Get creative while waiting for spring’s harvest

Preparing springtime holiday celebrations like Easter and Passover can be a tough job if, like me, you’re in a cold weather climate. Here in Maine, the daffodils are blooming, tree buds are swelling, and the sun is getting stronger. We feel the itch of summer’s approach, and we’re looking forward to the fresh garden produce; the problem is that even our earliest produce is a good month away. Even our wild spring delicacies like rhubarb, fiddlehead ferns and ramps aren’t interested in helping out. Of course, those of us with root cellars can stick with our own garden stashes, but really, at this point I’m sick of winter squash, beets, and potatoes.

What’s left? The store. And really, the supermarket can be a goldmine, as long as you look for fruits and vegetables whose quality is least likely to be affected by their tenure on the shelf. So certainly, you’ll want to prioritize local and organic forced-season selections such as hardy greens like kale or hothouse tomatoes and cucumbers. I saw lovely fresh spring onions the other day, and Craig, one of my local farmers, is already cutting spinach in his greenhouse.

Whether you’re doing a traditional meal or something more exotic for your special occasion spring menus, make some easy substitutions in your favorite recipes to highlight the coming warmth and the little treats springing from the spring soil. And when Mother Nature denies you the tastes of the garden you crave, your local grocer’s offerings provide an excellent opportunity to tide you over until your favorites appear.

Expert-Chef-Stuffing

My Wild Mushroom Stuffing is an easy way to slip fresh spring flavors into a traditional family favorite. Substitute those spring onions–green tops and all–for the leeks and go ahead and skip the rosemary to let the flavor of the chives and onions shine. Add four cups of baby spinach leaves–your local crop or the bagged ones from the store–into the pan after sauteeing the rest of the vegetables. Simply cook them until they wilt–over medium-high heat–until the moisture that they exude evaporates. Then proceed with the recipe as written and your result will be a lovely, veggie-flecked stuffing chock full of the tastes of the season. The bright flavor of this version of stuffing is an excellent accompaniment to spring lamb and baked ham, and everyone around you will appreciate the thought you’ve given to providing them with a healthy and tasty reminder that winter is over and summer is just around the corner.

Wild Mushroom Stuffing

Print this recipe | Get the full nutrition facts

This recipe makes a stuffing that is crunchy on top and moist inside. If your family prefers crunchier or drier stuffing, make individual servings in muffin cups for the maximum amount of crunchy edge bits.

Servings: 16 (134 G)

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 1 hour 30 min.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups chopped leeks
  • 1½ cups diced celery
  • 1 lb. shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1 tsp. salt, divided
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh sage
  • 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh chives
  • ½ tsp. pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg white
  • ½ cup skim milk
  • 1 (1 lb.) loaf white whole wheat bread, cubed

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Coat a 9″ x 13″ baking pan with cooking spray.
  2. In a 12″ non-stick sauté pan, sauté the shiitake mushrooms in 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat until browned and moisture has evaporated (6-8 minutes).
  3. Add ¼ teaspoon salt, reduce heat to medium, and stirring frequently, continue cooking until mushrooms are dark brown and caramelized (6-8 minutes). Move the mushrooms to a large bowl and set aside.
  4. To the same pan, add remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sauté leeks and celery with ½ teaspoon salt until soft (6-7 minutes). Transfer to bowl with mushrooms.
  5. In the same pan, add stock, thyme, rosemary, and sage and simmer for 1 minute.
  6. Transfer stock to the bowl of vegetables. Stir in the parsley, chives, and pepper. Set aside.
  7. Beat the egg and egg white together with milk and remaining ¼ teaspoon salt. Stir egg/milk mixture and bread into the vegetables. Transfer to prepared baking dish and bake until set and brown (30-35 minutes).

About the Expert Chef

Erin Dow balances three food worlds. As a mother of three young children, she’s fighting the battle every parent faces: how to keep her kids interested in the foods that keep them healthy.

As the chef and owner of her catering company Eatswell Farm, she utilizes original recipes and techniques–focused on enhancing the enjoyment of locally-sourced ingredients–to best interpret the client’s vision. And as Consulting Executive Chef for Falmouth-based Professional Catering Services, a business specializing in production and backstage catering for concerts, she develops and executes menus that accommodate the strict nutritional requirements of the music industry elite.

Erin and her family raise their own chicken for meat and eggs, have dabbled in pastured Narragansett turkeys, and have a very weedy but very large and productive garden.