Say the word “spring,” and a palette of pastel colors comes to mind. Yet the flowers in my garden right now range from deep dusty rose to rich burgundy with a little salmon, purple and white sprinkled through. But the foliage that feeds all those colors is green, the green of photosynthesis and life. That’s what spring is.
And when it comes to spring eating, it’s all that green you want to celebrate. For me spring is justifiably green in aroma too. Think the bracing scent of parsley with an overlay of sweetness. And of course there are the crisp textures that come from water intermingling with cellulose held in tension by cell walls.
The season brings vegetables to market like sugar snaps and English peas, and vegetables that have a green yet earthy and even nutty flavor like asparagus or artichokes. Nature wisely paired all this bracing greenness with spring mint and green garlic. Ah California, the meditteranean on the Pacific.
Here are a few of my favorite recipes for you to riff on. I encourage you to get comfortable with the artichoke. Learn how to properly clean them. It’s easy if you start off with baby artichokes, which are the last crop that show up on the plant.
Asparagi alla Milanese aka Asparagus with Egg and Parmesan
This is the ultimate lazy cook’s ode to spring. I love to make it with really thick asparagus that comes from the Sacramento Delta to farmers markets this time of year. But it’s also good with medium or even thin asparagus. I roast them in one layer on parchment paper after seasoning them with salt, pepper, and olive oil in a preheated 400℉ oven until tender but not soft. Then I fry an egg in olive oil, put the egg on the asparagus, and cover the whole thing with grated or shaved Parmigiano Reggiano. That’s it. That’s the recipe.
I love this dish not only because of its extravagant use of several spring vegetables in one place, but because there are so many ways to use it. Spoon it up as a vegetable side or vegetarian main, layer it into a lasagne with bechamel, top a bruschetta with it or stir into a rich risotto or buttery plate of pasta.
Here in Los Angeles, we rarely think about buying fresh English peas and shelling them for a recipe, which is a shame. This dish relies on the al dente quality you get from quickly sautéing them, a texture you can never achieve with frozen peas.
Roman-style artichokes or Carciofi alla Romana are a classic springtime antipasto or first course. The artichokes are braised in olive oil and water with a copious amount of herbs until tender.