The Most Delicious Part of Spring Is...
We've found a totally new dish that uses three in-season vegetables: ramps, snap peas and pea shoots. (Plus, six more ways to highlight the best right-now produce.)
Ramps, Sugar Snap Peas, Pea Tendrils: An Embarrassment of Seasonal Riches
If you find yourself hitting the jackpot of April produce, there's one dish to make—and this is it. It's a bracing and bright tangle of sautéed ramps (though you could use scallions, if ramps aren't available in your area) and crisp-tender sugar snaps, with baby squash thrown in at the end of the cooking so it softens but still remains toothsome. Toss in a few handfuls of pea tendrils and walnuts just before serving, and you'll never be happier that spring is (finally!) here.
Get the recipe: Sautéed Ramps, Sugar Snap Peas and Pattypan Squash
Asparagus: The Classic Sign of Spring That Can Stand Up to Some Heat
Most of us are used to eating asparagus spears steamed. But when you blast the stalks with high heat (think from a 400-plus-degree oven), their sharp flavor mellows, and they turn slightly sweet. Goat cheese and lemon zest add richness and zing.
Get the recipe: Roasted Asparagus Salad with Goat Cheese and Bread Crumbs
Leeks: The Get-It-Now Deal That Will Frenchify Any Meal
These members of the onion and garlic family can be pricey, but spring is the time to score deals at farmers' markets. Leeks usually pop up in soups (especially potato), but when you poach them on their own and dress them in a zippy vinaigrette, they can turn a simple dinner of roasted chicken and potatoes into a very French-feeling meal with a delicately sweet edge.
Get the recipe: Leeks Vinaigrette
Beets: The Beautiful Salad Ingredient That's Best Right Now
Few vegetables look as striking as beets—and while you can get them year-round, the first ones of the new harvest are more tender than those you'll find later in the season. This stunning salad (many parts of which can be made ahead) showcases the produce both raw and roasted, so you get a delightful balance of flavor and texture.
Get the recipe: Spinach and Beet Salad with Green Goddess Dressing and Port Vinaigrette
Haricots Verts: The Quicker-Cooking Green Bean
The longer, thinner green beans known as haricots verts are often seen atop salad nicoise. But if you see them for sale this spring, grab a few handfuls and use them in this light and delicious side dish, which also includes sugar snap peas. You sauté the vegetables in butter, which gives them a beautiful glazed look, and then add some water, so they can quickly steam but do not turn chewy.
Get the recipe: Sautéed Spring Vegetables
Mâche: A Sweet-Tasting Lettuce That Needs Only the Lightest Touch
Also called lamb's lettuce (aw!), mâche has tiny leaves that you wouldn't want to weigh down with creamy ranch or even Caesar dressing. Instead, drizzle a small amount of Dijon vinaigrette on top and toss ever-so-gently to preserve the mâche's soft texture. Cut the rest of this salad's elements—cooked beets, pancetta, pear, goat cheese and walnuts—into small,1/2-inch pieces, so they compliment (instead of crush) the lettuce, and you'll be rewarded with a dish that looks as good as it tastes.
Get the recipe: Mâche Salad with Pear, Goat Cheese, Beets and Walnuts
Photo: Paulette Phlipot © 2012
Fava Beans: The Tastiest Way to Achieve Your Zen
We know: Preparing fresh fava beans can be tedious. It's a two-step process that first involves getting the beans out of the pod, and then removing the beans from their shells. But if you don't mind a little work (consider it a meditative activity!), you'll discover a rich, almost smoky-tasting bean that adds richness to pearled couscous with sweet shallots, briny Kalamata olives and bright lemon.
Get the recipe: Warm Fava Shallot Couscous