Spring vegetables

Photo: Johnny Valiant

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This is a thrilling time of year for a chef. Spring is when I practically live at the farmers' market, asking one grower about his heirloom strawberries, another about his desert-grown radishes. (I could talk about that stuff all day.) And I've never been so excited to dive into fresh produce: I just opened a restaurant, Maude, in Los Angeles, where I spotlight one ingredient each month in every dish of a nine-course tasting menu. March is artichokes, and April is peas—both of which I'm loving right now, along with spring's bounty of leeks, carrots and rhubarb. At home, I'll fry artichokes and top them with parsley and lemon, whip peas into pesto for bruschetta or serve roasted salmon on an array of buttery carrots, asparagus and snap peas. Finish a meal with a rhubarb pavlova (a big, lovely meringue with a soft center), and you've got food that's as delicious and fresh as can be—everything I love about spring.