Spring welcomes green into our landscapes and our kitchens. That means lovely fresh ramps, spring leeks, tender young asparagus, and more. On the North Shore, we are lucky to have access to fresh farm produce from the more than 60 Illinois farms that are a part of Down at the Farms, LLC—all in a one-stop-shop: Evanston’s Village Farmstand. Featuring items produced using chemical-free or certified organic practices, pastured livestock, and non-GMO seed, the unique grocery store was established by Marty Travis of Spence Farm (organizer of Down at the Farms) and filmmaker and sustainability advocate Matt Wechsler in 2020. The purpose was to create a more efficient connection between farms and the Chicago community during the hardships of the pandemic. The charming shop offers a wide range of seasonal farm products through online ordering for pickup four days a week. This light and tender medley highlights some of the fresh items you’ll find at Village Farmstand this month. The dish features fresh leeks and asparagus, plus lemony mint peas—all topped with farm-fresh eggs and a scattering of creamy French feta, mint, and herbs.
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 4 small (or two large) leeks trimmed of outer
leaves, white and light green portions thinly
sliced into rings to make 2 cups sliced
• 1 bundle fresh asparagus
• 2 cups green peas (fresh or thawed from
• 1 bunch fresh mint leaves, minced to make 4
• 3 teaspoons fresh lemon zest, divided
• 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper
• 2 tablespoons butter, divided
• 5 fresh medium or large eggs
• 1/2 cup French feta cheese, crumbled
• 1 small bunch fresh chives, minced
Add olive oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced leeks and sauté, stirring constantly to prevent browning. Once leeks are soft, remove from heat. Wash asparagus. Snip the top two inches from each stalk; place these asparagus tips in a microwavable bowl and set aside. With the remaining portion of the asparagus stalks, trim off and discard the bottom inch. Slice the remaining portion of the stalks into tiny rounds. Add asparagus stalk rounds to the leeks. Sauté for a scant 2 minutes until asparagus bits are bright green and al dente. Remove from heat.
If using fresh peas, place in a microwaveable bowl with 2 tablespoons of water, cover, and heat in the microwave for five minutes until bright green and cooked tender. If using thawed from frozen, do not cook peas.
In a food processor, add 1 cup of the peas with 3 tablespoons of the minced mint, 2 teaspoons of the lemon zest, salt, and pepper; pulse a few times until chopped fine but retaining some texture. Stir pulsed pea/mint/lemon zest into the asparagus/leek mixture.
Add the remaining cup of peas to the skillet and heat just until mixture is hot throughout. Taste, and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.
Place bowl of asparagus tips in the microwave with 1 tablespoon of the butter. Microwave for 2 minutes until cooked, but still firm.
In a separate sauté pan, heat the remaining tablespoon of butter over medium-high heat. Sauté eggs sunny-side-up until set. Slip the eggs onto the pea/asparagus/leek mixture, arranging attractively. Scatter asparagus tips over eggs; sprinkle feta cheese over all; and top with snipped chives, remaining minced mint, and remaining lemon zest. Serve immediately.
For more information about Village Farmstand, visit villagefarmstand.com.