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Make spring veggies the star

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Markets and grocery stores are bursting with spring produce
Photo by Jim FlintA cheesy tart made with a sheet of puff pastry is a perfect way to showcase fresh spring asparagus.
Photo by Jim FlintIt couldn't be easier to make, pulsing all ingredients in a food processor, to create an herbal, Greek yogurt-based dressing or dip.
Photo by Jim FlintThis tangy Green Goddess 2.0 is wonderful as a dressing for a spring salad or as a dip with a platter of crudites.
Photo by Jim FlintRainbow carrots, roasted with a buttery brown sugar and honey glaze, are a spectacular and tasty side dish.

With Rogue Valley Growers and Crafters Markets open and in full swing in Medford and Ashland, bursting with spring produce, there’s no better time to make veggies the star of your seasonal menus.

Even if you’re buying all your produce at the supermarket, you’ll find a big selection of vibrant vegetables in season.

To take advantage of the season, here are three recipes that are as versatile as they are tasty.

Succulent roasted, glazed rainbow carrots make a great side with chicken, pot roast, pork chops or pork tenderloin. Or they can be part of a complete vegetarian main dish, served as a yummy addition to a quinoa chickpea salad or over simmered and seasoned lentils.

You’ll love this reimagined recipe for an herbaceous, tangy dressing and dip that I call Green Goddess 2.0.

And, finally, try this simple, cheesy tart to showcase asparagus, one of my favorite spring vegetables.

All three recipes include fresh tarragon as an ingredient. In none of them is the tarragon flavor-forward, but it does add complexity and depth to the flavor profiles with its anise-like taste and fragrance.

Roasted Glazed Carrots

For a spectacular plate, look for rainbow carrots with the tops still on.

1.5 pounds medium carrots, leaving two inches of tops on

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons honey

3 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes (optional)

Chopped Italian parsley for garnish.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Trim carrot tops to about two inches. Scrub carrots (no need to peel them), pat dry on a clean towel, and place on the baking sheet. If carrots are large, slice in half vertically.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. When the butter is melted, remove from the heat, add brown sugar, honey and optional chili flakes. Stir to combine.

Pour the butter mixture over the carrots, sprinkle with chopped tarragon, salt and pepper, then toss to coat. Roast the carrots until tender and golden with a few brown spots, 25 to 35 minutes, depending on size of carrots. Transfer to a platter and garnish with chopped parsley.

Green Goddess 2.0

The original Green Goddess was created by San Francisco’s Palace Hotel executive chef Philip Roemer to pay tribute to actor George Arliss and his hit play, “The Green Goddess.” It was made with two herbs — chives and parsley — as well as white wine vinegar, anchovy filets, sour cream and mayonnaise.

This version is vegetarian (no anchovies), with capers adding the briny note, and made with Greek yogurt. It’s creamy, tangy and loaded with herbal flavor.

Use it as a salad dressing with greens and any combination of spring veggies such as thinly sliced carrots, cucumber, red onion, radishes, etc. It’s a great dip with a platter of crudites. Or ladle a dollop on a wedge of iceberg lettuce, topped with chopped walnuts and bacon.

1 cup whole milk Greek plain yogurt

1 cup parsley

1 cup mixed fresh, leafy herbs: dill, mint, tarragon, cilantro

2 tablespoons chopped chives (if substituting chopped green onions, use only 1 tablespoon)

2 teaspoons capers

2 tablespoons lemon juice, plus 1/2 teaspoon zest

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove

1/2 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper to taste (this dressing loves black pepper)

In a food processor, combine the yogurt, parsley, mixed herbs, chives, lemon juice, zest, olive oil, capers, garlic, salt and pepper. Make sure all greens are dry to avoid a watery dressing.

Pulse until well combined. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days.

Asparagus Tart

You can make your own puff pastry, but the store-bought frozen sheets deliver on the flaky texture. Look for medium-size asparagus with smooth stalks and tight tips.

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed

1 egg, at room temperature

4 ounces herbed goat cheese, at room temperature

1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese

1/4 cup grated regular gouda or cheddar cheese

1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 pound asparagus, about 2 inches of bottom ends trimmed off

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

Zest of one lemon

Thaw frozen puff pastry in the fridge the night before.

Place a baking sheet on a center rack in the oven. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Remove puff pastry from the fridge and let stand at room temperature while you make the filling.

Zest the lemon into a small bowl and set aside for garnish after the tart is baked.

Beat one egg in a small bowl.

In a medium bowl, place half the beaten egg, goat cheese, grated cheddar and Pecorino Romano cheeses and 2 teaspoons lemon juice. Beat with a whisk to combine.

Unfold the thawed, pliable puff pastry and place on a sheet of parchment paper. Use a rolling pin dusted with a bit of flour to stretch out the puff pastry until it’s about 9-by-12 inches.

Add a half teaspoon of water to the remaining beaten egg and whisk to combine. Brush a one-inch rim of egg wash around the perimeter of the pastry. Fold edges inward and press to create a border and a picture frame effect. Brush the top of the rim with egg wash.

Spread the goat cheese mixture inside the pastry border. Toss the asparagus with the oil and salt, then arrange on top of the cheese. You can get creative on how you arrange the asparagus.

Remove the hot baking sheet from the oven and transfer the parchment with the tart to the sheet. Return to the oven and bake until golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes.

Sprinkle with the lemon zest, then serve immediately or let cool on a rack and serve at room temperature. Using a pizza wheel, cut in triangles or rectangles. Serve as a side with salmon or in bite-size pieces as a savory hors d’oeuvre.

Reach Ashland writer Jim Flint at jimflint.ashland@yahoo.com.