Spring has sprung! It’s time to turn away from rib-sticking, heavy stews, pastas, and casseroles to a more enlightened type of cooking, focusing our attentions on tender leeks and spinach, thin stalks of asparagus, fat artichokes globes, and the pink wonder of spring rhubarb and strawberries. It’s a time of discovery, so enjoy these new spring recipes that celebrate seasonal produce.
If there’s a prettier, more verdant green than this gorgeous soup, I’ve yet to find it. Three different spring lettuces — romaine, escarole, and butter — combine with sauteed leeks and cloves, white beans, white wine, and chicken broth to create this colorful appetizer; the flavor is further amped up with fresh parsley and dill and finished with a swirl of sour cream. Trying to keep it vegetarian? Sub in veggie broth and you’re good to go.
I love a lemony tabouli, the perfect foil to hummus, but equally delish as a light side dish. This spring-inspired, gluten-free version from Feasting at Home subs in quinoa for the traditional, heavier bulgur wheat, and complements it with blanched peas and asparagus, lots of chopped fresh dill and parsley, a few chopped scallions, and the toasty crunch of slivered almonds. You can make it your own by adding in crumbles of feta or goat cheese, edible flower petals, sliced or chunked avocado, and sprouts. Topping it with a fried egg would make for a lovely spring lunch or brunch dish.
Sometimes the simplest recipes provide the biggest reward. Reprinted on Pure Wow from Gaby Dalkin’s 2020 cookbook, “Eat What You Want,” this eye-popping seasonal appetizer brings ALL the yummy onto one charcuterie board with creamy whole burrata, paper thin slices of Italian prosciutto (or try La Quercia from Iowa!), and an appealing mixture of tiny peas and thinly sliced sugar snaps tossed with a pea pesto. Serve it up with toasted crostini, and you’ve got a light meal that will satisfy both your eyes and your stomach.
Once you’ve tried them, you’ll never get enough of ramps, the mild-flavored wild onions that simply scream, “SPRING!” They resemble scallions, but with a big, flat leaf and deep pink stem. Look for them at farmer’s and specialty markets in April and May. Their season is short, which makes them even more desirable, of course. I blanch and puree the leaves with pistachios, garlic, olive oil, and pecorino cheese for a pesto that keeps in the fridge for a few weeks. Here, Molly Yeh uses them to great effect in a dumpling filling with bok choy and egg and serves them with soy sauce for dipping. (Or peep the dipping sauce from the Spring Rolls below!)
The pink hue of the radicchio leaves under the traditional rice paper is giving me ALL the spring feels. For the filling, sauté thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms with a little tamari and sugar and let cool. Then layer them along with the radicchio, cellophane noodles, thinly sliced carrots and red bell peppers, and some fresh mint leaves on top of the softened rice paper wrappers and roll up. Serve with the sambal chile paste-enhanced dipping sauce.
Artichokes are the tastiest thistle around, and they deserve more than to be canned and pureed into a spinach dip. They’ve got a higher calling — like this lovely ragout of spring veggies, including asparagus, onion, fresh peas, and fava beans, given a little oomph with a generous helping of French-style basil pistou, the herb puréed with garlic and olive oil (but leaving out the pine nuts and parmesan cheese of the classic Italian version). This will come together in under an hour; serve with a crusty baguette and some soft, salted butter, and it is heaven.
If you don’t yet follow Jocelyn Delk Adams, you should! And not just for her scrumptious baked goods, but her Southern-influenced savory recipes as well. But this cake… well, well, well. So moist. So buttery. So filled with the essence of zesty lemon and the sweetest strawberries. She uses cream cheese in her cake batter for added richness and mouthfeel, and layers flavors by tripling down on both the lemon (zest, juice, and lemon instant pudding) and strawberry (preserves, fresh, and freeze-dried powder) to give each element a real punch. This recipe is a keeper.
I’ll eat pretty much anything with rhubarb in it, but these picnic bars topped with an ombré-herringbone pattern of rhubarb really are so very extra in the best possible way. You start with a buttery shortbread crust, par-baked and spread with a frangipane filling. The rhubarb pieces are cut just so and strategically place on top to create the herringbone. After baking, dust lightly with powdered sugar, or glaze with jam. Either way, it’s a masterpiece. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Deb Perelman is a fricking genius.
More from Better:
- 10 Deliciously Easy Avocado Recipes
- 6 California Wine Country Recipes — With Wine Pairings!
- 13 State Fair Recipes to Recreate at Home
Julie Chernoff, Better’s dining editor since its inception in 2007, graduated from Yale University with a degree in English — which she speaks fluently — and added a professional chef’s degree from the California Culinary Academy. She has worked for Boz Scaggs, Rick Bayless, and Wolfgang Puck (not all at the same time); and counts Northlight Theatre and Les Dames d’Escoffier International as two of her favorite nonprofits. She currently serves on the national board of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, an advocacy group addressing hunger issues in the U.S. and Israel for the nearly 46 million people — veterans, children, seniors, tribal nations, and more — who go to bed hungry every night.