Cooking with Lady Smokey: Simple & Delicious Spring Recipes

Yard I love spring in Nashville. The lightning bugs have just started up and there are already twice as many as usual. It looks like our back yard has party lights flickering every night at twilight. It is truly amazing. We just take the dogs out and sit and watch. Our own private light show, every night. Our garden is just starting to grow- we seem to be a little behind every year- but we’ve already noticed the first summer produce crops showing up on our favorite produce stand. As relaxing as I make all this sound, we (along with everyone else I know) seem really busy right now so I came up with some easy yet delicious recipes for spring!

One of my favorite things about spring is asparagus. Every time Grant fires up the grill, I get a big bunch of asparagus cleaned and ready to go on. Even if we aren’t planning to eat it right then, I will place the grilled asparagus in the fridge and then find ways to eat it all week. Sometimes we put it on salads (although, raw asparagus is also fun on salads and adds a crunch).

AsparagusI like to steam or blanch asparagus, too. Back in the fall, our friend Jeannie brought a potato salad to a party that had lemon and asparagus in it. I think of it often. I never got her recipe but I came up with my own version that goes like this…

Potato Salad Spring Potato & Asparagus Salad

  • 6 small Potatoes, diced (with skin on), boiled, and cooled (I used a variety of kinds- Red,
  • White, and Yukon.)
  • 1 small bunch Asparagus (Steam or blanch and then remove from heat and rinse with
  • cool water.)
  • ¼ cup Cornichons (or Dill Pickles), coarsely chopped
  • 1 medium Shallot
  • 1 small handful Fresh Parsley
  • ¼ cup Olive Oil
  • juice of half a Lemon
  • 2 Tbsp prepared Dijon Mustard
  • 2 Tbsp Tarragon Vinegar
  • 1 tsp Raw Cane Sugar
  • Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste

Place the potatoes, asparagus, and pickles in a big bowl. In a blender or food processor, mix
the remaining ingredients to make a dressing. Blend. Pour dressing over vegetables and gently stir.

This next recipe is for an easy spring pasta I came up for one night when I wanted an easy one-pot meal. I tried a new brown rice pasta to avoid eating so much wheat. It was good and we didn’t even miss the wheat.

brown rice pasta with chicken and asparagusChicken & Asparagus Pasta With Chevre

  • 1 12 oz bag Penne (I used Field Day brand Organic Brown Rice Pasta)
  • 1-2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 Vidalia Onion, chopped
  • 2 Skinless Boneless Chicken Breasts, cut into small pieces
  • 1 bunch Asparagus, cut into 1-2” pieces on the diagonal
  • 1 cup Fresh Frozen Peas
  • Zest of 1 Lemon + the juice of half a Lemon
  • 3 oz Chevre Goat Cheese
  • 1 handful of Fresh Herbs (I used Thyme and Savory), stemmed and chopped
  • Sea Salt and Black Pepper to taste

Boil water in a stock pot and then cook pasta. Drain and mix the pasta with the lemon zest and fresh herbs. Set aside. Squeeze lemon over the cut chicken and salt & pepper. Heat large skillet and then add the olive oil. Add onion and stir. Cook a couple minutes. Add the chicken and saute until it is no longer pink. Add asparagus and stir. Cook for a couple minutes. Add peas and cook for a couple more minutes. Mix with the pasta. Crumble the goat cheese and toss it all together. Add more salt and pepper if necessary.

Another simple one pot meal for spring and summer is to chop up a bunch of your favorite veggies and saute in a little butter and olive oil. I especially love to do this with yellow squash, Vidalia onions, and tomatoes. You can use whatever you have. If you use really fresh, good quality vegetables you can keep it simple as the vegetables are so good right now on their own. You can sprinkle with some fresh herbs and/or a little of your favorite hard cheese (such as Parmesan Reggiano or an aged Gouda), mix with a little brown rice, or eat it in a wrap or pita. It is an easy dish which lends itself to a lot of variations.

mixed spring vegetables I recently helped cater my sister‘s art show. She has a studio space in the amazing Art Bomb studios in Greenville, South Carolina.

Art Bomb Studios in Greenville, SCArt Bomb Studios in Greenville, SCOne of the dips I made was a pea spread. It is one of my favorite new recipes for a quick and easy appetizer. I thought no one would like it as much as I do but it seemed to be a big hit so I thought I’d share it. This is one of the simplest appetizers in the world to make and it is an absolutely beautiful shade of green. All you need is a blender or food processor.

green peasLemon Pea Spread

  • 1 bag Frozen Peas, thawed (Although, Fresh Peas would be the BEST!)
  • 2-4 Tbsp Olive Oil (I just pour some in, you don’t want it too oily.)
  • 2 cloves Garlic
  • Zest of one lemon
  • Juice from ½ Lemon
  • Sea Salt & Black Pepper to taste

Blend all ingredients together and viola, instant appetizer! I like to serve it with pretzel chips and red bell pepper slices. A sprig of fresh mint makes a good garnish on top! I think it would also be a great spread for a yummy sandwich with some prosciutto or turkey and a few veggies. It would also be good atop some little parmesan cheese toasts. Yum!

lemon pea spread
It’s Memorial Day weekend as I write this. The picnic holidays have officially begun. I thought it best to come up with a new slaw recipe. This one is a little different and I incorporated one of my new favorite vegetables, kale!

kale and red cabbage slaw
Kale & Red Cabbage Slaw With Vidalia Onion Vinaigrette

  • 1 bunch Kale (I used Lacinato for this but any would work.)
  • 1 wedge Lemon
  • ½ head Red Cabbage (core removed)
  • 2 Carrots, cut into matchsticks
  • ¼ cup Raisins
  • ¼ cup Fresh Parsley
  • ½ small Vidalia Onion
  • ¼ cup Olive Oil
  • ¼ cup Red Wine Vinegar
  • ½ tsp (or to taste) Sea Salt
  • Black Pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbsp Raw Cane Sugar

Clean the kale and then remove the thick middle veins on each leaf. Chop the leaves into
thin strips and place in a bowl. Sprinkle with a little salt and squeeze the lemon over. Stir or massage the leaves with your fingers and let sit while you chop the other vegetables. Chop the red cabbage into small strips. Chop the parsley. Add the carrots, red cabbage, parsley, and raisins to the bowl with the kale. In a blender or mini grinder, blend the onion with the remaining ingredients to make a dressing and then pour the dressing over the raw vegetables. Stir and let sit for a few minutes before serving.

gravesitesSpeaking of Memorial Day, this is the day which was originally made a holiday to commemorate fallen soldiers of the Civil War. As time went on, Memorial Day became more general as people visited the graves of their deceased relatives in church cemeteries, whether they had served in the military or not. Although oddly intrigued with old gravestones, I have had an unwavering fear of funeral homes since I was a child. Somehow, as I heard my favorite dj of all time, Eddie Stubbs, who hosts the classic country music show on WSM every weeknight talk about the beautiful people from Spring Hill Funeral Home in Nashville inviting all of us out to tour their facility and pick up a map of the gravesites, I quickly decided that was what we should do this Memorial Day weekend. Oh yes, he’s that good!

gravesitesWe’ve been before but hadn’t been in a few years. Many of our favorite country music heroes are buried here and there seemed no better time to pay our respects than this weekend. They had quite a festive weekend planned- Civil War reenactment, a cookout, a photo contest, the works! We were just a day early so we quietly (and thankfully) had the majority of the place to ourselves.

Hank Snow gravestoneHank Snow’s beautiful stone reminded me of how much I love his music. I’ll close with one of his hits, “I’m Moving On.” And, yes, that is our friend Buddy Spicher playing a BLUE fiddle behind Hank in the video. Amazing!!!

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