This week welcomed the vernal equinox. There is always so much to look forward to with the changing of seasons. For me, I welcome the rewards of the winter rains: the smell of jasmine blooming all over southern California, trail running in verdantly green landscapes, and reaping the rewards of an abundant winter crop.
This year's crop produced boat loads of leafy greens, herbs, potatoes and radishes. If you are new to gardening, I always recommend planting radishes, by the way. With minimal effort, they produce like crazy and their roots are a colorful, delicious addition to the garden. They make you look like gardening pro.
Spring produce boasts an exuberant lineup of salad greens, asparagus, fennel, leeks, onions, spring peas, potatoes, and mustard. A recent trip to the Napa Valley a couple of weeks ago surprised us with an impressive landscape of bright yellow mustard blooms that blanketed the foothills as far as the eye could see. While the winter crop is one of my favorite undertakings of the year, I am not always able to plant everything my heart desires. Thankfully, the rest can be found in abundance at the local farmer's market or grocery store.
Homemade vegetable stock is one of those seasonally appropriate things to make at this time of year. It's fresh, it's light, it's nutritious, and it signals a green light to revive an entire menu of Spring recipes that include this staple. Admittedly, I don't always have the time to make stock, but when I do, I go about it like I'm creating a painting. It's just so creatively satisfying. Below, I've shared a foundation for making clear vegetable stock, but remember, the beauty of stock is that it can be made differently every time with whatever is on hand, or, customized into your own unique blend.
This is one of my favorite soups to make well into the summer months. It showcases many of Spring's abundant produce in one dish, including fennel, leek and spring potato, all poached in a delicate and aromatic, lemony broth.
Tarragon is one of my absolute favorite herbs, because of its elegant appearance and flavor. It is very particular about what it successfully pairs with, so I tend to save it for special dishes. It does, however, make for a knockout pesto, along with spinach, lemon, hazelnuts, garlic and olive oil:
Everyone has their favorite go-to flavors that immediately lift their spirits. Mine, I've come to realize, tends to be mustard. I grow mustard greens, which are a fantastic, peppery addition to spring mesclun, and they are equally delicious sauteed. Here, I've highlighted mustard in a number of ways, from the greens to the dressing in this favorite spring salad:
Asian Pear Salad with Smoked Maple Tempeh, Spring Greens, Candied Pecans and Dijon-Shallot Vinaigrette
Have fun engaging your senses with this season's delights. Try something new that's fresh and colorful. I don't utilize artichoke as much as I should in my dishes, so that's going to be my on my experimental menu for the next few months. Stay tuned!