Bestselling author Mireille Guiliano rings in the new season with a fresh, elegant recipe to celebrate the start of new things
Springtime — when the light starts gaining on the dark — is the natural start of the year. This explains why in French it’s called printemps: literally, in “the first time.” Though modern tradition designates January 1 as the day for resolutions, spring (which officially began yesterday) always strikes me as the better time to begin anew.
And spring is, of course, a time of regeneration. Our senses are awakened by new stimuli: the fragrance of blooms bursting open on the trees, and the sounds of birds, and children playing outdoors as the revival of outdoor activities begin. These sensations provide a wealth of slimming experiences. Oui, I said slimming. This works out pretty well as we begin to peel off those forgiving layers of winter sweaters and coats. We can hide from the scale, but we cannot hide from our spring wardrobe!
If your indulgences have gotten the better of you, if your equilibrium is askew or if you’d just like the opportunity to press the reset button, this is the time to start fresh. Nature is practically begging you to do so! Now is the time to embark on a health-and-eating spring cleaning. Throw out your bad habits. Ban your offenders. Reset your palate and waistline!
We’re used to having all the fruits of the hemisphere available year-round – which is why we see tomatoes at the supermarket in February. But it’s not the same as fresh, local food that’s in sync with the season. Those mealy, bland strawberries shipped from South America midwinter? They’re imposters compared to the succulent flavors and brilliant red hues of the ones grown and picked in peak season (May-June). Because food grown in season tastes better, it actually fills us up faster. Our taste buds are naturally more satiated in the first few bites. That means more satisfaction with less food. Now how’s that for portion control?
The best way to melt off those winter pounds is also the best way to truly take pleasure in the season: Savor the bounty of spring produce! Fresh fruits and vegetables are overflowing with nutrients and water, which flush toxins out of our bodies and help to ease off that cruel winter weight. At markets everywhere, the vibrant hues of spring greens are arriving in droves. Spinach, asparagus, mâche, fiddleheads, peas, ramps and leeks (the star vegetable of my French Women books) are at their peak of ripeness, practically begging to be eaten. Because they’re so fresh, they taste divine without much fuss. Salt, pepper and a touch of good quality olive oil are all you need to experience the best flavor nature can provide. This ultra-simple preparation method also happens to be good for the waistline!
So now seems the right for me to pay homage to the glorious produce of spring with an effortless and delicious recipe that underscores the French woman’s philosophy on cooking: Use fresh ingredients and faire simple (keep it simple). This salad needs only a light vinaigrette — one I’ve made extra special by using walnut oil. Sliced ginger makes a cameo as well. It’s amazing how much the pleasure of a meal can be heightened simply by using a few unexpected ingredients.
Here’s a start to resetting your eating and slimming style in spring. Enjoy!
VEGETABLE SALAD A LA FRANCAIS
1-2 medium potatoes, fingerling preferred
2-4 medium carrots
1 medium turnip
1 medium fennel bulb
1/2 cup sugar snap peas, rinsed
1 cup asparagus tips, 2-3 inches long (reserve leftover stems for omelets or soups)
1 large shallot, peeled and sliced thin
1-2 oz fresh ginger, peeled and sliced thin
For the dressing:
1 tablespoon red wine or sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil or walnut oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1. Rinse the first 5 vegetables and pat dry. Cut on a bias into 1-inch slices. Add all the vegetables to steamer placing the hardest on bottom and ending with softest (i.e., snap peas will go at the top, potatoes on the bottom) and cook over medium flame for about 7 minutes or until tender.
2. Pour into a serving dish. Add vinegar and oil. Sprinkle with parsley and black pepper and serve immediately.
N.B. You can replace vegetables to your preferences. I usually see what’s left in my fridge. Eggplant, leeks and broccoli are great, too. Make sure to always use carrots for color contrasts with white and green. You can eat as is, or add a poached egg or 1/4 cup of fresh ricotta per serving. It’s also good mixed with pasta or as an accompaniment to any fish and white meat. Leftovers can be good served cold or at room temperature, or as an easy omelet filling. The possibilities are endless!
Editor’s Note: The former CEO of Champagne Veuve Cliquot, Mireille Guiliano is the bestselling author of French Women Don’t Get Fat. Her latest book is The French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook. Visit her at mireilleguiliano.com.