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This summery dish requires no recipe and demands very little from you. Simply use the freshest, ripest figs you can get your hands on, assemble, and enjoy as a first course or dessert.

Fresh figs, quartered
Extra-virgin olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Flaky sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Pecorino or parmesan cheese, shaved

Arrange figs on a plate or platter, drizzle with oil and vinegar, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and top with cheese shavings.

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Notes: a pop of green would do this dish some good. Think spicy, like arugula, dandelion greens, or watercress. Not too much–just a few leaves scattered on top.

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The restaurant I used to work for created a Tunisian-inspired savory oatmeal. I completely fell in love, and have been making my own version ever since (first blogged here). This one is a perfect springtime recipe that takes advantage of asparagus and sweet green peas, and pairs them with a spicy harissa oil.

1 1/2 c steel-cut oats (use certified gluten-free oats if gluten is an issue)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 c fresh or frozen green peas
2 Tbsp harissa paste
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
6 stalks medium asparagus, trimmed and thinly sliced on a bias
5 scallions, thinly sliced on a bias
4 Tbsp pine nuts, toasted
Lemon juice, for garnish
Pecorino or Parmesan cheese, for garnish (optional–omit for a vegan and dairy-free recipe)

1. Prepare oats according to package directions; season with salt and pepper.
2. If using fresh peas, blanch for 2 minutes and place under cold running water to cool. If using frozen, thaw.
3. Combine harissa and oil and set aside.
4. Spoon oatmeal into bowls and top each with asparagus, peas, scallions, pine nuts, lemon juice, harissa oil, and cheese (optional).

Serves 4.

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I like to think of romesco sauce as Spain’s answer to pesto. The tomato and roasted bell peppers lend sweetness, almonds give it a nutty richness, bread provides texture, and smoked paprika and cumin round it all out with a subtle smokiness. This version was adapted from this recipe, featured in Bon Appetit. This vegan sauce can be served alongside non-meat mains, like tempeh, seared tofu, or grilled cauliflower steaks; drizzled over charred spring or green onions for a vibrant side dish; or combined with pasta cooking water for a luxurious pasta sauce. I decided to entertain the carnivore inside of me and serve it with breaded chicken cutlets.

1 medium tomato, rough chop (I used a grilled, peeled tomato leftover from a recent “grill night”)
1 1/2 roasted red bell peppers, rough chop
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs, or torn stale bread
2/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
Pinch cumin
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1. Combine all ingredients, except for olive oil, in a food processor and whirl until mostly smooth.
2. Drizzle in the olive oil while the food processor is running. Add water to thin, if desired.

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Notes: absolutely lovely, but I admit that I didn’t do a good job of recording exact ratios. The above was recorded from memory, and I will need to retest to recreate results.

High in fiber, low in fat, and completely adaptable to your taste, this soup is great for all seasons. Serve as an entree for a healthy, satisfying meal that comes together quickly for an easy weeknight meal.

1 Tbsp canola oil
1 medium onion, medium dice
3 medium carrots, medium dice
3 stalks celery, medium dice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, minced
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
1/2 cup white wine
1 28-oz can peeled whole tomatoes, crushed by hand
2 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth to make it vegan)
3 15-oz cans black beans, drained
1 bay leaf
10 sprigs fresh thyme
Fresh cilantro (or parsley), rough chop, for garnish
Avocado, diced, for garnish
Lime juice, for garnish
Greek yogurt, for garnish (omit to make it vegan and dairy-free)

1. In a large pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrots, and celery to the pot, season with salt and pepper, and saute until tender, about 5-7 minutes.
2. Add garlic and jalapeno and cook for another minute.
3. Stir in tomato paste, cumin, and smoked paprika and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
4. Deglaze the pan with wine, scraping the bottom of the pot to loosen any stuck-on bits; reduce by half.
5. Add tomatoes, chicken broth, 1 cup water, beans, bay leaf, and thyme; bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
6. Remove bay leaf and thyme and roughly puree with an immersion blender or regular blender (it should still be very chunky; alternately, you could eliminate this step completely and leave it as is).
7. Adjust seasoning and serve with cilantro (or parsley), avocado, lime juice, and yogurt (all optional).

Initially posted without a photo on account of a stolen phone, photo below was retrieved from the magical cloud!
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While traditionally pesto is made with basil, this recipe switches it up with vibrant, peppery arugula that goes perfectly over whole wheat pasta. I made arugula pesto in the past, but neglected to understand the value of recording the recipe. Here is my official first attempt at a delicious and deceptively healthy pesto.

5 cups packed arugula
3/4 cup pecorino, broken up into chunks
3/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1 clove garlic
4 T extra-virgin olive oil
Juice 1 lemon
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and whirl until smooth (alternately, if you like pesto with a bit more texture, pulse until desired consistency is reached).

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Use as a dip for vegetables or crusty baguette, sauce for pasta (makes enough for 1 pound), garnish for soups, condiment for sandwiches, etc. (I served it with whole wheat pasta, garnished with grated pecorino and freshly ground black pepper.)