We don’t wear the same type of clothing in the spring as we do in the winter, so why should we eat the same meals all year-round? As the spring drawers closer, many of us will clear out our closets to make room for more seasonally appropriate attire. The same should go for our produce – clear out the old to make room for flavorful spring favorites.
While winter is the time for heavier fare like thick, hearty stews and potato dumplings, during the spring we should enjoy lighter dishes, exploring a variety of healthy options as fresh fruits and vegetables are flourishing.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t cook with potatoes, onions or other root vegetables in the spring, but when you mix them with seasonal favorites like artichokes or asparagus while at their peak, your dish can take on an entirely new flavor.
Chef Massimo Gaffo, Executive Chef for the Compass Group USA in Chicago, recommends making lighter meal choices during the spring, exploring cold soups and salads with cucumbers, tomatoes or other warm-weather options.
“There are some items that are much more flavorful in the spring than in winter,” said Gaffo. “For instance, although you can get zucchini in December, it will never taste as good as zucchini picked when it’s fully ripe in the springtime. You are sure to get more of the natural flavor than when it’s put in a chamber and ripened during the off season.”
Another thing to consider is the freshness of your produce. Now, depending on which region of the country you live, you may not be as restricted with the types of produce you can get year-round. But in areas like Chicago and the Northeast, much of the produce is imported from long distances during the off-season and may not be quite as fresh as locally grown produce.”
Below, Chef Gaffo shares one his favorite recipes featuring asparagus, a great spring vegetable that is an excellent source of fiber and high in antioxidants with a host of nutrients for healthy bones and energy. Although Chef Gaffo recommends organic ingredients, non-organic vegetables can also be used.
Shrimp, Fava Beans and Asparagus Salad
Cooking time: 25 minutes
Yield: 6 servings
• 2 pounds fresh organic fava beans, shelled (about 1 cup)
• 1 pound thin organic asparagus, trimmed and cut diagonally into 2-inch pieces
• 1 pound medium shrimp (about 30), shelled and deveined
• 4 cups of mixed green salad
• 1 teaspoon stone ground mustard
• 1 tablespoon chopped fresh organic basil leaves
• 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 tablespoon organic plain yogurt
To make dressing:
In a small bowl whisk together yogurt, mustard and basil. Add oil in a stream, whisking until emulsified, and season with salt and pepper.
Have ready a large bowl of ice and cold water. In a large saucepan of boiling salted water cook favas until crisp-tender, about 2 1/2 minutes, and transfer to ice water to stop cooking. Drain favas in a colander and gently peel away outer skins. Transfer favas to a large serving bowl.
Have ready another large bowl of ice and cold water. Return water in pan to a boil and cook asparagus until crisp-tender, about 3 1/2 minutes. Transfer asparagus to ice water to stop cooking. Drain asparagus in colander and pat dry with paper towels.
Return water in pan to a boil and cook shrimp until just cooked through, about 2 minutes. Transfer shrimp with slotted spoon to paper towels to cool.
In bowl with favas, toss together 1/3 cup dressing, asparagus, shrimp, mixed greens and salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle salad with some of remaining dressing.
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