(Not) Recipes

How to Get Your Favorite Meals Ready for Spring

March 28, 2016

You've developed a winter routine (kudos to you!). You know how to make breakfast hash with cabbage and potatoes; how to make white bean piccata like you're Giada De Laurentiis; how to make thumbprint cookies filled with Nutella—and you know how to do it all without a recipe.

Photo by Eric Moran

But then spring comes along (or, almost comes along) and suddenly, there are new bright, flashy, practically-neon-green kids on the block. How can you incorporate the newbies into your go-to meals without breaking your cooking streak?

Here's some inspiration for taking your favorite dishes, your mastered techniques, and adding a little sunshine:

In the winter, you can accessorize your pasta and grain salads with the fridge and pantry regulars: oil-cured olives, sun-dried tomatoes, oil-packed tuna, roasted red peppers—all those ingredients that are perfectly good at their jobs but not necessarily thrilling to work with.

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But in the spring, the grass pasta is greener: Add English peas and snap peas (raw or sautéed), cucumber and herbs (roughly chopped or torn or left proud and whole), maybe even some blistered fiddleheads (but only if you want to!). Or go the simple route: Pick one or two minor characters, then shell out for a bottle of olio nuovo, made from the season's first olive pressing, for your dressing.

Your panzanella doesn't require tomatoes when the greeny things at the market are calling your name! This one has peas and bacon; this one has peas, leeks, asparagus, snow peas, basil, mint, and thyme (sheesh).

If you're going the spring veg route and saving the tomatoes for a few months from now, just make sure you provide your bread with the bit of extra liquid—vinaigrette, oil from sautéed leeks, flavorful broth—it needs to get comfortable.

Asparagus hash. Spinach hash. Leek hash. Artichoke hash. Or all of it at once, and radishes, peas, and spring onions, too. Plus a bouquet of fresh herbs and lots of lemon zest.

While you wait for spring's first berries, use the last of the lemons, grapefruits, and tangerines from citrus season. Later in the year, ask for seconds at the farmers market and turn your stone fruit into shrub, too.

They're light and lovely, sure, but spring produce is just at home in a light salad as it is sautéed or roasted, then laid atop a cheese mattress. We'll be placing asparagus (tossed in a warm brown butter-anchovy sauce and broiled) and butter-poached radishes on broiled ricotta, then scooping it all up with slices of bread.

Once you've got your fresh pasta dough, make a springy sauce to toss it in:

You can piccata tofu or chickpeas anytime. Cod, flounder, sole, and haddock, however, are at their height in March, April, and May—and they all taste excellent pan-fried, then covered with a briney, lemony, winy sauce.

To your biscuits, add finely chopped herbs or minced alliums, like tiny spring scallions, ramps, or young garlic.

Serve them with soft scrambled eggs. Like fruits and vegetables, eggs have a season, too: When the days get longer, birds lay eggs (even chickens, animals bred for high egg production, will only lay with ten or more hours of light a day, according to Edible Manhattan).

Make your dough with lavender-, rose-, lemon-, or vanilla-scented sugar, then fill the cookies with something you can only find in the spring (macerate the season's first strawberries!) or something that tastes like it is (pineapple jam or plum preserves).

What part of your winter routine are you ready to shake off? Tell us in the comments!

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