Feeding a Fever… Spring Fever!

As the daylight hours and my waistband steadily increase, I begin to crave fresh, lighter fare. The heavier “stick-to-your-ribs” favorites that were tempting months ago have lost their appeal. May can be quite chilly, so I’m not willing to cut out comfort foods entirely but find a balance and ease into a new season.

I begin to scan markets and my own backyard with childlike enthusiasm for the first asparagus, rhubarb, hostas, chives, edible flowers, dandelions, and spruce tips. I ceremoniously gather each precious promise of summer bounty and scurry to my humble kitchen. This month, I will declare asparagus as my favourite as I find the first tender stalk breaking ground, but please don’t tell my tomato plants! I am currently whispering sweet nothings to them as I wait impatiently for warm weather transplanting.

I fell hard for plant-based eating and ethnic fusions years ago while reading and cooking through the vegetarian collective of Moosewood Cookbooks. Although I do enjoy local meat, dairy, and seafood a few times per week, my meal plans are inspired most of all by the vegetables and herbs that are freshly picked and placed in my basket.

In light of the recent updates to Canada’s Food Guide that include more plant-based meals, both of the following recipes are vegan comfort food, with the exception of local honey. It can be easily substituted or omitted. I hope that you will enjoy them, perhaps outdoors with the warm sun kissing your face. It sounds dreamy after a long winter, doesn’t it?

Sweet & Spicy Lunchbox Noodles with Veggies and Crispy Tofu

350 grams of firm tofu, mashed with a fork or grated
1 Tbsp of cornstarch
½ tsp of Szechuan peppercorns, crushed, or more to taste
Few pinches of sea salt
3 Tbsp of grapeseed oil (or other oil with a high smoke point)
227g/8oz of shitake or your favourite mushroom
2 Tbsp of fresh ginger, finely minced
1 Tbsp of fresh garlic, finely minced
5-6 scallions, chopped, green part set aside for garnish
1 large carrot, julienned or thinly sliced
½ lb of asparagus, thinly sliced
1 lb of thin wheat noodles or your favourite noodles, approximately 2 handfuls
1 Tbsp of sesame oil
1 Tbsp of chili oil, or to taste (or a neutral tasting oil if you prefer less heat)
½ cup of mirin
½ cup of soy sauce
1 Tbsp of honey
Sesame seeds or chopped cashews
Scallion, fresh sprouts and/or cilantro, chopped

Blanch the veggies in boiling salted water for 30 seconds, then plunge into ice water or under cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain well.

Cook the noodles in salted water according to the package directions. Drain, rinse thoroughly with cold water and shake well. Mix the noodles with the sesame and chili oils. Spread them out on a baking tray to dry while you prepare the rest.

Combine the tofu crumbles, sea salt, cornstarch, and crushed peppercorns. Heat the oil over medium-high heat and add half of the tofu. Leave the tofu undisturbed as much as you can. Check on it so that it doesn’t burn but allow it to get nice and golden and crispy by not stirring it too often. Break up any tofu that clumps together.

When it is crispy, remove it from the wok, set it aside, and repeat with the remaining tofu.

When all of the tofu is cooked and set aside, add more oil to the wok. Add the mushrooms and the white parts of the scallion. Stir fry for a few minutes until slightly golden. Turn down the heat a little. Add the ginger and garlic and stir a minute, being careful not to burn the garlic. Stir in the mirin, soy sauce, and honey. Add the crispy tofu, stir, and remove from the heat.

To serve, top the noodles with the sauce mixture, and the blanched veggies. Sprinkle with sesame seeds or chopped cashews, chopped scallions, and cilantro if desired. Enjoy!

Warm Potato and Lentil Salad with Roasted Vegetables

5 (approximately 1.5 lbs) medium red potatoes or your favourite potato, scrubbed, unpeeled, and chopped into uniform bite-size pieces
½ lb asparagus, woody part snapped off and chopped into 1-inch pieces (or the unfurled new growth of hosta, which is edible and tastes similar to asparagus)
A handful of radishes, halved if larger in size, or use fewer potatoes and more radish
3 Tbsp of oil, divided
Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
½ cup of dried green or black lentils, picked through and rinsed well
½ tsp of coarse kosher salt
1 large garlic clove, crushed
A large handful of toasted and chopped walnuts
Fresh chives and dill, finely chopped
Dandelion greens or baby spinach, chopped (optional)
Vinaigrette Ingredients
3 Tbsp of fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp of raw apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp of maple syrup
2 Tbsp of grainy Dijon mustard
1 large garlic clove
½ tsp of sea salt, and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
¾ cup of grapeseed or other neutral tasting oil

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Toss the potatoes in 2 Tbsp of oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place on an oiled or parchment-lined baking sheet.

Give the asparagus and radish the same treatment with the remaining 1 Tbsp of oil, and place them on another prepared baking sheet.

Roast the potatoes until tender, approximately 30 minutes, turning for an even golden brown.

Roast the asparagus and radish until tender-crisp, approximately 10 minutes or less, depending on the thickness of the stalks. Remove and set aside.

While vegetables are roasting, add the lentils to a large pot with 3 cups of water, the salt, and the crushed garlic. Bring to a boil, then immediately lower the heat to a very low simmer, with the cover off.

Keep a close eye on them, making sure that they simmer gently and add more water if necessary. They are cooked when they are soft, but retain their shape and aren’t mushy. Drain and set aside.

To make the vinaigrette, add lemon juice, cider vinegar, maple, Dijon, garlic, salt, and pepper to the bowl of a food processor and blend thoroughly. While the motor is running, add the oil in a slow and steady stream until creamy. Taste and adjust with more salt and pepper, if needed.

To make the salad, combine the vinaigrette and warm potatoes. Add the remaining ingredients and stir gently to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.

Garnish lavishly with herbs and serve with a wedge of lemon, if desired.

Best served immediately; if making ahead, I prefer to steam or boil the potatoes instead of roasting them.

About Melissa Sobey

Melissa is a passionate home cook who geeks out about cooking, food preservation, foraging, gardening, and old fashioned skill sets. She obsesses over hobbies and is always up for a grueling DIY project. She serves up recipes and ramblings at To bring home the locally sourced bacon, Melissa operates a small business with her husband, Brian. Together, they like to camp in their vintage Airstream.

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