As I thumbed through Marie Simmons' new cookbook, "Fresh & Fast Vegetarian: Recipes That Make a Meal" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $17.95), I could see why people choose vegetable-rich diets.
Full of vibrant recipes that are appealing for any food lover, this cookbook could serve as a definitive reference for all of us who crave creative vegetable cookery.
It was difficult to choose just one recipe to share, but this spring vegetable saute caught my eye. After I tasted it, I knew it was the one. The tasty tangle of spring asparagus, carrots and artichokes shines through -- even if you save time and use good-quality frozen artichokes and peas.
I recently served this colorful melange alongside grilled chicken with a crowd-pleasing result. For a vegetarian meal, serve with oven-baked baby potatoes seasoned with olive oil and fresh dill or tarragon, or with lentils and red peppers.
Spring vegetable sauté
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes
Note: Adapted from "Fresh & Fast Vegetarian." If you can get baby artichokes, by all means use them. Cook as directed in step 1, browning them on both sides. Then cook, covered, over low heat until tender, about 5 minutes.
1/4 cup olive oil
1 bag (12 ounces) frozen artichoke hearts, partially thawed, blotted dry
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup 1/4-inch wedges shallots
1 clove garlic, sliced paper thin
1 cup thin diagonal slices slender carrots (1-2 carrots)
1 cup 1-inch-long slender green beans (about 4 ounces)
1/4 cup water
12 ounces slender asparagus, peeled if large, cut diagonally into 1-inch lengths (about 3 cups)
1 cup frozen petite green peas
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill or mint
1. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet. When it is hot enough to sizzle a piece of artichoke, add the artichokes, cut sides down; cook over medium heat until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Turn; sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Brown the other sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.
2. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, shallots and garlic to the skillet; cook, stirring, over low heat until sizzling. Add the carrots, green beans and water. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste; cook, covered, until the vegetables are crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Add the asparagus and peas; cook, stirring, uncovered, until the asparagus is crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Add the artichokes and dill; cook, stirring, over medium-low heat until the artichokes are heated through, about 2 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges to squeeze over each serving.
Per serving: 231 calories, 52% of calories from fat, 14 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 23 g carbohydrates, 7 g protein, 114 mg sodium, 8 g fiber.