Sure, the temperature is in the low 50s, the skies are cloudy, and the heat in our office is still going strong—but today is March 20, and March 20 is the first day of spring, and no one can take that away from us. Let’s put on T-shirts and buy fruit at the farmers’ market and eat it in the park. Or, you know, let’s cook.
These are the seven vegetables we have our sights set on for the new season—and all the ways we can’t wait to use ’em.
Asparagus is the sweetheart of spring and who are we to fight it? Any way you want to use this vegetable is a good idea. Think shaved, raw ribbons, dressed with an ultra-simple vinaigrette and covered in grated cheese. Blanched in salty water, then drizzled with brown butter, plus some lemon zest and chili flakes for good measure. Roasted until the tops are frizzled. Or char-grilled. Or sautéed. Whatever you do, combine it with pasta at least once, hopefully more.
Ramps are as cool as an allium can hope to get. With dramatic green leaves and gradient blush bottoms, they’re sure to make an appearance at every hip restaurant around you. But, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t snag some from the farmers’ market and cook them yourself. Pickle some for later (your cheese boards down the road will thank you) and cook the rest to enjoy now—say, sautéed alongside crispy chicken thighs or fried in bacon fat and folded into scrambled eggs. And, when it doubt, just treat ramps the same way you would scallions (which, if you ask me, are good in just about anything).
Rhubarb is unabashedly bitter, hence why it so often shows up next to sweeter counterparts—especially strawberries. And while I would never turn down a naughty rhubarb scone, what excites me most is when these stalks make an appearance at dinner. To me, rhubarb is spring’s answer to cranberries—ready to be sautéed with just about anything, turned into a savory-slanted jam, and plopped on everything from crispy pork chops to grilled chicken. Think: any wine (especially rosé), just-squeezed citrus juice, spunky aromatics (garlic, ginger, scallions), a smooch of sweetener (sugar, honey, maple syrup), plenty of salt, and any spice under the sun.
Intimidated by fresh artichokes? I was, too. That’s why, last year, I asked five chefs for their best tips and tricks—read all about that here. While breaking down the vegetable itself can be complicated (you’ll get the hang of it soon, promise), serving it shouldn’t be. Poach until tender, then serve with a lemony mayo. Or fry until crispy as a potato chip. Or stuff with seasoned breadcrumbs and cheese, lots of cheese, and bake until bubbly and browned.
First things first: Leeks have to be cleaned really well. I like to slice them in half lengthwise, then give them a long shower under the sink faucet. After that, they can be anything an onion can (but with a milder flavor and prettier color!). I like sautéeing chunks and putting them toward gingery fried rice. Cheesy risotto is always a good idea. And roasting ribbons until they’re crispy is the ultimate garnish for everything from avocado toast to fish tacos.
I only ate raw radishes for most of my life. My grandmother would sprinkle them with salt, give me a bite, and my face would pucker up like I’d just tried a lemon. These days, they’re one of my favorite vegetables. Their unshy, almost spicy flavor makes radishes a dream partner for fatty ingredients—think bread smeared with soft butter or a crudité platter with a creamy dip. If that’s still too much, try them cooked. They are great roasted or sautéed until fork-tender and wrinkly, served alongside a crusty steak or grilled fish.
More peas, please. Sorry, couldn’t help myself, they’re just so good! Tiny, sweet, and bouncy, like the vegetal counterpart to blueberries. I need not tell you that peas want to be tossed in pasta, whether it’s an eggy carbonara or cheesy cacio e pepe. But maybe you have yet to turn them into a puree to rival mashed potatoes and serve as the happiest bed for any protein, from crispy-skinned salmon to chicken thighs. You can even turn them into a whoa, why is this so good? element for guacamole. After all, backyard BBQs are coming.