I’m on a spring vegetable high, friends; it’s the week I test-drive potential Easter recipes. I give myself a considerable amount of freedom with Easter side dishes, mostly because my family insists upon having ham as the main: It’s 2019, and still no one will let me roast a leg of frigging lamb. So I spend most of my time on the sides: vegetable-forward, fresh, bright stuff befitting the weather, which has been particularly nice this year. Like Thanksgiving, I could do an entirely vegetarian menu at Easter and be completely satisfied, so I take my sides (and desserts, let’s be honest) very seriously.
I’m currently holding two cookbooks hostage from the library: Gail Simmons’ Bringing it Home and Edward Lee’s Buttermilk Graffiti. Have I been watching Top Chef reruns? Yes I have. I found this recipe in Gail’s book, and I thought it may work perfectly as an easter dish: intensely green with fresh herbs and lemon, and not overworked. In the book, it’s the verdant base for beautiful seared scallops, but it clearly stands on its own as a side dish minus the protein. You can serve it warm or at room temperature, which is a bonus when you’re trying to get things on the table, and it’s really some chopping, toasting, and throwing things in a pan for a few minutes, and you’re done. Really, that’s it.
The gremolata is a must here: make double if you want extra, but one batch does the trick for me, because it keeps it pretty familiar for people who aren’t used to a big hit of herbs or lemon. I’ve adapted the recipe to include a little verjus if you have it: it’s one of those chef-y ingredients that I have kicking around, because it’s super versatile and I love it, enough to write an article about it awhile back – still one of my fave ingredients, especially in the spring and summer for dressings and things like this. Read more about what verjus is here, but know that it’s not a deal-breaker for this recipe at all: use a little white wine vinegar in its place, maybe, or just leave it out.
Adapted from Bringing it Home: Favorite Recipes from a Life of Adventurous Eating by Gail Simmons.
Serves | 8 to 10 |
There’s no hard and fast herb you need to stick with for gremolata, and in spring, our mint is hit or miss. I love it here, but if it’s looking anemic, use all parsley, or a combo of parsley and basil.
Add-ins: I like this light and fresh as is, but if you really wanted to get a little more layered with it, add some shaved parmesan or crisped bacon crumbled on top…both would fit in nicely, but are completely optional: just depends on what you’re going for.
for the gremolata:
- 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, packed OR 1/4 cup parsley and 1/4 cup mint, both finely chopped
- 4 tsp lemon zest, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 2 tsp verjus (optional – see notes above in post)
for the rest of it:
- 1/3 cup pine nuts
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 3 to 4 Tbsp shallot, finely minced
- 1 lb asparagus, ends trimmed, cut diagonally in 1 to 2 inch lengths
- 2 cups frozen (or fresh) peas, thawed under cold water if frozen
- 5 oz spinach (about 5 cups packed)
- kosher or sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
| Preparation – Gremolata | Combine chopped mint (or whatever fresh herbs you’re using), lemon zest and garlic in a small bowl and toss together: add the verjus olive oil to bring it all together and set aside.
| Preparation – The rest of it | Add pine nuts to a small skillet and set over medium heat. Toast, stirring frequently, until deep golden and fragrant; set aside.
Add olive oil to a large skillet (we’re definitely talking 12 inches here) and heat over medium; add shallot and cook, stirring, 1 to 2 minutes until soft. Add asparagus and cook 3 minutes until crisp-tender, then add peas and cook another 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Transfer the vegetables to a mixing bowl, scraping everything out of the pan into the bowl. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil and heat; add in spinach and cook until just wilted, 1 to 2 minutes, max: don’t kill it. Transfer into bowl with vegetables and add gremolata: toss to evenly distribute it. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with toasted pine nuts, and serve.