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Garden Favorites, From Fiddleheads to Asian-Style Asparagus

Dan Gair/Blind Dog Photo

Locavores, rejoice. Longer days and warming soil means a fresh crop of spring greens and veggies will soon be arriving in New England. But if you’re not sure what to do with those fiddleheads and dandelion greens, rest easy. We’ve brought in the expert. Kathy Gunstis the author of Notes From a Maine Kitchen,  a month-by-month cookbook that reads more like a love-letter to the foods of region.

Here are three of Kathy's favorite spring recipes:


Shad roe is a symbol of spring, one of the few food that is only available for a short spring season. Some call it spring caviar because all the tiny eggs contained in the sac burst in your mouth when you eat it. Here they are lightly sauteed and topped with a simple brown butter, lemon, and caper sauce.  

Two shad roe (2 lobes each) about 4 ounces each 

About 3/4 cup flour

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

11/2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 to 2 tablespoons capers, drained

1/2 lemon, washed and dried and cut into paper thin sliced

1. Place the flour on a large plate and season liberally with salt and pepper.

2. Dredge the shad roe in the seasoned flour making sure to coat both sides.

3. Heat a large, heavy skillet over moderately high heat. Add half the butter and the oil and cook until butter begins to sizzle. Add the shad and let cook 3 minutes, being careful. (The roe sometimes bursts and can pop so you need to be cautious.)

4.Very gently flip the shad roe over and cook another 3 minutes on the other side, or until firm.

5. Remove the shad to a warm plate.

6.Add the remaining butter to the skillet with the capers and lemon slices and cook until the butter is sizzling and beginning to turn brown and the lemon slices are softened. Pour over the rose and serve immediately. Serves 2 to 4. 



When asparagus are fresh from the ground, they are so tender you can eat them raw and really take advantage of their full, earthy flavors. Here they are cut into thin pieces, tossed with an Asian-flavored dressing and sprinkled with lightly steamed edamame (soy beans). This light, refreshing salad should be made no more than 2 hours before serving or it loses its crisp texture. If you can’t find edamame, you can substitute fresh peas or fava beans.

1 bunch (about 1 pound) asparagus, green, white, or purple, trimmed and peeled 

2 tablespoons Asian sesame oil

2 teaspoons soy sauce

2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar or white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon grated or finely chopped fresh ginger

A few grindings of black pepper

1 cup edamame soy beans; (do not defrost if frozen)

1. Cut the asparagus in half lengthwise and then slice on the diagonal into 1 ½-inch pieces. Place the asparagus in a bowl and add the sesame oil, soy sauce, vinegar, ginger, and pepper and gently toss. Let sit about 15 minutes, but no more than 2 hours.

2. Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of water to boil over high heat. Cook the edamame beans (in their shells) for 2 minutes. Drain and place under cold running water to stop cooking. Drain again. Pop the beans out of the pods; you should have about ½ cup.

3. Place the marinated asparagus on a serving platter. Sprinkle the steamed soy beans on top and serve at room temperature or chilled. Serves 4 as a side dish.



You can use any or all of the following vegetables to make this simple, baked spring frittata. If you can find ramps use them if not substitute leeks or scallions. You can also add 1 cup peeled peas or chopped garlic scapes.  Serve with crusty bread and hot coffee.

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, very thinly sliced

1 cup ramps, ends trimmed with greens still attached, or whole trimmed scallions

4 asparagus, ends trimmed and cut in half

6 eggs

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup chopped fresh chives

1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

1. In a small, ovenproof skillet (no more than 8 inches across) heat the oil over moderately low heat. Add the onions and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the ramps and asparagus and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.

2. While the vegetables are cooking, whisk the eggs in a bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste and half the chives.

3. When the asparagus are just soft (not limp) add the whisked eggs to the skillet. Sprinkle the top of the eggs with the feta and remaining chives and place on the middle shelf of the oven. Bake for about 8 to 12 minutes, or until the frittata is puffed up and doesn't look wet, indicating the eggs are cooked through. Remove and serve hot or at room temperature.

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