Cooks Exchange

Fresh veggies spring forth onto dinner tables

There are many creative ways to serve the seasonal bounty of vegetables for the family to enjoy.
There are many creative ways to serve the seasonal bounty of vegetables for the family to enjoy. MCT

It’s officially spring today.

The farmers’ markets are open, and early crops are starting to come in. A text from a friend led me to some fresh produce deliveries along the Coast. She said the vegetables looked and tasted great, so I decided to try the offerings.

DJ’s Produce from McHenry, which can be found on Facebook, has various delivery stops along the Coast, and the price is right, 25 pounds for $25.

I ended up with baby red potatoes, Vidalia green onions, multicolored corn, carrots and red, ripe tomatoes.

“Wow, Mom, look at these tomatoes. They look so good,” Elyssa said. Of course, she had to have one that night.

She’s not big on all vegetables as I have said before, but when she likes one, she really likes it. Tomatoes, asparagus, green beans, new potatoes, carrots and corn are all on her favorites list.

In addition to this produce, Rouse’s in Gulfport has had small asparagus spears, the kind both of us like best. I loaded up on asparagus and fresh Mandarin oranges, which my granddaughter also will eat. I bought fresh Brussels sprouts for me. Now, I never liked Brussels sprouts until I married my late husband; he loved them, so I learned to cook them in a variety of ways. Elyssa will eat them but isn’t keen on them.

The eating has been good and healthy at our house this past week. Elyssa likes the red potatoes boiled with Cajun seasoning, salt, pepper and butter and cooked down until the potatoes are still whole, but easily can be mashed with a fork.

Asparagus I cook simply in my microwave, which has a fresh vegetable setting: a little water, asparagus spears, salt, pepper, lemon slices and a couple of pats of butter. So good that Elyssa and I both take spears right out of the pot. Yes, I like Hollandaise sauce, but crisp-cooked asparagus doesn’t need it.

Now, I did try a new Brussels sprouts recipe that is done on the stovetop and finished off in the oven. The Brussels sprouts are cooked until tender but not mushy in a pan on top of the stove, then transferred to a casserole dish and mixed with Swiss and Parmesan cheeses, about a fourth cup of milk and a tablespoon of butter and baked until the cheese melts.

OMG! All I needed for dinner were the sprouts. Not too heavy, but creamy enough to melt in the mouth.

Another good asparagus dish is a quick sheet pan dinner with fresh shrimp, chipotle and lime, which works well for a quick dinner or even a dinner party during Lent or anytime actually. It can be done from start to finish in less than an hour.

If these veggies are any indication, spring and summer are going to be great for vegetables.

An e-mail from Ross Hardy, a Realtor in Spring Hill, Florida, was quick to point out that although spring is here; along the Gulf Coast last week, we wore jackets before noon. It was even frosty in some areas. He knows that another cold snap could be just around the corner before spring overcomes winter’s winds.

“Spring is in the air, but we've had some cooler weather this past week,” said Hardy. “While summer is lurking right around the corner, now is the perfect time to indulge in some warm comfort food before it gets too hot to enjoy it

“I tested this recipe for cauliflower soup with crispy chorizo, lime and cilantro. You can find it in the latest edition of American Lifestyle Magazine,” he said. “It came together inside of an hour, which was fantastic for a homemade dish on a busy weeknight.

“The result was a creamy, warm soup that tasted indulgent, but was actually chock-full of veggies and not heavy at all. The chorizo adds a smoky kick that pairs nicely with the cooling citrus-scented sour cream. It was filling enough to be eaten alone, or could be paired with a nice, fresh salad and some crusty bread. It also made a fair amount of soup, so this would also be a nice starter for a small crowd.”

Hardy’s employee Bella Baxter reviewed this soup recipe for American Lifestyle Magazine.

Sounds like the perfect soup for an Easter dinner.

Andrea Yeager can be reached at and Cooks Exchange, 205 DeBuys Road, Gulfport, MS 39507.

Cauliflower Soup with Crispy Chorizo, Lime and Cilantro

Olive oil

6 ounces chorizo, cut into 1/4-inch dice (use Spanish-style chorizo in casing, not loose Mexican-style chorizo)

2 cups (2–3 medium) chopped leeks, white and light green parts only

2 teaspoon chopped garlic

8 cups (about 1 1/2 pounds or use packaged florets) cauliflower florets

5 cups chicken broth or stock

Kosher salt

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 teaspoon grated lime zest

Freshly ground black pepper

Toasted breadcrumbs

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

In a heavy pot, over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil until hot. Add the chorizo and cook, stirring, until slightly crisp, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Set aside. Reduce the heat to medium and add the leeks to the drippings in the pan. Cook, stirring often until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute more. Add the cauliflower, broth, and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook until the cauliflower is very tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

Purée the soup in batches in a food processor, blender, or food mill. (Or use an immersion blender to purée the soup in the pot.) Whisk together the sour cream and the lime zest and stir half the mixture into the soup. Season the soup with more salt if needed and with 1/4 teaspoon or more black pepper. (Soup can be prepared two days ahead. Cook to this stage, then cool, cover, and refrigerate the sautéed chorizo and the sour cream separately. Reheat the soup over medium heat, stirring often.)

Ladle the soup into bowls. Garnish each serving with a dollop of the remaining sour cream. Serve with small bowls of chorizo, toasted breadcrumbs, and cilantro for sprinkling.

Submitted by Ross Hardy from original recipe from “Soup Nights” reprinted in American Lifestyle Magazine

Sheet Pan Chipotle Lime Shrimp Bake

1 1/2 pounds baby red potatoes, cut into 3/4-inch cubes

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

3/4 teaspoon sea salt, divided

3 medium limes

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

1 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper

1/3 pound fresh asparagus trimmed

1/2 pound broccoli or broccolini cut into small florets

1 pound uncooked shrimp (16-20) per pound, peeled and deveined

2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place potatoes in a greased 15-by-10-by-1-inch sheet pan; drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon sea salt; stir to combine. Bake 30 minutes. Meanwhile, squeeze 1/3 cup juice from limes, reserving fruit. Combine lime juice, melted butter, chipotle and remaining sea salt.

Remove sheet pan from oven; stir potatoes. Arrange asparagus, broccoli or broccolini, shrimp and reserved limes on top of potatoes. Pour lime juice mixture over vegetables and shrimp.

Bake until shrimp turn pink and vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro. Yield: 4 servings.

Nutritional data: For 1 serving, 394 calories, 17 grams fat (8 grams saturated fat), 168 milligrams cholesterol, 535 milligrams sodium, 41 grams carbohydrates (4 grams sugar, 6 grams fiber), 25 grams protein.

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