I’m all for eating with the seasons, but by the time it gets to March (at least in the Northeast, where I live)…there is virtually nothing fresh. Storage crops, like root vegetables and apples are no longer exciting and it’ll still be a couple months before green pea shoots and tender lettuce appear in the farmer’s market. That’s probably why this month has officially been dubbed Frozen Food Month. Before you dig into the abyss of your freezer, know that the secret to using frozen vegetables is to incorporate them into meals, rather than to just steam them as a stand-alone side. Here are a few ways to embrace frozen foods for tasty meals.
Peas: This has to be the most versatile frozen food — the one that makes you wonder if fresh peas are even worth the trouble of shelling them. One easy way to use them is in a quick rice pilaf: saute an onion, add rice and peas and broth or water and you have a perked-up side. Alternatives include a “fresh” pea soup or a surprisingly easy, yet elegant dish of peas with shallots and pancetta (pictured above). You could add them to the risotto cakes in this Sunday pot roast. Pistou soup will get you some summer flavor when you need it most: in winter.
Frozen berries, peaches and mangoes: Smoothies are a go-to, for sure, but I also sometimes just microwave them until they’re thawed and add them to plain yogurt and granola. You can also bake them into a crisp or a cobbler if you’re feeling like you need a break from apples. Try this peach pie smoothie (pictured) or French toast.
Broccoli: As with a lot of frozen vegetables, frozen broccoli makes a pretty tasty soup. Try out my recipe for a creamy, dairy-free vegetable soup or try this recipe for creamy broccoli soup. It also works at breakfast, as with this strata.
Corn: Add it to corn pancakes or to add extra texture to cornbread. This healthified five-layer dip is another great way to use it.
Artichokes: Fresh artichokes are kind of a pain to cook with — definitely not worth going through the trouble of extracting the tender hearts, if you’re just planning to use them in another dish — which makes frozen artichokes an excellent freezer staple. Judging by the sheer quantity of Giada De Laurentiis recipes that use them, frozen artichokes have to rival peas in terms of versatility. A few recipes to try: artichoke gratinata (pictured), soup or artichoke pesto on ciabbata. You can also add them to your next roast chicken dinner.
Spinach: Again, if you’re going to cook with it — and need big quantities of it — frozen spinach is the way to go. Rachel Ray’s baked whole grain pasta uses frozen spinach and artichokes, making it a perfect pantry meal. Two more to try: creamed spinach or salmon Florentine.
Cauliflower: This seems to be everyone’s favorite “sneaky” ingredient for lightening up mac & cheese. Give it a go with Bobby Deen’s recipe.