First the Vegetables

I like it when vegetables are the stars of a dish. Meat and seafood usually reign in south Louisiana, but spring and summer vegetables are wonderful enough to take over some entrées – with or without added protein.

Whether growing your own or scouring the markets, there’s nothing like fresh snippets of dill and basil, and first-to-arrive vegetables such as squash, peas, spinach, asparagus and peppers.

Roasting is a trendy way to go with asparagus and pea pods. It brings out their sweetness and is the quickest way to put healthful food on the table. They tempt you to pick them up and eat them whole. The recipe here for roasting asparagus and peas in the pod includes spring varieties, but feel free to add halved Brussels sprouts, parboiled carrots and other root vegetables shipped in from tropical climates. Kids will love them.

Louisiana cooks are always tempted to stuff, and vegetables are the prime targets. Squash, like eggplant and mirlitons, seem meant for stuffing with seafood or meat, or just cheese and seasonings. Others go well with eggs in frittatas or omelets and pair well with potatoes in Spanish tortillas.

Spring is the best time for diets for those getting ready for summer bathing suits. Strawberries, fresh veggies, plus crawfish. Life couldn’t be better.

Spinach and Red Bell Pepper Frittata

2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 red bell pepper, cut into thin 2-inch strips
3 green onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
10 large eggs
1/2 cup Half & Half
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon fresh dill or 1 teaspoon dried
¾ cup fontina cheese, shredded, divided
4 cups fresh baby spinach


 In a large ovenproof skillet, preferably cast iron, heat olive oil. Add bell pepper and sauté over low heat for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add onions and garlic and sauté 2 minutes more. Remove from heat.

In a medium bowl, beat eggs until frothy. Add Half & Half, salt, pepper, dill and ½-cup of the cheese.

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Wilt the spinach in the microwave for 2 minutes and squeeze out excess water. You can do this by pressing spinach in a large strainer.

Heat skillet with onions and peppers to medium-high, and pour in the egg mixture. Stir in the spinach, distributing it equally, and, without stirring, cook for 2 minutes over medium-low heat. Sprinkle with remaining ¼-cup of fontina, place skillet in the oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until center is set. Do not overbake. You want the frittata to have a custardy texture, not a dry one.

The frittata is best served hot or warm but can be served at room temperature. Cut into pie-shaped pieces.

Serves 4 to 6

Stuffed Zucchini and Yellow Squash

3 zucchini
3 yellow summer squash
1 piece thick-cut bacon, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground veal
1 large tomato, peeled and chopped
¼ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 egg, beaten
¾ cup Italian bread crumbs
2/3 cup grated Parmesan


Heat a large pot of salted water to boiling. Add zucchini and yellow squash. When it comes to a boil again, boil for 5 minutes. Remove squash from pot. When cool enough to handle, slice all squash in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, preferably a grapefruit spoon, scoop out insides, leaving ¼-inch of squash to form boats for stuffing. Put insides in a large bowl, and place boats on a large oiled pan or baking dish.

Heat a large skillet and sauté bacon until beginning to brown. Add olive oil and sauté onion for 1 minute, followed by the garlic for another minute. Add veal and cook, stirring frequently, until meat is no longer pink. Add tomato, basil and seasonings and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.

Heat oven to 350 degrees.     

Mash or cut squash into small pieces. Add egg and mix well. Stir in veal mixture and then bread crumbs. Stuff into squash boats and sprinkle with Parmesan. Bake for 15 minutes. If not brown on top, place under a broiler for a few minutes, watching closely.

Serves 6

Roasted Spring Vegetables

1 pound asparagus, preferably fat
1 red or yellow bell pepper
3 cups sugar snap peas
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves


Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Snap off tough ends of asparagus, about 1 inch. Cut pepper into ¼-inch-by-2-inch strips. Place vegetables on a large pan or cookie sheet.

Drizzle olive oil over vegetables and sprinkle with salt, pepper and rosemary. Toss well so that all vegetables are covered with oil and seasoning. Spread vegetables in a single layer and roast in oven for about 15 minutes or until they are crisp-tender. Stir once during the roasting.

Serves 4 to 6


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