tangy, green and flavourful — you will love this. It can be used either as a salad dressing or as a dip for crudités.

1 cup (250 ml) packed flat leaf parsley

¼ cup (60 ml) sliced chives

1 ½ Tbsp. (22 ml) white miso (e.g. Hikari brand)

½ avocado, chopped

½ cup (125 ml) buttermilk

2 Tbsp. (30 ml) chopped cilantro

1 small clove garlic, peeled

¼ cup (60 ml) extra virgin olive oil

3 to 4 Tbsp. (45 to 60 ml) lemon juice

Place all ingredients in a blender and purée. Taste to adjust seasonings. Transfer to a bowl for serving, or a glass jar for storing in the fridge. This dressing keeps in the refrigerator for up to four days.

WINTER CRUDITÉS

Serves 6 to 8

This extra-crunchy, complex and refreshing take on a classic veg-and-dip platter is just what the doctor ordered at this time of year. Allow the underdog vegetables to shine here. Pay special attention to how the vegetables are prepared and arranged. The platter will wow your guests.

Choose three to four of the following vegetable options:

6 small carrots

Hearts of 2 bunches celery (“hearts” means the small,

yellowish centre stems)

1 bunch red radishes OR ½ large daikon radish

1 bulb fennel

1 whole endive

1 bunch broccolini or sprouting broccoli

½ head cauliflower, separated into florets

½ purple cabbage

Green Goddess Dip (recipe above)

Carrots: peel and cut into very long thin sticks.

Red Radishes: stem, rinse and serve whole or cut in half, depending on size.

Daikon Radish: peel and cut into either rounds or long sticks.

Fennel: slice into the thinnest wedges you can.

Endive: slice off bottom end and separate the leaves; cut large leaves in half lengthwise if desired.

Broccolini: cut the bottom 2 cm of stem off; blanch broccolini for 30 seconds in boiling water and cool before adding to the platter.

Cauliflower: separate into florets; cut some florets in half. Blanch like the broccolini, if desired.

Purple cabbage: cut into thin wedges.

Choose your vegetables based on flavour, shape and colour. You can pick a mono-chromatic colour palette (e.g. pale yellow-white with daikon, endive, cauliflower and celery hearts) or go for vibrancy with purple cabbage, broccolini, carrot and red radishes. Or focus on the shape: all long thin crudités; or contrasting shapes for a different visual appeal. The choice is completely yours.

Arrange your selection of vegetables on a beautiful platter and place a bowl of the Green Goddess Dip in the centre or on the side. Another option is to arrange the vegetables in different sizes of Mason jars around the dip.

CELERY, GREEN APPLE AND POMEGRANATE SALAD

Serves 4 as a side

One of my favourite winter salads, this comes together easily with its simple honey-mustard vinaigrette. Make sure to slice the cucumber and apple as thinly as possible. Use a mandoline for the celery if you have one.

Dressing

¼ cup (60 ml) extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup (60 ml) apple cider vinegar

2 Tbsp. (30 ml) honey

½ tsp. (2.5 ml) Dijon mustard

½ tsp. (2.5 ml) salt

¼ tsp. (1 ml) ground black pepper

1 Tbsp. (15 ml) minced chives

Salad

4 to 5 large stalks celery, sliced very thin

1 large green apple, quartered and sliced very thin

Seeds from ½ pomegranate

Several handfuls of arugula leaves

¼ head radicchio, sliced

Dressing: whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl until well mixed. Transfer to a small Mason jar or glass dressing cruet. Dressing can be saved in the refrigerator up to one week. Shake or mix well before using.

Salad: place arugula and radicchio on a large platter, evenly mixed. Arrange celery and apple over the greens. Scatter pomegranate seeds over the top. Drizzle with dressing. Serve.

FENNEL & GRAPEFRUIT SALAD

Serves 4 as a side

Slightly sweet, slightly bitter, super refreshing, this is a sophisticated salad, wonderful for use as a starter or palate cleanser for a meal of rich roasted meats. Make sure to slice the fennel very thin; use a mandoline if you have one.

Salad:

1 large fennel bulb, quartered, cored and shaved thin on a mandoline

3 large ruby grapefruit, peel sliced off and sections cut from the membranes

Dressing:

2 Tbsp. (30 ml) lemon juice

2 Tbsp. (30 ml) grapefruit juice

2 tsp. (10 ml) honey

½ tsp. (2.5 ml) salt

½ tsp. (2.5 ml) ground black pepper

½ tsp. (2.5 ml) Dijon mustard

¼ cup (60 ml) extra virgin olive oil

Dressing: whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl until well mixed. Transfer to a small Mason jar or glass dressing cruet. Dressing can be saved in the refrigerator for up to one week. Shake or mix well before using.

Salad: place shaved fennel and sectioned grapefruit in a large salad bowl. Add about ¾ cup (180 ml) of the dressing. Toss well to mix. Taste to see if it needs more dressing. Arrange on a platter and serve immediately.

For more recipes from Chef Heidi Fink visit her site www.chefheidifink.com

Story courtesy of Boulevard Magazine, a Black Press Media publication

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