Ah, springtime, finally. As Willy Wonka once said, “In springtime, the only pretty ring time, birds sing hey ding … a-ding, a-ding, sweet lovers love … the spring.”
Everyone is a bit giddy after a miserable winter that has left our stomachs bloated from carb-tastic dishes. Spring is the perfect time to embrace seasonal produce for all its punchy fresh flavors and a burst of spring lightness. To create healthy, flavorful meals and snacks, use these spring contenders: chives, peas, mushrooms, rhubarb, asparagus, fava beans, lettuce and artichokes. For the carnivore among us, lamb is surprisingly inexpensive in Pittsburgh supermarkets. It’s cheaper than chicken breasts and packed with flavor.
Here are some dishes to ring in the spring. So listen to the robins sing, grab your lover’s hand and make these dishes to celebrate.
RHUBARB PARFAIT WITH LEMON CURD, MERINGUE AND PISTACHIOS
3 large (or 5 small) stalks rhubarb
10 store-bought meringues (Trader Joe’s sells a box of small meringues that are perfect for this.)
1/3 cup orange juice
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon brandy (optional)
1 cup heavy cream
Store-bought lemon curd
1/4 cup pistachios, roughly chopped (optional)
Put meringues in a plastic bag. Pound the bag with a pan until you have broken chunks of meringue. Take care to not overdo it and make powdered meringue. Set aside.
Cut the rhubarb into one inch pieces and place in a pot with the orange juice, sugar and brandy. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes or until rhubarb is very soft. Remove from heat.
Whip the heavy cream with a handheld mixer until it has stiff peaks. Be careful not to overblend and end up with butter.
To construct the parfait, layer the crushed meringue, lemon curd, rhubarb and whipped cream in a tall, wide glass until filled. Garnish with crushed meringue and chopped pistachios. Prepare to be tackled with gratitude.
PEA AND FAVA BEAN TOAST
Crusty bread, sliced and toasted
1 cup of fava beans (frozen or fresh, shelled and with skins peeled off)
1 cup of peas (frozen or fresh)
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Ricotta cheese or buffalo mozzarella
1/4 cup loosely packed mint
2 tablespoons chopped chives
3 tablespoons olive oil
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine the beans, peas, 1 tablespoon olive oil, mint, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a blender. Make sure that there is still some texture and it’s not a fine paste.
Meanwhile, brush bread slices with olive oil and toast the slices.
Spread the fava bean mixture onto the toast. Top with cheese, sprinkle with red pepper flakes and chives and drizzle with olive oil.
Serve, and watch weary winter eyes — which have been held in darkness and the oppressive glare of fluorescent lights — perk right up.
SPRING MOROCCAN KEFTA
1 1/2 pounds ground lamb
2 teaspoons garam masala or ras al hanout (if you don’t have these spices, substitute with a mixture of 1/2 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon cloves, and 1/2 teaspoon thyme)
1/2 cup parsley chopped
Half an onion, shredded with cheese grater
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 English cucumber (less seeds, don’t have to peel it)
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
Pita or naan
1 tablespoon olive oil
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place ground lamb in a bowl and season generously with salt and pepper. Add the spices, shredded onions and garlic. Mix well. Shape into cigar-shaped logs, about 4-by-1. Place on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and bake for about 15 minutes, until lamb is browned and cooked through.
While lamb is cooking, make the cucumber slaw. Shred cucumber with wide cheese grater, placing the shredded cucumber into colander. Lightly press them with a paper towel to extract excess water. In a separate bowl, mix the dill, olive oil, lemon juice, Greek yogurt, salt and pepper. Add the shredded cucumber and mix to combine.
Serve kefta on top of naan or pita bread, with cucumber slaw on top.
Warning: This may cause your significant other to leap up and down with unfettered joy and proclaim their undying love for you. So if you aren’t ready for that, don’t make this dish.