Posted by: Cooking Thyme | April 3, 2013

No Matter How Long The Winter, Spring is Sure to Follow

Spring starts in my kitchen around March, the cold wind still blows outside, the rain and even snow, we had a few sunny days and till yesterday we had a few snowflakes, but my spirit is lifted when the local markets start to bring in fruits of the season. The lengthening of the days and the anticipation of the best of new season’s produce perks me. Plus I was born on a nice sunny day in March, so that’s why it’s my favourite season

Spring CT

   One of the first foods to appear is sweet peas in pods. They are so tender that you can just pop the pods and scoop out the tiny peas to eat raw. I have a particular fondness for peas. They are just great with fish.

Back in the days you couldn’t find many cooks using baby carrots (and other baby Veg) they were used only as garnish, but now baby carrots are back in flavour, available for about six months of the year and all year round in some countries, however baby carrots first appear in spring, and I’m lucky to find locally grown carrots straight and full of flavour, I just scrape them and cook lightly in butter with a splash of water. They’re terrific with lamb, of course, but also with braised fillet of cod, another idea is to cook them briefly and then souse in vinaigrette to serve cool.

In the Northern Mediterranean cuisine, especially in France, Fava Beans are used as a luxurious garnish or cooked in the same way as new peas in the pods for soup or  as a warm salad with grilled fish. This type of beans have a lovely earthly taste, and are good in many dishes, such as with gnocchi or salad with ricotta. Peas and fava together make a good plateful, complementing each other in every way. While one is sweet and tender, the other is fuller and more ‘meaty’ in texture. They work nicely as a pair.

Baby leaf spinach are so lovely, but many cooks at home make the mistake of boiling and squeeze the life out of young, delicate leaves. The best of the best baby leaf spinach arrives to the market in the spring, I dress it simply vinaigrette or cook it just with a tablespoon of water and a bit of butter. Sometimes it’s so delicate that I simply put a small mound of fresh leaves straight onto a piping hot plate. They wilt instantly and that’s all the cooking needed.

During March and April, in Italy you can get hold of new seasons garlic from the mountains in the north, These have smaller heads than normal garlic and taste sweeter, but they still have an overpowering pungency, which obviously can kill other flavours in a dish. In my cooking, I use a lot of Italian flat leaf Parsley, flat-leaf parsley is ideal for garnishing, as it has a pleasant cleansing effect on the palate, it should not be chopped to fine as it bruises easily.

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