Articles By Pascale Beale


“The beautiful spring came; and when Nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also.” — Harriet Ann Jacobs

This past winter, as root vegetables grew safely encased in their earthy robes, cozy and nourished by the soil that surrounded them, we too were bundled up in sweaters and coats, sloshing around in gumboots dealing with the endless rain. After months of potatoes, celery root, carrots, parsnips, soups, stews, apples, pears and all things rib-sticking, I long for something fresh, crisp, green, and invigorating, and, almost as though Mother Nature senses this longing, the famers fields have finally exploded with an edible profusion of all things crunchy, bright, and revitalizing. It’s a sign, along with daffodils, the first tulips, gurgling streams and grass covered mountains the color of a granny smith apple that Spring is here.

Spying mounds of just picked asparagus at the market is a true harbinger of the new season. With it come large bunches of freshly picked herbs, spring peas delicate enough to eat raw, English peas, plump fava bean pods with their bright green gems tucked inside their velvety cases, and the sweet seductive scent of ripe strawberries. I often get carried away during these first visits to the spring markets and come home with baskets laden with a profusion of greenery, making salads galore, and trying new pesto recipes that have been dancing in the corners of my imagination. Inhaling the aroma of freshly blitzed greens and munching on raw asparagus stalks is a rejuvenating tonic for the senses.

Asparagus were always seen as a luxury item during my childhood. I have no memory of ever eating them in England when I was small, but rather discovered them in France at my grandmother’s table, and even then, they were a rare treat. She would steam them and serve them warm with a light, mustardy vinaigrette with a sprinkling of freshly chopped chives from her garden. This is still one of my favorite ways to eat them. In my later teens, travelling around Europe in Italy and Austria I discovered the pleasures of white asparagus, fat, juicy, slightly bitter, and herbaceous. Served with hollandaise or simple melted butter they were the crème de la crème. There are few farmers that grow the white variety locally as they are so labor intensive, and therefore expensive to produce, so when I do find some, I’ll rush to make a green and white asparagus tart, or multicolored shaved asparagus salad.

When abundant spring rains produce a fresh sprouting of wild mushrooms (as they did this year) local foragers harvest chanterelles to bring to the markets. When I find them both I’ll jump at the chance to make a sauteed mushroom and asparagus salad, a spring risotto with glistening golden mushroom slices and al dente asparagus tips mixed into the creamy cheesy rice or served with poached chicken in a light mustard and crème fraiche sauce, a dish inspired by late grandmother. These dishes are just the overture of the season, with the full symphony of spring produce yet to come. All this greenery gets my cooking juices flowing. I keep returning to the market to see what the new season brings, when will apricots and cherries arrive, or fava beans?

I’m very fortunate to have several friends with very green thumbs, and who like to share their abundant bounty. Last year, when I happened to mention that I loved fava beans, I came home one day to find an enormous box, and it really was enormous, by my front door. It was overflowing with pounds and pounds of favas. I was a little dazed by the quantity and set about shucking them out of their pods as I thought about what to make with them. Adding them to the aforementioned risotto came to mind, as did a spring tart with peas, favas and goat cheese, but I had a sudden craving for an avocado toast type dish, so made a fava bean smash—a truly luscious chunky mash of favas with lots of herbs, olive oil and lemon juice, inspired by the Egyptian dish Ful Medames. It’s so versatile you could (and I did) eat this for breakfast, lunch and dinner, serving it on toast, in a salad or as a side dish.

Spring is also a time for juicy fruit, think of plump cherries and all the multihued nectarines, apricots, pluots and plums. It’s also strawberry season. They are among the first of the season’s fruit to ripen after the cool winter months. According to the Seneca Indians (and other Iroquois nations) the rising of the Strawberry Moon [on June 3rd this year] heralds a sacred time.

The strawberry is the fruit that represents rebirth and hope. Long associated symbolically and in mythology with love, birth and fertility, the Seneca hold an annual strawberry festival, the highlight of which is the sharing of a specially prepared strawberry juice, traditionally made with wild berries picked on the day of the strawberry moon mixed with maple syrup and water. As each person drinks the juice—thought to have restorative and invigorating properties because of its heart shape—they give thanks to the Great Spirit for all the blessings they received and for surviving the winter.

In Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë wrote, “Spring drew on...and a greenness grew over those brown beds, which, freshening daily, suggested the thought that Hope traversed them at night, and left each morning brighter traces of her steps.”

I like to think that as the earth warms through the early spring days, its first gift is the blossoming of gorgeous berries. Good strawberries, red to their core, are sweet, juicy, and ambrosial. Wild strawberries have a particularly special floral aroma and taste. Biting into a perfect strawberry is joyous sensation with a hint of tang and deeply satisfying lasting fruity notes that linger on the tongue. Anyone who has tasted a bland berry with lackluster taste and pale flesh knows how disappointing this can be. Our patience is rewarded as the fruit ripen, they release their tantalizing scent, this is the time to delve into a plethora of strawberry inspired dishes, and to be invigorated by the fecundity of the all the season’s treats.

Fava Smash Crostini with Buffalo Mozzarella

Makes 8 appetizer servings

2 pounds fava beans

Olive oil



2 tablespoons finely chopped basil

1 tablespoon finely chopped mint
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives

8 slices olive bread, toasted

Lemon olive oil

1 buffalo mozzarella, sliced

4 slices prosciutto

2 ripe avocadoes, halved, peeled and sliced

2 lemons, quartered

  1. Shell the fava beans. Slit open the pods and remove the beans. Boil the beans in heavily salted water for 1 minute. Drain and immediately plunge the beans into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking and set the bright color. Tear the tough skin at the rounded end and squeeze out the bean.
  2. Heat a little olive oil in a medium pan. Add the shelled fava beans, a pinch of salt and 4–5 grinds pepper and cook for 3–4 minutes. The beans should be fork tender but not mushy. Place the fava beans in a mixing bowl and drizzle with a little more olive oil. Roughly mash the beans with a fork. Add the basil, mint and chives and mix well.
  3. Drizzle a little lemon olive oil over each toast.
  4. Cover 4 of the toasts with a slice of mozzarella, a slice of prosciutto and some sliced avocado. Cover the remaining toasts with a slice of mozzarella and some sliced avocado.
  5. Spoon the fava beans over each toast. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Serve with lemon wedges to squeeze over the toasts.

Asparagus with Poached Lemon Tarragon Chicken

This dish is a play on the classic French dish poulet a l’estragon, a roast chicken scented with the floral and anise tasting tarragon. This is a lighter, more delicate version that uses that same flavor profile. It is a quick dish to prepare so it’s easy to make any night of the week, yet also elegant enough for a special dinner party.

Makes 8 servings

1 pound white asparagus, ends trimmed, cut on a bias into 2-inch pieces, leaving the tips whole

1 pound green asparagus, ends trimmed, cut on a bias into 2-inch pieces, leaving the tips whole

Olive oil

3 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced



5–6 sprigs tarragon leaves
3 cups vegetable stock
½ pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin pieces
3 tablespoons crème fraîche
2 tablespoons Dijon or tarragon mustard
2 tablespoons finely chopped chives

  1. Steam the asparagus until just tender, 5 minutes or so. Remove from the steamer.
  2. Pour a little olive oil into a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots, a good pinch of salt and 7–8 grinds of pepper. Sauté until just golden, about 3–5 minutes. Stir in the tarragon leaves. Add the vegetable stock and cook for 2 minutes.
  3. Poach the chicken in the stock for 6–8 minutes, turning the pieces frequently. Stir in the crème fraîche and mustard and simmer for 1–2 minutes. Add the asparagus and chives, and warm through. Serve in deep plates or shallow bowls with plenty of the cooking liquid. A chunk of crusty bread is delicious alongside to mop up all those aromatic juices.

Standup Strawberry Tart

This is the tart to make when you want a knock-out dessert that everyone will ooh and ahh over. It’s beautiful and packed with strawberry succulence.

Makes 8 servings

For the tart shell:
9 ounces (1¾ cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
5½ ounces (11 tablespoons) butter, cut in small pieces
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
1 large egg
Pinch of salt

For the simple jam:
2 pints strawberries, hulled and halved
5 ounces (2/3 cup) sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1 Meyer lemon, halved and juiced, reserve the rinds

For the tart:
32–36 large strawberries, hulled and halved

To prepare the tart shell

  1. Preheat oven to 400°. Butter a 12 inch round fluted tart pan. Set aside.
  2. Place all the ingredients in the bowl of the food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Use longer pulses until the dough forms a ball.
  3. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes. (You can make the dough ahead of time and remove it from the fridge 20 minutes before using.)
  4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a 14-inch round, ¼-inch thick. Then line the tart pan with the dough. Trim the edges with a sharp knife and prick the dough with a fork.
  5. Line the dough with a piece of parchment paper and fill the tart shell with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 20 minutes until the edges are just golden. Remove the parchment paper and the pie weights. Bake the tart for 3–4 more minutes. The shell should be golden brown in color. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.

To make the simple jam

  1. Place all the ingredients, including lemon rinds, into a large saucepan over medium heat. As the strawberries begin to render some juice, mash them using a large fork or a potato masher.
  2. Cook for 10–13 minutes, skimming off any foam. The jam is ready when it thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.

To assemble the tart

  1. Brush the tart shell with half of the jam. Around the edge of the tart, place the strawberry halves upright and slightly overlapping each other. Use the remaining strawberries to form concentric circles toward the center.
  2. Lightly brush the strawberries with some of the jam.
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