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4 Easy Spring Recipes from Julia Turshen’s New Cookbook

Simply Julia, by Julia Turshen, is full of healthy and comforting recipes that feel just right for spring. Here are four of our favourites, plus seven conversation prompts for when we're able to gather again.

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Chap01 002 9780062993335 CropImage credit: Melina Hammer

Llubav’s Green Spaghetti

One of the nicest things that happened when I first met Grace was meeting her friends, including Llubav, a gifted artist and a mother of two. This green spaghetti, inspired by her cousin Shuggie, is one of Llubav’s go-tos. It’s a winner and is great for weeknight cooking since you don’t have to chop a thing! You just blend some spinach, torn kale, fresh basil, and garlic with feta, cream cheese, and olive oil to make a fresh but also rich sauce that wraps itself around spaghetti. I use whole wheat spaghetti here not only because it’s got a bit more nutritional bang for its buck, but also because its nuttiness really goes so well with the sauce. The sauce would also be good stirred into rice or crushed boiled potatoes. You could add a package of frozen peas or broccoli to the pasta pot at the end of cooking for another dose of vegetables (without any chopping). You could also top each portion with a fried egg for a boost of protein. Thank you, Llubav, for sharing it.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • Kosher salt
  • 1 pound [453 g] whole wheat spaghetti (or whatever type of pasta you’d like)
  • 5 ounces [141 g] fresh baby spinach
  • 6 large leaves fresh kale (any type), tough stems discarded, torn into large pieces
  • Large handful fresh basil leaves (about 12 large leaves)
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • ½ cup [50 g] crumbled feta cheese, plus extra for serving
  • 3 tablespoons cream cheese
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions:

  1. Set a large pot of water to boil and salt it generously. Add the spaghetti to the pot and cook according to the package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, place the spinach,  kale,  basil,  garlic, feta cheese, cream cheese, and  olive  oil  in  a blender and add 1 cup [240 ml] of the boiling salted water from the pasta pot. Puree until smooth and season to taste with salt (it might need quite a bit depending on how salty your water is—don’t be shy!).
  3. Drain the spaghetti in a colander and then return it to the now-empty pot. Add the green sauce and stir well to combine.
  4. Serve immediately with extra crumbled feta cheese on top.

(Related: This Nutrition Expert Is Encouraging You to Eat the Cookie)

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julia turshen simply julia | dip on a tableImage credit: Melina Hammer

White bean and pimentón dip

Made with ingredients I always have on hand, this dip is the thing I make when we have people coming around and I’ve forgotten to prepare something to have before the meal, or when I need a little snack in between lunch and dinner. It’s also totally vegan and gluten-free if that’s important to you. Serve this with crackers, sliced raw or barely steamed vegetables, or toasted pita bread (or any type of toast). Or spread it on a roll and layer with avocado, tomato, and cheddar for an excellent vegetarian sandwich. Leftovers can be stored in a covered container in the fridge for up to three days. Leftovers can also be turned into white bean soup by heating them up with vegetable or chicken stock.

Makes about 2 cups (480ml)

Ingredients

  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Two 15-ounce [425 g] cans white beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 teaspoons pimentón (smoked spanish paprika), plus a little extra for sprinkling on top
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • ½ cup [120 ml] extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling on top
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (or sherry vinegar)

Instructions

  1. Set your food processor up and turn it on and, while it’s spinning, drop the garlic cloves through the opening at the top and run the machine until they’re minced, about 10 seconds. Letting them hit the blade while it’s already spinning keeps them from getting stuck and guarantees that you won’t get a big piece of raw garlic in your final dip. You can also mince the garlic with a knife first.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients to the food processor and puree until smooth. Scrape down the sides if needed.
  3. If you don’t have a food processor, you can use a blender, but start with minced garlic and with half of the beans. Once they are super smooth with the oil and everything, add the remaining beans (I find if I do it all at once, the blender gets stuck).
  4. Season the dip  to  taste  with  salt  and  then  transfer it to a shallow bowl. Drizzle a little olive oil (about 1 tablespoon or so) on top of the dip, sprinkle with a  little extra pimentón, and serve immediately.

(Related: What’s the Healthiest Cereal to Buy in Canada?)

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julia turshen simply julia | dip on a tableImage credit: Melina Hammer

Red lentil soup dip

Even though I wrote a whole cookbook about reinventing leftovers, called Now & Again, I often eat tons of stuff cold, straight out of the container. We all contain multitudes. Enter this dip, which is inspired by leftover red lentil soup that I mistook for hummus one day and stuck a carrot into and ate standing in front of my refrigerator. It was so good that I decided to do it on purpose going forward and cook red lentils as if I were going to turn them into a gently spiced soup, in the spirit of traditional masoor dal, but on the thicker side with less liquid. Serve with raw vegetables, any type of cracker (it’s especially good with papadums), or put a dollop onto a bowl of rice and cooked vegetables and call it lunch. And you can always add a few cups of stock, serve it warm, and call it . . . soup.

Makes 2 cups (480ml) 

Ingredients 

  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil (or extra-virgin olive oil)
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala (or ½ teaspoon each ground cumin, coriander, turmeric, and black pepper)
  • ½ cup [100 g] split red lentils
  • one 13½-ounce [400 ml] can coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons plain yogurt (or coconut milk yogurt if you’re vegan), for serving
  • 2 tablespoons toasted unsweetened coconut flakes, for serving

Instructions 

  1. Place the coconut oil and garam masala in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When the spices begin to smell fragrant, just about 30 seconds, stir in the lentils, coconut milk, and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, turn the heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer until the lentils are completely soft, 20 to 25 minutes. Season the mixture to taste with salt.
  2. Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool to room temperature. It will thicken slightly as it cools. Transfer the dip to a serving bowl. Top with the yogurt and toasted coconut and serve immediately.

(Related: 30 Flavour-Packed Citrus Recipes That Taste Like Spring)

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Chap03 006 9780062993335 CropImage credit: Melina Hammer

Stewed chickpeas with peppers and zucchini

A late summer go-to during our volunteering shifts at Angel Food East, this light stew of chickpeas, peppers, and zucchini is the best way I know to use up a ton of summertime produce without a ton of effort. Served with a creamy, lemony sauce and couscous, pasta, rice, or quinoa (or any grain), it’s a healthy-and-hearty recipe that is simple to make and infinitely adaptable, too. Swap out the chickpeas for any type of bean. Have extra peppers? Add them! Have a bunch of tomatoes? Chop them up and throw them in. Dice some eggplant, roast it, and fold it in at the end. Add vegetable stock to this and call it soup. Skip the grain or pasta and use the mixture to fill quesadillas. This is flexible cooking, which is my favorite kind of cooking.

Serves 4 

Ingredients 

For the sauce: 

  • 1 large handful fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped (a little stem is fine)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ½ cup [120 ml] vegan mayonnaise (or regular mayonnaise if you’re not vegan)
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

For the stew:

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced into half moons
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 bell peppers (red, yellow, and/or orange), stemmed, seeded, and thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste 2 teaspoons dried oregano kosher salt
  • 2 medium zucchini [about ¾ pound (340 g)], ends trimmed, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • two 15-ounce [425 g] cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • ¼ cup [60 ml] water
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

To serve

Cooked couscous, pasta, rice, quinoa, or any other grain

Instructions

  • First, make the sauce: Place the parsley, lemon juice, vegan mayonnaise, and salt in a small bowl and stir well to combine. Reserve the mixture.
  • Next, make the stew: Place the olive oil in a large, heavy pot (like a Dutch oven) over medium heat. Once it’s warm, add the onion, garlic, bell peppers, tomato paste, oregano, and a large pinch of salt. Cook, stirring now and then, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes.
  • Stir in the zucchini, chickpeas, water, and another large pinch of salt. Turn the heat to high and when that little bit of water begins to boil, turn the heat to medium-low, cover the pot, and cook, uncovering it every so often to stir, until the zucchini is very soft and the mixture is stewy, about 25 minutes. Turn off the heat, stir in the vinegar, and season the mixture to taste with salt.
  • Serve the stew warm over the couscous (or whatever you’re serving it with). Top each serving with a large spoonful of the sauce.

(Related: 5 Awesome Cookbooks to Cure the Kitchen Blues)

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julia turshen simply julia | dips on a table with vegetablesImage credit: Melina Hammer

Seven meaningful conversation prompts

Julia Turshen’s cookbook is peppered with ways to make your kitchen an easy, comfortable place to be. Sometimes, she says, the best thing about a meal isn’t the food.

“One of my mom’s favourite stories to share is that her kindergarten teacher would give a single gold star for a correct answer, but two gold stars for a good question. I love a good question. It opens the world up. I spend a lot of time thinking about questions and how to phrase them, especially when it comes to preparing to interview people for my podcast or when I moderate panel discussions. A good conversation, one that feels meaningful and connected, stems from the questions we ask each other and the ability to be present when we offer and listen to answers. Here are some of my favorite questions to spark conversation around your kitchen table since the best thing about any meal isn’t the food, it’s the connection that comes when we’ve eaten well and can relax into each other’s company. These are also handy for long car rides or phone calls with friends or family members that you’re missing.”

  1. What was your favorite thing to eat growing up? Did you request something special for your birthday?
  2. When was the last time someone surprised you with a random act of kindness? And when was the last time you surprised someone with one?
  3. What’s the most meaningful gift you’ve ever received? And the most meaningful one you’ve given?
  4. What do you see when you close your eyes and picture your “happy place”?
  5. What’s the most recent finish line you crossed?
  6. If you were in charge of a large sum of money for your community, how would you distribute it?
  7. Who is someone you’d like to write a thank-you note to? What would you say?

© 2021, Julia Turshen. Excerpted from Simply Julia: 110 Easy Recipes for Healthy Comfort Food. Published by HarperCollins Publishers. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

Next, try these 3 delicious Thai soup recipes from Nuit Regular’s new cookbook.

Best Health Canada
Originally Published in Best Health Canada