Spring has finally arrived, and with it the spring harvest. While fall is the traditional harvest time in the minds of many, spring has plenty of crops of its own, and after a long winter of canned or greenhouse goods, foodies are ready for the fresh stuff. Asparagus, multiple root vegetables, tropical fruit and exotic mushrooms are all ready to munch on by spring. Salad lovers will be particularly pleased, as many varieties of lettuce come into season. Anyone with a sweet tooth is also lucky, with everything from citrus fruits to cherries to rhubarb freshly available for recipes. Below is a suggested three-course spring menu, perfect for welcoming in the warmer weather.
Salads are good year round, but with fresh baby spinach, lettuce and arugula all coming into season, this is the perfect time for a big plate of leafy greens. Asparagus, another tasty salad addition, is also a spring harvest. For a fruitier salad, chopped orange slices or strawberries can also be added.
A citrusy balsamic dressing will keep to the spring theme, as lemons and lime are also in season. A simple dressing can be made by combining a quarter cup of olive oil and balsamic dressing, a healthy spritz of whatever citrus is on hand, salt, pepper and a teaspoon of maple syrup.
Ceviche is another seasonal appetizer option which utilizes the lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruit that are all coming into season. As temperatures go up, this no-cook treat becomes even more desirable. Easy to make, “cooking” a basic ceviche involves chopping up some flounder or shrimp (or any white fish really) along with red onion, garlic, and ginger, and then soaking the whole mixture in citrus juice for two to three hours. Some salt, pepper, and fresh chile should also be added for seasoning. When the fish changes color from translucent to a more opaque white color it is almost ready to serve. At this point drain some of the juice and add sliced avocado, chopped tomato and chopped cilantro, then serve with a side of tortilla chips.
A great simple dinner idea is a spring pizza, loaded with morels, ramps, arugula, spinach, thin potato shavings, and sweet caramelized onions. Dough is easy and cheap to make, or can even be bought at most supermarkets ready to go. Some soft cheese should be thrown on as well to hold everything together. Pizza is one of the simplest and yet most versatile meals out there, and with some adjustment of the toppings can be seasonal year-round.
Pizza isn’t the only option, of course. As the weather warms up, barbecue fans can finally bust the grill out of storage. Grilled veal chops or lamb are both delicious and well timed. Jezebel sauce, which is made with seasonal pineapple or apricot, perfectly compliments the veal, though it goes less well with the lamb.
Both meat dishes can be served with a side of charred spring onions and ramps, as well as sautéed morels or asparagus. Roasted fennel is another tasty choice, though it’s at the end of its season in the early spring. With plenty of spring vegetables to choose from, there is no excuse for not eating green.
A baked meringue topped with seasonal baked berries is sure to be a crowd pleaser. Strawberries come into season in the spring, as do blueberries, though generally they are late spring. Blackberries and raspberries can be thrown in as well, though purists may consider that to be cheating, as they don’t come into season until summer.
Rhubarb lovers can celebrate as well – it is in fact a particular favorite of mine, mainly due to a wonderful host mom with a rhubarb plant in her backyard. Though there is some debate as to whether it is a fruit or a vegetable, everyone can agree that it is a delicious seasonal treat. A strawberry rhubarb tart can perfectly take advantage of both of these spring delicacies. Whether using pre-bought pastry dough or making dough from scratch, anyone with a sweet tooth can throw together this tasty tart without too much work.
Many thanks to professional cooks Beatrice Wise and Adam Shney for their culinary guidance in this article.