Beautiful spring vegetables have finally arrived at the farmer’s market in Leipzig last friday. I bought my first bundle of green asparagus of this year from Frau Müller’s local vegetable stand, a bunch of crunchy pink radishes from the organic stand from a farm near Halle, and yellow and orange carrots from a new organic stand. Frau Müller always has beautiful local green asparagus, unlike the other asparagus stands where they only sell the thick white ones. Most germans I know don’t seem to eat the green ones. At the beginning of May when the asparagus season really starts kicking off, I can usually get 3 bundles for 10 Euros from Frau Müller, because she says not many people are interested in them and she needs to get rid of them before she packs up to go home. When I first came to Germany, I had no idea that there were any white asparagus. And boy, do the germans go nuts over them. I have to say, they looked, ehem, strange to me. It was 7 years after I first set my foot in this country did I finally try the white ones. My boyfriend doesn’t cook (I’m not really sure what he ate before he met me?!) but one night after work, he told me to come over and try the white asparagus with potatoes. He just peeled and boil them in salted water, and served with steamed potatoes and butter. It was that simple, but I loved it! Since then I buy both when they come in season. I still prefer the green ones though. Simply because they look so much better on a plate, and they don’t need to be boiled for 20 minutes until soft. I love the crunchiness of somewhat undercooked green spears, or even raw in salads.
In this dish I just created for lunch, green asparagus, radishes, carrots, and cauliflower florets are roasted with za’atar and olive oil. Za’atar is an aromatic middle eastern herb-spice blend I discovered when I went to Israel 6 years ago with my string quartet. I just received a fresh batch from my best friend who traveled to Israel a couple of months ago. They are certainly greener and tastier than the ones I still have from my trip (oops). I served the vegetables with a simple bulgur pilaf and dollops of lemony chive yogurt. You can eat them with just bread, or even flat breads with even more za’atar and olive oil.
Roasted Spring Vegetables with Za’atar, served with Bulgur Pilaf and Lemony Chive Yogurt Sauce
Note: Make sure you season the vegetables well with salt. And do not over-bake them! Leipzigers, you can buy Za’atar at the herb/spice store in the Königshaus Passage. And lastly, vegans can just sprinkle a little more lemon juice on the vegetables before serving instead of the yogurt sauce. Or use vegan yogurt if you like.
For the vegetables,
1 bunch of pink radishes, trimmed and halved
400g green asparagus, sliced at 5 cm interval
6 young carrots, sliced biased, thin-ish
1/2 small head of cauliflower, broken or cut into small florets
6 small shallots, peeled and halved
3 tsp Za’atar, divided
Glugs of olive oil (didn’t measure. sorry!)
About 2.5 tsp salt, divided
1 tsp lemon juice
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 shallot, finely minced
1 tbsp tomato paste
150g medium bulgur
1 Tbsp chopped mint leaves
1.5 tsp cumin powder
Lemony chive yogurt,
125ml full-fat yogurt or greek yogurt
Zest of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp chives, finely chopped
1. Pre-heat the oven to 190 degrees celsius. In a large bowl, mix the cauliflower florets and shallots with 1 tsp za’atar, 3/4 tsp salt, and a glug of olive oil. Spread them out on a large baking sheet lined with grease-proof paper. Roast for 15 mins.
2. In the same large bowl, mix the rest of the vegetables with 2 tsp za’atar, 1.5-2 tsp salt, pepper, and a large glug of olive oil. Take the baking sheet out of the oven and spread out the vegetables. Roast for another 15 mins until the vegetables are just tender. Stir once or twice in between. Once they are out of the oven, sprinkle them with some lemon juice and combine. Check the seasoning.
3. Meanwhile, make the bulgur pilaf. Heat the olive oil over a medium heat in a medium sized saucepan. Sautee the minced garlic and shallot for 4 mins until soft.
4. Add the tomato paste, stir around for 10 seconds or so. Add the bulgur and toast for 30 seconds. Add the water, bring to boil, and turn the heat down to very low. Simmer for 8-10 mins with the lid on, until the bulgur has become tender and absorbed all the liquid.
5. Take off the lid, and add the mint leaves and cumin. Check the seasoning.
6. To make the yogurt sauce, mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl. Lightly salt the sauce.
7. To serve, scoop out some of the bulgur pilaf, and the vegetables on top. Serve the yogurt sauce on the side, or in dollops over the vegetables.