vernal veggies.

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When I moved into my little flat in Visby, I was ecstatic to have a space of my own, and a real kitchen. (Well, it doesn’t have an oven, but still – it’s mine and I don’t have to share it with anyone) After months of not really cooking, I was back!

Unfortunately, shortly after this I went to winter school in Portugal and we collectively realized that our last scholarship payment comes at the end of July. I and several others had assumed it would last at least one month longer than that.

Friends: I will soon be poor. I don’t graduate until November, so that’s several months I have to survive with no scholarship.

This immediately took a hit on my cooking. I still cooked good food, but I went completely vegetarian and stopped buying wine or beer to enjoy with dinner. I had already basically forsaken dessert, more for my waistline than my pocketbook, but it was also handy for that (not having an oven is very sad in terms of my baking obsession, but also probably healthy).

For me, vegetarianism meant a lot of legumes. I was able to find harissa in the grocery store, which was literally a miracle as I’ve rarely found it anywhere else and Sweden isn’t exactly a bastion of diversity, especially in the grocery aisles. I cooked up a delicious Tunisian stew from the Gourmet archives that lasted a few nights, the chickpeas delightfully exploding every time I microwaved a new portion.

But things have been getting hard at work. I’m sometimes at the university until 7 or 8 p.m. at night, and I come home exhausted and frequently discouraged. A pile of chickpeas just wasn’t always going to cut it.

So yesterday, I pulled out all the stops. I rampaged through the fresh vegetables aisle in the Coop, then splurged on a big slab of salmon. Get those omega-3’s. After reading Four Fish I now feel guilty every time I buy fish, but I did it anyway.

On the way home, I stopped at the Sytembolaget and bought a bottle of Viognier.

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With the vegetables, I made a small ragout (including some shiitake mushrooms). It was like a bowl of spring, steaming in a light-green porcelain vessel in front of me. If that couldn’t rejuvenate me, what could? I felt like the finished dish matched the blue sky and sun that have been gracing us with their presence here on Gotland every day. And that’s a very good thing.

Spring Ragout

Adapted from The Atlantic

1 tablespoon olive oil

a bunch of scallions (in Sweden, called “salad leeks”), white and light green parts chopped (discard dark green parts)

a bunch of asparagus, ends of stems discarded, sliced into 2” sections; if the stems are thick, also cut them in half lengthwise

2 tablespoons water

juice from half a lemon

splash of white wine

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon honey

1-2 cups sugar snap peas

3-4 large shiitake mushrooms; or use something local, spring, and fresh if you can!

¼ cup parsley, chopped coarsely

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a heavy pot, then stir in the chopped scallions. Cook for 2 minutes or so until the scallions start to get soft. While that’s cooking, chop up the asparagus. Add it to the pot with the water, lemon, wine, salt, and honey. Stir together and then put the lid on the pot. Cook 2-4 minutes, depending on how thick the asparagus is – you don’t want it to be done cooking at this point, but it should be softening up. Add the peas and mushrooms, cooking 3 more minutes. Finally, stir in the parsley, cook one more minute, and then turn off the heat. Enjoy!

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