10+ Vegetable-Forward Recipes to Make this Spring

Use fresh spring produce from North Carolina with these recipes from Raleigh chefs and foodies.
by WALTER Staff

Spring in Raleigh is wonderful for its vibrant pink and white trees, sunnier days — and of course, its bounty of early season vegetables. This time of year, produce like asparagus, lettuces, and peas are in their prime and readily available at the farmers market. From elegant salads to a unique hummus to open-face sandwiches, give these vegetable-based dishes a try.

Giorgio Bakatsias’s Spanakopita

Greek restaurateur Giorgios Bakatsias of Parizade and Vin Rouge in Durham and Rosewater Kitchen and Bar in Raleigh shared this spinach-filled spanakopita recipe as one of his favorite for spring. It’s warm, creamy, and vegetable-forward, and it travels well, too — perfect for picnics!

1⁄2 cup olive oil
1 pound ready-made phyllo, size 4 thickness
2 1⁄2 pounds spinach, stalks removed, chopped 1 cup finely chopped scallions
1⁄2 cup finely chopped fresh dill
1⁄2 cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 pound feta
3-4 eggs lightly beaten
4 tablespoons clarified butter
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and brush a 14-inch baking pan with oil. Sprinkle the spinach with a little salt and rub with your fingers. Rinse, drain and squeeze excess water. Combine the spinach, scallions, dill, parsley, cheese and eggs in a bowl and season with pepper.

Lay a quarter of the phyllo sheets in the prepared pan, one on top of the other, brushing each with butter. Spread 1/3 of the spinach filling evenly on top and cover with the another 1⁄4 of the phyllo sheets. Repeat for 3 layers. Put remaining 1⁄4 of phyllo sheets on top. Roll up the overhanging phyllo neatly around the pan. Score into 12 serving pieces, and brush the top with oil. Bake for 1 hour or until golden brown. Serve warm or room temperature. Serves 8


Spring Salad with Smoked Trout & Brown Butter Croutons

On her deep dive into butterhead lettuce, food writer Kaitlyn Goalen says the secret to a good lettuce salad is the dressing. “The leaves are easily wilted, so a dressing that is too heavy – or too heavily applied – will quickly turn things soggy,” she writes. “To prevent that outcome, add this buoyant honey vinaigrette in two stages, tossing the leaves separately from the rest of the vegetables. It might seem fussy, but the resulting outcome – delicate and crunchy – is worth the extra care. One final note: This salad welcomes add-ons. Try adding asparagus spears and English peas or topping the whole thing with a fried egg for an elegant”

For the croutons:
One 1-pound loaf country bread, crusts removed
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper

For the salad: 
4 ounces smoked trout, flaked
Juice of ½ lemon (about 3 teaspoons)
1 head butterhead lettuce, core removed and leaves separated, washed and dried well
¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1 shallot, thinly sliced
6 radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced
½ small cucumber, thinly sliced
2 ounces ricotta salata (or similar salty, dry cheese), crumbled
1 avocado, skinned, pitted and sliced

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Tear the bread into small bite-size pieces and place on a baking sheet. Transfer to the oven and bake until the croutons begin to turn golden-brown, about five minutes. Flip the croutons and cook for an additional four minutes. Let cool. Serves 4

For the dressing: 
1 tablespoon buckwheat honey, available at Whole Foods
1 teaspoon Champagne vinegar
Juice of ½ lemon (about 3 teaspoons)
¼ cup olive oil
½ teaspoon salt

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter until it’s foaming. Continue to cook, swirling frequently, until it turns golden and smells nutty, about one minute. Drizzle the brown butter over the croutons. Season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. In a small bowl whisk together the honey, vinegar and lemon juice until combined. Slowly whisk in the oil to create an emulsified dressing. Whisk in the salt and set aside. In a small bowl, mix together the trout and the lemon juice. Let sit five minutes. Place the lettuce leaves, parsley and chives in a large mixing bowl. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the honey vinaigrette and toss carefully with your hands. The leaves should be just barely dressed. Divide the leaves among four plates.

In the same bowl, add the trout, shallot, radishes, cucumber, ricotta salata, avocado and croutons. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the honey vinaigrette and toss carefully with your hands. Divide between the four plates, piling some of the mixture on top of the lettuce leaves. Serve.

Rosemary & Beet Hummus

This fresh, colorful hummus recipe from chef Franny Slater pairs just as deliciously with a crisp glass of rosé as it does with that beer in your back pocket, she says. For a boost of protein, Slater recommends throwing in some canned chickpeas in the food processor along with the rest of the ingredients (just make sure to remove their skins first).

1 pound red beets, scrubbed
Small bunch fresh rosemary
3 large cloves roasted garlic (recipe below)
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup good quality extra-virgin olive oil
6 tablespoons tahini
2 teaspoons honey
Kosher salt
Fresh vegetables and warmed pita bread, for serving

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the beets into a heavy-bottomed, oven-proof pan (like a cast iron) with the rosemary sprigs and cover with water. Bring to a boil, cover, and then place the entire pan into the oven. Cook until the beets are very tender, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Remove the beets from the pan and allow them to cool. Slide the skins off and rough chop.

In a food processor, combine the beets, roasted garlic, coriander, cumin, lemon juice, and honey and pulse until blended. With the machine running, drizzle in the olive oil a little bit at a time until the mixture is silky and smooth. Transfer to a bowl, whisk in the tahini, and season to taste with salt. Refrigerate until lightly chilled and serve with the sliced vegetables and pita bread.

Sweet Potato, Lentil & Feta Salad

This recipe, developed by Chef Mary Jayne Wilson of Amelie’s French Bakery & Cafe in Charlotte, is a Mediterranean-inspired lentil salad that highlights sweetpotatoes, feta, and fresh mixed greens. It’s the perfect addition to your spring picnic or family dinner on the patio.

2 North Carolina sweetpotatoes
Olive oil
1 cup Green lentils
1 tbsp Fresh minced garlic
Spring mixed greens
Crumbled feta cheese
Raspberry vinaigrette
Salt and pepper, to taste

Dice 2 sweet potatoes, toss in olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Roast at 350F until potatoes are tender. Let cool completely. Cook 1 cup green lentils until tender and let cool completely. Toss in 1 TB fresh minced garlic and season with salt and pepper. Fill large salad bowl with spring mix greens. Top with equal parts sweet potatoes, lentils and crumbled feta cheese. Serve with your favorite raspberry vinaigrette.

Asparagus with Lime Sauce

The Junior League of Raleigh has a tradition of publishing cookbooks. They shared this recipe from inside, which combines fresh asparagus with a creamy lime sauce to make a dish perfect for a spring feast. “These recipes illustrate the kind of collaborative, comprehensive, and ultimately useful compilation that Junior Leagues and other groups have put together in communities all over the country since the Civil War,” Andrea Wiegl writes.

3 pounds fresh asparagus
2 cups mayonnaise
2 cups sour cream
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1 ½ tablespoons grated lime zest
2 teaspoons horseradish
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon salt
Additional grated lime zest for garnish

Trim asparagus to serve as a finger food. Steam for 3 to 5 minutes or just until tender; drain and place in cold water to stop the cooking process. Wrap in paper towels and chill in refrigerator until serving time. Combine mayonnaise, sour cream, lime juice, 1 ½ tablespoons lime zest, the horseradish, Dijon mustard, and salt in a bowl; mix well. Chill in the refrigerator for 8 hours or longer. Serve the chilled asparagus with the lime sauce. Garnish with additional lime zest. Serves 20

Pan-Roasted Radish Tartine

Sean Fowler, owner and chef at Mandolin Restaurant, shared this recipe to highlight the complex flavors of the French Breakfast Radish. “I was thrilled to discover that radishes become even sweeter and more complex, almost nutty, when lightly sautéed in butter or even drizzled in olive oil and oven-roasted,” Fowler writes. “Suddenly, radishes transitioned from mere salad garnishes to power players in the world of root vegetables.”

2 half slices of La Farm Bakery sourdough
6 ounces French breakfast radishes, quartered lengthwise
2 teaspoons canola oil
Juice of ½ lemon
¾ cup fresh ricotta
1 ounce pea tendrils
3 tablespoons lightly chopped, fresh mint
salt and black pepper

Toast the slices of bread. Heat the oil in a medium sauté until it begins to shimmer. Cook the radishes over medium heat flipping them occasionally until they are golden brown on all sides and cooked al dente (about 2-3 minutes). Remove radishes form the heat, season them with salt and pepper and toss them in lemon juice. Spread the ricotta on the two slices of bread and season it with salt and pepper. Top toast with the radishes and garnish them with the pea tendrils and fresh mint.

Savory Strawberry Salad

This unexpected recipe for a savory strawberry salad utilizes the fresh offerings of the warmer months and could be an unexpected favorite among your guests. Whether you’re having a family dinner in the park or a Sunday potluck, this is the perfect salad to round out your spring meal.

2 cups shelled fresh green peas (frozen works just fine too and you don’t even need to thaw them first!)
6 cups baby arugula
16 ounces fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
2 medium shallots, thinly sliced
1 cup hazelnuts, toasted, roughly chopped (if you can’t find shelled hazelnuts, use Marcona almonds or macadamia nuts)
4 ounces shaved parmesan cheese (use a peeler to shave off nice big chunks)
8 ounces white wine vinegar
2 ounces honey
½ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

For the salad: Cook peas for 1 minute in salted water.  Cool immediately to maintain color and texture. Toss arugula, strawberries, peas, shallots and hazelnuts.  Just before serving, toss with vinaigrette and top with shaved parmesan and cracked pepper.
For the vinaigrette: Whisk vinegar, honey, olive oil and salt and pepper.

Broccoli Salad

From the chefs at Poppyseed Market, this broccoli salad recipe is perfect to keep on hand to bring along to your spring picnics. Combining crunchy, fresh broccoli with cranberries, grapes, bacon, and more, this salad keeps well, packs well, and is sure to please.

2-3 large broccoli crowns, washed and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup toasted sunflower seeds
1 pound red seedless grapes
1/2 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 cups mayonnaise
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar

Combine broccoli, cranberries, sunflower seeds, grapes and bacon in a bowl. Combine mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, and sugar, and pour over the broccoli mixture. Refrigerate for 15-20 minutes, or until ready to serve. Serves 6-8

Mediterranean Salad

This Mediterranean salad recipe from Charlotte Coman and Sunny Gerhardt combines barley, feta cheese, and radishes with herbs like dill and mint to craft a salad that’s perfect to serve alongside hummus. What’s not to love?

4 cups cooked barley, warm
2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1 bunch (about 8) radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced
2 stalks celery, trimmed and diced
1 small cucumber, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped dill
½ red onion, diced
2 tablespoons chopped mint
Red wine vinaigrette made with olive oil
Lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a large bowl, combine the barley, feta, radishes, celery, cucumber, dill, onion, and mint. Dress with vinaigrette and lemon juice, a tablespoon at a time, tasting as you go to achieve desired flavor. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve alongside hummus.

Pan Seared Ramps with Shiitakes and English Peas

Another fresh recipe from Mandolin’s Sean Fowler, this one highlights shiitake mushrooms, peas, and ramps, a wild onion that many chefs consider to be the crown jewels of wild, foraged ingredients. “Despite their powerful smell, these little gems are delicious,” Fowler writes. He suggests using this recipe as a side dish along a pork chop or pan-seared trout, or serving it for breakfast with over-easy eggs and toast.

2 tablespoons soybean oil
6 ramps, green tops removed from the white bulbs
5 ounces of shiitakes, cut into ¼ “strips”
¼ cup vegetable stock
¼ cup English peas
2 tablespoons sour cream

If your ramp bulbs are bigger around than a penny, you can cut them in half, lengthwise. In a large sauté pan, heat up 1 TBS of the oil over high heat. When the oil is almost smoking, place your ramps bulbs (reserve the greens) into the pan. Cook for about a minute on the first side and flip the ramps with a pair of tongs. Add another TBS of oil and the shiitakes to the pan. Cook for another minute and then toss the ingredients a few times. Add the ramp greens and cook them, moving them frequently, for about 30 seconds. Cut the heat to medium, add the vegetable stock and peas to the pan, and simmer for another minute. Season with salt and pepper. Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool for 20 seconds and then add the sour cream to the pan, tossing the vegetables to glaze them. This is a great side dish for a pork chop or pan-seared trout, or serve it for breakfast with over easy eggs and toast.

Classic Sweet Potato Salad

From the North Carolina SweetPotato Commission, this recipe combines sweet potatoes, green beans, and ham steak for a sweet and savory salad that highlights some of spring’s finest offerings.

2 pounds sweetpotatoes, peeled, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 pound thin green beans, trimmed
1/3 cup olive oil
6 ounces smoked ham steak, diced into small cubes
3 small scallions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook potatoes until almost tender, about 6 minutes. Add green beans to pot; cook 2 to 4 minutes, until green beans are crisp-tender and potatoes are just tender. Drain. In a large deep skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat. Add ham, cook, stirring frequently, 3 to 5 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from heat. Let cool 2 minutes. Add scallions, remaining oil, lemon juice, mustard, mayonnaise, salt, pepper and 2 tablespoon water to ham until well blended. Add potatoes, green beans and dill; toss and serve.