Spring

steakspringsalad.jpgSpring brings many colorful bounties, but the best of the season comes in green. This time of year farmers' markets are brimming with tender, young vegetables. That's why my friend Caroline and I decided to take a trip to the Union Square Greenmarket this past week to see what dish we could create together.

With all the beautiful salad greens available at the market, we naturally decided upon making a salad. After browsing all the produce to see what was the freshest and most appealing, we found some beautiful spinach for our base. We also gathered baby fingerling potatoes, baby red onions, and radishes. Caroline had the perfect idea, to flash pickle the radishes. And for a lean protein, I suggested a steak, which we picked up at the nearby Whole Foods Market. Once we had all our ingredients, we were ready to cook—and eat.

What we achieved was a colorful and healthy salad with a combination of earthy vegetables that encapsulated the flavors of spring.

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asparaguspeasaladWith each and every passing day we're just a little bit closer to spring. I know I can't wait to find delicate green vegetables at the market any time now. I just came back from a trip to San Francisco and as always, whenever I visit a city, I make sure to stop by the local farmers' market. I was so impressed to see that on the West coast they already have bright green asparagus, among many other spring vegetables. Asparagus is really the harbinger of spring. Just like those early crocuses, asparagus bursts out of the ground with an eagerness to embrace spring.

Here on the east coast, our spring vegetables haven't yet sprung, but we do have asparagus from California. I couldn't help myself when I found a bunch of beautiful pencil-thin asparagus at the supermarket just the other day. I was inspired by the many wonderful salads I had on my trip to create a recipe of my own that encapsulates the season of renewal.

Start the recipe by blanching the asparagus and snow peas. This step brings out their brighter green color and makes them more tender. I like to chop half the asparagus and slice half the snow peas for the salad. The remaining whole stalks and pea pods are perfect for garnishing. The lemon vinaigrette adds a sharp wintry note and features minced shallot, which has been mellowed from a soak in vinegar. This salad would make a great appetizer before a spring-themed dinner party.

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grilledasparagusThis is the perfect time of year to serve fresh asparagus and one great method for cooking is an indoor grill pan.

I generally prefer the thin stalks for steaming and fat stalks for grilling, but use whatever you want – fat, thin, green or white. Choose bunches with tightly closed tips and no flowering.

Delicious asparagus depends on freshness and proper preparation. Pan grilling gives you slightly charred stalks with delicious brown spots that you get from roasting or barbecuing without having to heat up your oven or grill.

The lemon vinaigrette enhances the dish perfectly and adds to the bright fresh flavor of the asparagus.

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sorrelsoupI love unique spring vegetables—it's the reason why I write about such things like ramps and fiddleheads so much. For me there's nothing better than combining my favorites in one recipe to celebrate the spring season. Ramps on their own would make a particularly good soup. But looking for a contrasting flavor to pair it with, I thought of sorrel. With its tart and citrusy flavor, the leafy green is a perfect foil for pungent and oniony ramps.

This season the weather hasn't really brought us much of a warm spring just yet. Instead we've gotten endless chilly days, but luckily those days present us with the perfect opportunity to eat spring soups. Rich flavored, creamy soups are the best way to soothe and satisfy when you need uplift on a cold day. And say if suddenly the weather turns for the better, these types of soups are also great chilled on a warm day.

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swisschard.jpgThe second coolest thing about Swiss chard is that it cooks so darn fast. (The first coolest thing being its amazing neon color—especially the Bright Lights and Rainbow varieties.) So I hate to spoil the party, but I’m going to. My recipe takes a bit longer than the standard sauté.

That’s because most recipes tell you to discard the chard stems and “use them for vegetable stock” or something else. (I know how many of you are busying yourselves making vegetable stock.) This is so you can then wilt the leaves like spinach and have a side dish in seconds. But if you have a few extra seconds (okay, minutes), you can simply slice up those stems and cook them until crisp-tender before adding the leaves to the pan. The stems add nice texture and make the side dish feel a little more substantial, too.

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