Super Spring Foods to Make Your Menu a Standout This Season

It was a long winter for most of the country, so we’re more than happy to usher in spring and its bounty of fresh ingredients! And with US VegWeek 2014, a week (April 21-27) dedicated to exploring the benefits of vegetarian eating kicking off today, we thought it would be the perfect time to highlight some spring dish ideas utilizing the season’s best harvests.

As you (and your chefs) busily prepare spring menu concepts, let vibrant greens (artichokes, arugula, asparagus, baby peas, brussels sprouts, collard greens, cucumbers, dandelion greens, kale & spinach) and reds (beets, cherry tomatoes, radishes, ramps, red bell peppers, red-leaf cabbage, rhubarb & strawberries) standout this season.

Here are some spring-inspired dish options to serve as a starting point:

  • A delicious blend of grilled spring mushrooms, asparagus, and cherry tomatoes tossed over fresh pasta with an accent of fresh garlic, white wine, and freshly-shaved Parmesan.
  • Try working the buzz-worthy ramp (aka wild leeks) into dishes this season by tossing into fresh pasta, mixing into spring vegetable tarts or slicing over fresh greens such as mesclun, radicchio and/or arugula, to add an onion/garlic-like flavor to dishes.
  • Give vibrant, fresh beets a lift and serve with finely sliced red onion and toss with an olive oil vinaigrette.
  • Create a spring bean salad complete with cannellini and/or fava beans, sliced asparagus and radish, chopped pea shoots and finely chopped scallions, fennel and/or basil, tossed in a lemon and mustard vinaigrette. Finish with a pinch of red pepper flakes for some unexpected heat.
  • Chop crisp dandelion greens and top with a sliced hard-boiled egg, then finish with a light, citrusy lemon vinaigrette. The citrus will enhance the flavors of this dish.
  • Sauté spring-fresh green beans and sugar snap peas with freshly chopped garlic, or top lightly fried brussels sprouts with fresh red onion, cucumber, and blue cheese.

As the warmer spring breezes blow, food preparation techniques and dressings of the season lighten up for meals that won’t weigh heavy on the plate or presentation. So, try lighter cooking styles, such as grilling, broiling, and poaching, and using extra-virgin olive oil-based dressings, marinades, and pestos featuring fresh citrus elements and flavorful herbs to help usher in the season.

For further inspiration, visit Epicurious and RealTimeFarms for local spring harvest information and produce availability.