Spring Forward With These 7 Fresh, Seasonal Recipes

It’s almost spring — according to the calendar, at least. Even if the weather outside hasn’t cooperated recently, you can still look forward to the fruits and vegetables that will be in season in a few short weeks. Eating seasonally can help cut down on your grocery bill, because the foods you buy are more likely to come from nearby farms. It is also a way to hit reset on your tastebuds, introducing new flavors through fresh produce. Here are seven recipes that bring some of the season’s best tastes to your table.

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/benreichelt/

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/benreichelt/

1. Artichokes

With antioxidants, folate, fiber, and vitamins C and K, artichokes are a healthy addition to your spring menus. This spinach artichoke pasta by Life Tastes Good serves four to six people.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound penne pasta
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon freshly minced garlic
  • 12 ounces fresh baby spinach (2 bags)
  • 2 (14-ounce) cans artichoke hearts, quartered and drained
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ cup shaved or shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1.5 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • seasoned Italian breadcrumbs
  • crushed red pepper, to taste

Directions: Prepare penne as directed on package for al dente. Drain and set aside. In the same pot, over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter and add 1 tablespoon freshly minced garlic. Sauté for about 30 seconds and add all of the spinach. (Don’t worry — it’s not too much!) Cook spinach, stirring, for a few minutes until wilted. Be careful not to burn the garlic. Remove from pot and reserve.

In the same pot, over mid-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter and add both cans of drained and quartered artichoke hearts. Cook these for a couple of minutes until they start to brown. Remove from the pot and reserve. In the same pot, over mid-low heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter and whisk in 2 tablespoons flour until combined to a paste. Scrape any brown bits from the bottom of the pan for more flavor. Pour in 3 cups whole milk and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes or until it starts to thicken. Don’t let it boil.

Add ½ cup Parmesan cheese and 1½ cups mozzarella cheese. Give it a taste and season as needed with salt and pepper. Don’t be put off by the overly milky taste of this sauce. Once you get the artichokes and the garlicky spinach in there, it will all come together. Add the reserved artichokes and pasta and toss gently to distribute, and then fold in the reserved spinach. Top with Italian breadcrumbs and crushed red pepper flakes (be careful with the pepper flakes — you don’t need much). Give it one more taste. Adjust seasonings as needed. Enjoy!

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/whitneyinchicago/

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/whitneyinchicago/

2. Rhubarb

Not every part of rhubarb is desirable. As the Almanac explains, the leaves of this perennial are poisonous. Only the stalks are eaten, and they have a tart taste. Rhubarb is technically a vegetable, but it is so often used as a fruit in jams and desserts that the U.S. classifies it as such. To get a crunchy, rhubarb-filled taste of spring, bake up Hungry Girl por Vida‘s brown butter rhubarb crumble.

Ingredients:

Crumble

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 stick (4ounces) unsalted butter, browned

Rhubarb filling

  • 2 pounds rhubarb, ends and toxic leaves removed
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeded
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon chilled, unsalted butter, cut into tiny cubes

Directions: Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. To brown the butter, melt in a skillet over medium-low until solids are browned and fragrant like nutty toffee. Remove from heat and set aside while you gather the remaining crumble ingredients. In a large bowl, stir together flour, oats, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Stir in the slightly cooled brown butter and set in the refrigerator or freezer while you prepare the filling.

Cut rhubarb into about 1-inch pieces. In a large bowl, rub vanilla seeds into sugar until combined and fragrant. Stir in salt and cornstarch. Finally, toss the rhubarb into the sugar mixture to coat well, and scrape the mixture into a 9-inch pie plate or other desired baking dish. Sprinkle with cold, cubed butter, and top with chilled crumble mixture and bake for 45 to 60 minutes until top is golden brown and juices are bubbling. Allow to cool at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or room temperature, with ice cream if desired.

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/72284410@N08/

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/72284410@N08/

3. Strawberries

Chances are, when you think spring produce, strawberries are one of the first foods to pop into your mind. The delicious, popular red berry has any number of uses. From simple breakfast dishes to complex cakes, strawberries can be added to just about any meal of the day. Recipe Runner has combined wheat berry and wild rice into a salad with strawberry and basil. Basil resembles peppermint and is an aromatic herb, a small touch that will enhance your dish.

Ingredients:

Salad

  • ¾ cup cooked wheat berries
  • 1 cup cooked wild rice
  • ¼ cup toasted chopped pecans
  • ½ cup strawberries, diced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped

Dressing

  • 1 tablespoon canola or other flavorless oil
  • 2 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions: Cook the wild rice and wheat berries according to the box directions, omitting any oil it may call for. Once the wild rice and wheat berries have cooked, let them cool to room temperature. While the wild rice and wheat berries are cooling, toast and chop the pecans. Add the diced strawberries, basil, and pecan to the cooled wild rice and wheat berries. In a small bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients for the dressing. Pour the dressing onto the salad and toss gently until everything is combined. Serve immediately or chill in the fridge for up to an hour.

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/polkadotcreations/

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/polkadotcreations/

4. Rhubarb-strawberry jam

To keep two of spring’s dominant flavors going well past the April showers and May flowers, make a batch of jam with rhubarb and strawberry. Food52 has a recipe that makes 3 half-pints of jam. It will require you to seal jars to keep the jam for up to a year. Unsealed jam is good for 3 to 4 weeks, provided it is being refrigerated. (Anyone who doesn’t want to seal jam jars but likes the idea of a rhubarb-strawberry sauce can try their hands at a simple syrup.)

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound strawberries
  • 1 pound rhubarb stalks
  • 1½ cups (12 ounces) granulated sugar

Directions: Wash the strawberries and rhubarb well. Hull the berries and dice them into small pieces. Chop the rhubarb into segments approximately half-inch in size. Place the chopped fruit in a glass or ceramic bowl and cover with sugar. Stir to combine and cover. Let the fruit sit for at least an hour, until the juices are flowing. If you’re pressed for time, you can cover the bowl and come back up to 48 hours later; the sugar acts as a preservative and prevents the fruit from browning.

When you’re ready to cook the jam, prepare a small boiling water bath canner and three half-pint jars and bring it to a boil. Place three new canning jar lids in a small pot and bring them to a bare simmer.

Pour the fruit and all the liquid into your jam pot and place it over high heat. For these small batches, you can use a 12-inch stainless steel skillet, but any low, wide, non-reactive pan will do. Bring the fruit to a rapid boil and stir regularly. Over high heat, this jam should take 8 to 12 minutes to cook. It is done when it is quite thick; you can tell that it’s ready when you draw your spoon or spatula through the jam and it doesn’t immediately rush in to fill that space. It will also make a vigorous sizzling noise when stirred.

Remove the jam from the heat and funnel it into the prepared jars. Wipe rims, apply lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes (start your timer when the water returns to a boil, not the moment the jars go into the water bath).

When the time is up, remove jars from canner and set them to cool on a folded kitchen towel. When they are cool enough to handle, remove the rings and test the seals by grasping the edges of the lid and lifting the jar an inch or so from the countertop. If the lid holds fast, the jars are sealed. Any unsealed jars should be refrigerated and eaten promptly. Properly sealed jars will last for at least a year on the shelf; once opened, they will keep in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 weeks.

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/75231152@N00/

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/75231152@N00/

5. Snow peas

These little green peas are different than snap peas, Start Cooking explains. Snow peas are flat, and the seeds in the pod are hardly visible. When picking up snow peas, look for ones that are light green, firm, and have smooth skin. Snow peas are often incorporated into stir fry dishes, and cook quickly. The Dinner Mom uses them in a beef and vegetable stir fry, but you can substitute for chicken or pork.

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup soy sauce (low salt) or coconut aminos
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 pound of beef strips cut for stir-fry, such as top round beef
  • about 10 baby carrots, cut into strips or sliced thin
  • 6 ounces of snow peas, strings removed
  • 1 bunch of green onions, sliced (white and light green parts only)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Directions: Combine soy sauce (or coconut aminos), sugar, garlic, and ginger in a small bowl and set aside. Heat sesame oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add beef to skillet in batches and cook for about 3 minutes or until browned and cooked through.

Remove beef from pan and set aside. Add vegetables and sauce to skillet and cook over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes or until vegetables are crisp tender. Add green onions and cook for 1 minute more. Return beef to skillet and stir to coat with sauce. Top with sesame seeds.

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/quinnanya/

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/quinnanya/

6. Vidalia sweet onion

Down in Georgia, the Vidalia sweet onion is the state vegetable, and it has an annual festival, appropriately held in the spring. Bunky Cooks gave a nod to this Georgia vegetable with Southern-style focaccia bread

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 package dry yeast (about 2¼ teaspoons)
  • 1¼ cups warm water, divided
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3¼ cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • cooking spray
  • 1 cup pimento cheese (recipe here)
  • 2 medium Vidalia onions, sauteed in a little olive oil and seasoned lightly with salt and pepper
  • several slices of thinly sliced local country ham
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • sea salt

Directions: Dissolve honey and yeast in ½ cup warm water in a large bowl; let stand 10 minutes. Add remaining ¾ cup water and 2 tablespoons oil, and stir until blended. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Add 2¾ cups flour and ½ teaspoon salt to yeast mixture; stir until blended. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes). Add enough of remaining ½ cup flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel sticky).

Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, dough has risen enough.)

Punch dough down. Place dough in a 13-inch-by-9-inch baking pan coated with cooking spray. Pat dough to fit pan. Cover and let rise 30 minutes. Uncover dough. Make indentations in top of dough using the handle of a wooden spoon or fingertips. Cover and let rise 45 minutes or until doubled in size. While dough is rising, you can sauté your onions and slice the country ham.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Uncover dough. Spoon tablespoons of pimento cheese over dough. Top with sauteed onions and country ham, spreading evenly over the focaccia. Drizzle a little olive oil over the top of the focaccia, particularly where there are no other ingredients. Sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt. Bake for 23 minutes or until browned on bottom and sounds hollow when tapped. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jeffreyww/

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jeffreyww/

7. Rosemary burger

Bread baking is cathartic for some and frustrating to everyone else. For anyone in the latter camp who wants a Vidalia recipe or if you’re ready to fire up the grill, take your burger to the next level with Our Life in Food‘s rosemary burger.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • handful of rosemary, minced
  • seasoning salt
  • garlic powder
  • applewood smoked gruyere cheese, shredded
  • 2 thick slices Vidalia onion

Directions: Place the ground beef in a bowl. Add the rosemary and season to taste with seasoning salt and garlic powder. Mix well with your hands and form into two burgers.

Place the onion slices on the grill and grill until they are nice and browned. Meanwhile, grill the burgers until they’re cooked through, about 4 minutes per side. A few minutes before you take the burgers off of the grill, top with the gruyere cheese. Serve the burgers topped with the onion slices.

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