Today is the first day of spring, a day that I usually relish because it signals change and rebirth. When spring arrives I get an almost giddy sense of possibility.
I have always been a person that looks to the turning of the seasons as a signal of change and as a way to mark the passing of time. As a former teacher, I took comfort in the fact that each year I had the opportunity to begin anew each fall and redesign the lessons that were my least favorites. As a chef, the changing seasons also signal a change in cooking styles and in ingredients. Summer, to me, is all about fresh, fresh and fresher! Ripe, juicy tomatoes tossed with just-made pestos and vinaigrettes. In the fall, I turn to heartier flavors, with some toasty spices tossed in, and my ingredients focus more on those traditional crops of fall like pumpkins, squash and apples. By the dead of winter, I am immersed in stews and braises and root vegetables, and here in the western states, I have also come to love winter lemons as a way to brighten the season’s cooking. By spring, I am ready to shed the heavy foods along with my winter clothes, and the tender foods of this season beg for more gentle cooking techniques like steaming and eating with a sprinkling of the first spring herbs.
As you may know, I belong to a CSA, which stands for “Community Supported Agriculture,” and is a fancy name for a farm share. Basically, I prepay the farmer (Quail Hollow Farm) for the season, and in return they send me a basket of seasonal produce each week. The busier my schedule is, the more I appreciate knowing that each week I will have the freshest vegetables delivered to my pick up location. ”My farm” is in Overton, where it is possible for Laura and Monty to grow many things that just don’t thrive here in Las Vegas. I am forever grateful to them for reestablishing my connection with seasonal foods and for nourishing my body and my soul!
We have had many delicious spring vegetables in our share baskets these past few weeks, and they have inspired my cooking. One of my favorite new discoveries has been sorrel. More popular in Europe, this tender green looks a bit like baby spinach, but tastes fresh and tart and practically melts into a soup or pasta dish. Using it is a bit like adding both spinach and lemon to a dish. I managed to score an extra bag of this recently, so I have been experimenting with this new flavor.
In honor of spring, I have created a dish that celebrates the first signs of spring–asparagus, peas, greens, and tiny shoots of herbs. I give you my Spring Vegetable Risotto…
Let me know what you think, and let me know what your favorite spring dishes are!
Spring Vegetable Risotto: a delicate risotto that showcases the first vegetables of spring, and still warms you on a chilly spring evening