Snowmaggedon, Snowpacalypse, or whatever the name, everyone is tired of snow and cold weather and seems to be getting spring fever, myself included. I cannot wait until the cold air turns into crisp mornings and fresh, sunny afternoons so I can go outside for a hike or head down to the lake. Fresh air and the beauty of spring also bring the excitement for the farmers’ market and all the outdoor cooking and grilling I can possibly do! Artichokes, asparagus, mustard greens, Vidalia onions, radishes, beets, carrots, fava beans, leeks, morel mushrooms, garden peas, apricots, cherries—the list can go on and on as we “spring forward”!
Beginning in April, Pepper Place Market in Birmingham opens every Saturday. I look forward to rummaging through each booth and visiting the farmers to learn about their produce. My favorites are always the ones who seem the most passionate about their product—how they grow each vegetable and how they harvest it at just the right moment to insure the taste is at its peak. The fresh greens are so crisp and tender, and the peas and beets taste so sweet. Mushrooms—especially my favorite, morels—are earthy and delicious, and raw asparagus snap so easily! All these flavors lead to exquisite yet simple dishes that are easy to prepare.
Once I get my bags of fresh fruit and vegetables home, I invite friends over for grilling and cooking dinner. We sip crisp white wines or light, fruity Pinot Noirs, prepare fresh dishes from seasonal favorites, and enjoy delightful conversation. For a quick, light appetizer, my go-to dish is crisp radish bites. Grilled artichokes with squeezed lemon juice and melted butter and simple grilled shrimp is one dish that’s always popular. For a salad vibrant in color and bold in flavor, I combine fresh peas, radishes, spinach, and watercress with a white wine vinaigrette. And no meal is complete without dessert—like a simple combination of berries with whipped cream or even a quick apricot and cherry tart!
This spring, enjoy the camaraderie and use your imagination to create fresh new dishes with the season’s bounty.
–Allene Arnold, Test Kitchen Professional
See more of Allene’s recipes in “A Birthday Soiree” and “The Season’s Best Bites” in the March/April issue.