Six Foods to Put Some Spring on Your Plate
Vegetables to put some spring on your plate.
Wafts of garlic goodness as you stomp through woodland or even urban parkland are a sure sign that spring has arrived. Simply pick and give it a good rinse and try your hand at some wild garlic pesto. Throw the garlic into the food processor, add about 50g of Parmesan, 50g of shelled, lightly dry-roasted hazelnuts, a good glug of olive oil, then whizz it up, add lemon juice and seasoning to taste. The pesto is infinitely versatile, giving verdant bounce of spring to many dishes from pasta and soup to corn on the cob and salads. Use also with chicken and salmon dishes.
With their distinctive dark honeycomb-like appearance, meaty texture and earthy, nutty flavour, morels are one of the most desirable wild mushrooms. Plus they soak up a sauce beautifully. The quintessential dish featuring this mushroom is by revered chef Raymond Blanc of Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons: chicken and morels with vin jaune sauce. A few morels can also transform a risotto, perhaps with the addition of some asparagus, or try this recipe for veal medallions.
Even potatoes have seasons and the appearance of small, kidney-shaped Jersey Royals with their rich, nutty taste is another denoter of spring. These potatoes even have their own Protected Designated Origin (PDO) status, meaning they can only be grown in Jersey where the soil is light and seaweed is used as fertiliser. Boil them simply in their scrubbed wispy skins and serve with lashings of butter, black pepper and mint or try crushing new potatoes and roasting with lemon, coriander and black olives, Greek style.
Widely available throughout Europe, calçots are best described as being like a cross between a spring onion and a leek. In Catalonia, where they are a speciality, spring parties called calçotades are held where calçots are grilled until the outer layers are charred, then wrapped in newspaper to steam and served on terracotta tiles. They are eaten by hand, peeling off the charred outer layer and dipping the white end in Romesco sauce. It is customary to wear a large bib to avoid sauce stains!
This root vegetable is a member of the mustard family, which explains its peppery bite. It comes in many different hues from red and yellow to purple and black and now has new culinary status as a cooked vegetable as well as a salad item. Breakfast radishes, with their elongated shape, are best French style with premium salted butter, perhaps an Provençal Anchoiade or anchovy based dip and sourdough. Chefs often roast radishes with olive oil, salt and pepper (10 minutes is enough so that they retain their crunch) or sautéed with brown butter. Either way they make a great standalone dish or as an accompaniment to fish.
Nothing says spring quite like vibrant green asparagus instead of the more pricey white asparagus grown underground and picked by hand. Snap the stalks where they are tender and cook the spears for three to five minutes depending on thickness. Save the leftover stalks for soup and risotto. Transform breakfast into a simple gourmet feast by dipping asparagus into a soft boiled egg. Add blanched and grilled asparagus to a warm salad, perhaps with fresh crab, for lunch. Come dinner, serve with hollandaise or as a sophisticated accompaniment to chicken, salmon or lamb.
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