I look forward to spring each year. The world just seems to come alive all over again. The trees are budding, flowers are starting to bloom, and oh those spring vegetables!
Asparagus, baby peas, baby carrots, young potatoes, and beets – spring brings with it an abundance of fresh produce, sweet flavors.
Tamari might not be the first thing you think of when you think of cooking spring vegetables, but I am telling you to start thinking this way! Tamari is such a uniquely versatile seasoning that adds depth of flavor and “umami” (loosely translated to mean “a pleasant, savory taste”) to many foods and that goes quite beautifully with sweet spring vegetables.
Just add tamari
Adding a little tamari to roasted vegetables balances the natural sweetness brought out by roasting. Your guests might not know what that pleasant flavor is attributed to, but they certainly appreciate the lovely flavor. The flavor of quick stir-fried vegetables is greatly enhanced with the use of a bit of tamari.
More than just Asian cooking
While the use of tamari is very prevalent in Asian cooking, it is certainly not limited to strictly Asian applications. I have found that just a touch of tamari along with some balsamic vinegar work beautifully with ripe berries and other fruits as well as spring vegetables. It also happens to taste amazing mixed into chocolate and vanilla ice cream – the tamari intensifies the chocolate flavor and brings out the butterscotch notes in vanilla.
Try it out!
The following recipe combines Asian flavor with spring vegetables in an easy-to-prepare meal with very little hands-on time and effort. The chicken is sweet, spicy, and delicious. The cauliflower rice with spring vegetables makes a tasty and healthy alternative to rice with much fewer carbohydrates and a bright flavor, which complements the chicken beautifully.
⅓ cup rice wine vinegar
¼ cup San-J Tamari Soy Sauce
¼ cup honey
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1-2 tablespoons chili garlic sauce (depending on how spicy you like it)
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
Spring Vegetable Cauliflower Rice:
1 (12-ounce) bag cauliflower rice (or 1 head cauliflower – see note)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 leek, white and light green parts, cleaned and thinly sliced
1 cup shredded carrots
8 asparagus spears, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup frozen baby peas, thawed
¼ teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon San-J Tamari Soy Sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Juice of ½ lemon (1 tablespoon)
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Combine the vinegar, tamari, honey, sesame oil, chili garlic sauce and ginger in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and allow to simmer uncovered for 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened.
Place the chicken thighs in an even layer in an ovenproof skillet or baking dish just large enough to hold them. Pour about ⅔ of the sauce over top, turning each piece of chicken to coat well with the sauce. Position the thighs skin side down and cook for 30 minutes. Turn the thighs over, pour on the rest of the sauce, and cook for another 10-15 minutes or until the chicken is browned and cooked through. Allow to rest 5 minutes before serving with the spring vegetable cauliflower rice.
Spring Vegetable Cauliflower Rice:
Cook the cauliflower rice according to the package directions.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the leek and carrots and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the asparagus and peas and cook for another minute. Add the cauliflower rice and cook, stirring, for another minute or two. Add the salt, pepper, tamari, sesame oil, and lemon juice and cook, stirring, just until everything is heated through and thoroughly mixed, about 1 minute. Serve with the chicken.
Servings: Serves 6
Note – If you are making cauliflower rice from a head of cauliflower, simply grate the raw cauliflower with a box grater or pulse in a food processor until it resembles rice. Transfer to a microwave-safe bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave on high for 4 minutes.