If you're like us, you look to the seasons for what to cook. Get to the market, and we'll show you what to do with your haul.
Today: Stuff a few bunches of alliums into a cheesy rice pie, and call it spring.
Despite spring's excitement, despite the marquees we construct for asparagus and the shrines we build around artichokes -- how fitting, that spring's first crops lead with the alphabet's first letter -- I am quite boring this time of year.
At home, I smear radishes with butter; I pile up mustard greens doused with plain-Jane vinaigrettes; I stir the few ramps I can afford into an eggy dinner. I apply chives, as if with a snowblower, to everything.
For excitement, I look elsewhere -- to the chefs that tuck plump morels into pasta dishes or braise artichokes in French quantities of fat. Or, the cheaper option: I pester my friends for suggestions.
Recently I asked Perry, a close family friend, beekeeping hobbyist, and badass home cook, for spring vegetable inspiration. Green rice! she swiftly answered, with plenty of spring onions and herbs!
I pictured a pilaf-like bowl, grains of rice perched atop leaves of spring's perkiest herbs, with rings of scallions scattered about like Lilliputian crowns. She mentioned something, too, about eggs and cheese, but I forgot it until the next email arrived, carrying an explanation of how to make it.
"This is my grandmother's recipe," she began, "so get ready for lots of butter!"
A side note: Perry was raised in Alabama, a fact still suggested by the lilt of her voice and her killer pecan pie. She was the one, I believe, who taught me to save bacon fat in an aluminum can next to the stove. This year, she sent me grits for my birthday; in her honor, I buried them in cheese.
To make Perry's grandmother's green rice, you will need: at least half a stick of butter, two cups of shredded cheese, a cup or so of milk, and no plans to shimmy yourself into a string bikini any time soon. You will also need some leftover rice, as many spring alliums as you can find, and a fistful of parsley.
Yes, this is the sort of thing -- like cornbread, or mac and cheese -- that southerners consider a vegetable, bless their hearts. But it is also a perfect stage for the sweet, biting alliums of spring: in a pool of butter, they soften, then start to crisp; they punctuate dairy and starch, subtle dashes on a creamy white canvas. The parsley -- your second serving of vegetables here, if you're keeping count -- rescues everything from a monochromatic fate.
Baked in a pie plate and pulled from the oven when golden, this tastes like a young spring dish that hasn't forgotten winter's cream. It's like a less-heavy quiche, if its crust were made of fluffy white rice and swallowed up by its filling. It comforts without turning you comatose, and it's perfect cold: for breakfast the next morning, or as stolen forkfuls in the middle of the night.
There has never been a better excuse to eat your greens.
Serves 8 to 10
Half a stick of butter, plus more for greasing the pan
2 to 3 bunches of spring onions sliced into rings, green parts reserved
2 cups cooked white rice (or more, if you have it)
2 to 3 eggs, depending on how big they are and how much rice you have, beaten with a fork
1 to 1 1/2 cup milk
2 cups grated sharp cheese, like cheddar
1 cup chopped parsley, tightly packed (or mustard greens, etc.)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Photos by Eric Moran