The trees are budding and blossoming, tulips are blooming, and allergy season is in full effect. While time may be a bit hard to keep track of these days, it appears that spring has arrived in the Pacific Northwest. Not only are our streets getting greener, our produce aisles are too.
In Washington, markets are flaunting lots of local favorites such as bok choy, broccoli raab, garlic scapes, radishes, arugula and pea vines. If you’re tempted to do some foraging, our forests provide bounties of fiddlehead ferns, nettles, sorrel, and morel mushrooms, to name a few. For those less adventuresome, you could even venture into your backyard or local park for some bitter yet delightful dandelion greens!
To get you into cooking the spring spirit, here are five recipes featuring some of our favorite seasonal stars.
This chilled asparagus soup has just a few main ingredients to highlight the clean, light, and refreshing flavor of each. As a bonus, there’s very little waste involved; it utilizes the woody ends of the asparagus and the green tops of the leeks to create your stock! If chilled soups aren’t your thing, this dish could easily transform into a warm sauce for white fish, risotto, or pasta.
Fried rice is a great solution to the question: What can I use up in my fridge? The wilty tail end of a bunch of herbs? Chop ‘em fine and throw ‘em in! Soft carrots or yellowed celery? Dice ‘em up and throw ‘em in! A bruised zucchini, three cherry tomatoes, some slimy-ish mushrooms? Perfect – you know what to do. Fried rice doesn’t have to be pretty, it just has to taste good. The only trick is using leftover rice – dry or stale rice will hold its form better and have the opportunity to crisp up in the oil. If you have sesame oil in your pantry, use just the tiniest amount to drizzle on top at the very end – a little goes a long way!
Quoting one of the comments for this recipe, “This salad is greater than the sum of its parts”. Though it boasts just four main ingredients, they play off each other perfectly to give you a bright, bold side dish that’s perfect for spring. Asparagus or spring peas would also make for great substitutions if you don’t have green beans on hand.
Salmon is delightful baked, broiled, fried, or cooked en papillote, but one of our favorite methods is to cook it on a cedar plank. The wood infuses a subtle earthy flavor to the delicate flesh of the fish, keeps it moist, and prevents it from sticking to the grill. If you don’t have an outdoor grill, you can use planks in the oven! Just be sure you soak them for at least an hour, and cook at about 400 degrees.
What better to pair with cedar planked salmon than with the sweet grassy flavor of nettles? Stinging nettles – yes, the very same that cause an uproar of skin irritation upon contact – are actually a nutrient powerhouse, full of calcium, iron, and vitamins A, C and K. Studies have also shown that they may aid in blood sugar control, help alleviate allergy symptoms, and reduce inflammation! Just be sure to handle them with gloves or tongs until you blanch them quickly in boiling water – a 15 second dunk is enough to take the sting out.
Few things scream spring more than rhubarb, the sour and stalky “fruit” that makes its in-season debut in April. While this recipe may require a little more involvement than, say, a classic rhubarb coffee cake, it pays off in flavor, texture, and visual appeal (plus, who doesn’t have a little extra time on their hands these days to hone the skills of a masterful tart tatin?).