Winter cooking is a paradox, both comforting and disturbing. After all, it’s a landmine of empty calories, rich artery clogs and sickening pancreas, but it’s also delicious! Many of us are lumbering out of our winter caves (and pandemic hibernation) dragging bellies full of comfort foods of all kinds. With spring approaching, it’s time to put those creamy soups, beef stews, heavy braises, and carb-heavy cheese casseroles under the cast iron brasserie skillet. So let’s replace gnarled winter roots with fresh spring shoots to showcase the season’s bounty with lighter, brighter dishes. Here is my spring rainbow.
Farmers markets and produce aisles draw you in with fresh, fragrant scents and vibrant shades of green. Spring bursts with tender shoots and pods of peas, artichoke blossoms, asparagus, delicate lettuces like curly lace and peppery microgreens, as well as sassy spring onions and vibrant herbs. Mint leaves vibrate and roll, shaking the senses and reviving memories, as well as everything from green salads, pilafs and lamb dishes to tendrils, juleps and lemonades. Delicate chives, the smallest species of onion, nicely complement baked potatoes, smoked salmon and cold soups, while chervil, an indispensable French spring herb fragrant with distinct notes of anise makes up dishes. of fish, eggs and pasta, enlivens dressings and sauces and makes an excellent substitute for basil in pesto. This super herb with a rich reserve of minerals and detoxifying properties also acts as a natural chemical peel to rejuvenate the skin for a glowing, youthful complexion.
Tender Spring Garlic has arrived, but only for a short season, so grab it now. Simply the immature version of the common garlic, botanically known as Allium sativum, spring garlic resembles green onions with fragile green stalks and a delicate purple bulb that has yet to split into nails. recognizable cloves. The young garlic overpowers its elder in many ways: a more delicate flavor with sweet nutty notes; low maintenance that requires no peeling; and no bad breath collateral damage. Slice thinly in potato and green salads, stir-fries and broth soups, pastas and frittatas, or as a topping to liven up pizzas and bruschettas.
The fragrant lavender flower, a member of the mint family and a close relative of sage, rosemary and thyme, sports divine purple buds in both sweet and savory dishes. Whether fresh or dried, the herb enhances scones, fruit crumb cakes, shortbread cookies and other baked delights. Mix the flowers in risottos, green salads and cold soups. Crush and sprinkle the roasted fry. Stir in dressings. Whip up a drizzle of lemon, honey and lavender for grilled salmon, wild shrimp or scallops. Or whip up dazzling simple syrup for French toast, iced teas, and seasonal cocktails like blueberry-lavender mojitos for a burst of springtime cheer.
In the pink
Lip puckering rhubarb, also known as “pie plant,” balances well with sweet strawberries, rich raspberries, and sweet, spicy ginger. Actually a vegetable and a member of the buckwheat family, rhubarb is sold in bunches like asparagus. Choose short, dark, pink stems over longer, greener stems for a tastier flavor and less stringy texture for fizzy cobblers, zesty salsas and chutneys, and tangy compotes.
White Tie Affair
Tis the season to indulge in fresh sheep’s and goat’s cheeses, which are good and plentiful during the breeding and lactation months of spring. Tease the palate with Sheep’s Pecorino Romano, a hard, salty cheese from Italy offering tangy, tart, brackish and musky undertones; Brebisrousse d’Argental butter from France; or Queso Manchego with playful notes of candied butterscotch that will make a fandango in your mouth. A creamy log of goat cheese coated in a mixture of fresh chopped herbs spreads nicely over crackers and raw vegetables, while a silky wheel of snow-white, mold-ripened Humboldt Fog goat cheese with an earthy, lemony flavor is a real knockout. Pair these seasonal cheeses with a snappy piece of honeycomb or a delicate drizzle of acacia honey, plus candied kumquats, dried cherries, pink salt-crusted pistachios, and assorted flatbreads.
Roasted golden beets make a salad sing without creating a trail of “blood” produced by its ruby-hued siblings. Vibrant edible flowers like sorrels, nasturtiums, calendulas and lemon verbena flowers are multitasking wonders – they infuse oils, vinegars and teas with their fragrant petals, make breathtaking garnishes for cocktails, soups, seafood dishes, cakes and gelatos, and in addition, they have healing properties for the skin, the lymphatic system and the sinuses.
And now sunny lemon, synonymous with the color yellow, is the golden girl of the season. But not all lemons are created equal. The Meyer, a hybrid cross between a Eureka lemon and a tangerine, has supple orange-tinted skin and a sweeter, less acidic juice than its half-siblings. Whether it’s a squirt of juice or a pinch of zest, a Meyer will revive even the dullest dishes with its complex scent that resembles an aromatic herb or spice. But it really shines in this risotto with peas and spring herbs to ring in the bright new season.
Springtime Meyer risotto with lemon and peas
• 1 cup of Arborio rice
• 1/2 cup dry white wine
• 4 1/2 cups of vegetable broth
• 2 large shallots, diced
• 1 cup peas, at room temperature
• 1 tablespoon fresh chervil or chopped Italian parsley or a handful of fresh lavender buds
• 1/3 cup Pecorino Romano, grated
• 2 large Meyer lemons, squeezed and zested
• 1 tablespoon avocado or grapeseed oil
In a heavy-bottomed skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Sauté shallots until translucent and tender. Add the rice, mixing well. Pour in the wine and cook until the liquid is absorbed. Repeat adding juice and one cup of broth at a time. During the last minutes of cooking, stir in the peas. Continue cooking until the rice is tender and the broth is absorbed. Stir in cheese. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with the zest and herb of your choice.
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