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Originally published Tuesday, April 12, 2011 at 3:00 PM

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Recipes for spring: Braised Chicken Thighs with Spring Vegetables and more

A trip to the local farmers markets can score you lots of great spring produce to prepare for dinner.

Detroit Free Press

Despite the lingering chill, things are looking fresh and green at area farmers markets.

Little by little, baby greens, hearty spinach and kale are showing up.

You can buy just about any produce year-round, but something changes when spring finally arrives. Cooks crave these delicate green harbingers because they require so little fuss. They're simple and flavorful, and avid farm market shoppers are eagerly snatching them up.

" Braised Chicken Thighs with Spring Vegetables

Makes 4 servings

The radishes lose a little of their bite and become slightly sweet when cooked.

8 small bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 2 1/2 pounds)

1 tablespoon olive oil

Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

1 1/4 cups low-sodium, fat-free chicken broth

12 medium radishes, halved

3/4 pound carrots (about 4), cut into sticks

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1 teaspoon sugar

4 green onions, sliced

1/4 cup golden raisins

10 ounces spinach, tough stems removed

Juice of 1/2 lemon

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

1. Trim any excess skin from the chicken thighs.

2. In a Dutch oven or skillet large enough to hold all the chicken, heat the oil over medium-high heat.

3. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Add it to the pan, skin-side down, and cook until browned, 6 to 7 minutes. Turn over and cook another 6 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

4. Spoon off and discard the fat. Return the pan to medium-high heat. Add the broth and scrape up any brown bits from the pan with a spoon or spatula.

5. Stir in the radishes, carrots and sugar.

6. Place the chicken on top of the vegetables, partly cover and simmer until it is cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove chicken and vegetables from the skillet and keep warm. Add the green onions and raisins to the skillet and cook 30 seconds. Add the spinach and season with salt and pepper. Cook, tossing the spinach, until just wilted, about 2 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice.

7. For each serving, place 2 thighs on a plate and sprinkle with chives. Surround with vegetables and spinach.

Adapted from "Real Simple Dinner Tonight: Done!" by Real Simple magazine (Time Home Entertainment, $24.95).

Tested by Susan Selasky in the Free Press Test Kitchen.

326 calories (43 percent from fat ), 16 grams fat (4 grams sat. fat ), 23 grams carbohydrates, 24 grams protein, 615 mg sodium, 71 mg cholesterol, 6 grams fiber.

Asparagus and Leek Tart with Goat Cheese

Makes 6 servings

5 slices bacon, diced

2 leeks, white and pale green parts only, washed well, sliced

1 bunch asparagus (about 1 pound), tough ends trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 sheet (1/2 pound) puff pastry, thawed

5 ounces soft goat cheese (plain or herb), softened

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 large egg yolk mixed with 1/2 teaspoon water

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

In a large nonstick skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer to paper towels. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat from the pan. Add the leeks to the skillet and saute for about 2 minutes or until softened. Add the asparagus and cook over medium-high heat until the asparagus is crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the cooked bacon.

On a lightly floured piece of kitchen parchment, roll out the pastry to a 10-by-16-inch rectangle. Transfer the pastry and the parchment to a baking sheet.

Evenly spread the softened goat cheese onto the pastry, leaving a 1-inch border around the edge. Sprinkle the asparagus mixture evenly over the goat cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Fold the edge over and crimp for a decorative edge if desired.

Brush the edge of the tart with the egg wash. Bake until the pastry is golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from oven and cool slightly. Cut into 6 pieces and serve warm.

Note: This tart works greats as a main dish served with mixed spring greens, or it can be cut into appetizer portions.

Adapted from "Fine Cooking in Season" by editors and contributors of Fine Cooking magazine (Taunton Press, $22.95).

Tested by Susan Selasky in the Free Press Test Kitchen.

366 calories (60 percent from fat ), 25 grams fat (7 grams sat. fat ), 24 grams carbohydrates, 13 grams protein, 469 mg sodium, 53 mg cholesterol, 2 grams fiber.

Creamy Spring Peas with Pancetta

Makes 6 servings

Kosher salt

2 cups shelled fresh English peas or 10-ounce package frozen peas

1 pound sugar snap peas, trimmed of tough strings

1/4 pound snow peas, trimmed of tough strings and thinly sliced

4 ounces pancetta, chopped or substitute thick-sliced bacon for the pancetta if desired

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups less-sodium, fat-free chicken broth

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Juice of 1 lemon

Freshly ground pepper

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Fill a large bowl with ice water. If using fresh English peas, add to the boiling water and cook about 1 minute. ( Frozen peas are added later.) Add the snap peas and cook until bright green, about 2 minutes, then add the snow peas and cook 30 seconds. Drain the peas and plunge into the ice water to cool.

2. In a large skillet, cook the pancetta over medium heat until crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate with a slotted spoon. Add the flour to the drippings in the skillet and cook, whisking, about 1 minute. Whisk in the chicken broth and cream and cook until reduced by one-third, about 6 minutes.

3. Drain the peas, shaking off the excess water, then add to the skillet. (If using frozen peas, add them here.) Cook, stirring, until heated through, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving bowl and top with the crispy pancetta.

From the Food Network magazine, April 2011 issue.

Tested by Susan Selasky in the Free Press Test Kitchen.

239 calories (47 percent from fat ), 12 grams fat (5 grams sat. fat ), 18 grams carbohydrates, 14 grams protein, 800 mg sodium, 36 mg cholesterol, 5 grams fiber.

Spicy Pork with Asparagus and Jalapeno

Makes 4 servings

3 tablespoons soy sauce, divided

1 tablespoon Shaoxing Chinese rice wine or dry sherry

2 teaspoons cornstarch

12 ounces coarsely ground pork

3 teaspoons toasted sesame oil, divided

12 ounces thin to medium asparagus spears, trimmed, cut on extreme diagonal into 1/2- to 3/4-inch pieces

1 red jalapeno, minced with seeds

1 tablespoon minced, peeled fresh ginger

2 tablespoons oyster sauce

1 teaspoon honey

2 green onions, thinly sliced on diagonal

Fine sea salt

Ground pepper

1. In a medium bowl, whisk 1 tablespoon soy sauce, rice wine and cornstarch. Add the pork; toss to blend. In a wok or large deep skillet, heat 2 teaspoons of the sesame oil over high heat. Add asparagus, jalapeno and ginger. Toss until asparagus is crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer asparagus mixture to plate.

2. Add remaining 1 teaspoon oil to wok. Add pork mixture and stir-fry until browned, using spoon to break up any clumps of meat, 2 to 3 minutes. Return asparagus mixture to wok. Add remaining 2 tablespoons soy sauce, oyster sauce and honey; stir-fry until pork is cooked through, adding water by tablespoonfuls if mixture is too dry, about 2 minutes. Add green onions; toss to incorporate. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

From Bon Appetit, April 2011 issue.

Note: We used pork tenderloin when testing this recipe and ground it in a food processor. Place the tenderloin in the freezer for about 20 minutes before slicing and grinding it so it doesn't turn to mush.

Tested by Susan Selasky in the Free Press Test Kitchen.

286 calories (57 percent from fat ), 18 grams fat (6 grams sat. fat ), 9 grams carbohydrates, 21 grams protein, 1,287 mg sodium, 67 mg cholesterol, 2 grams fiber.

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