Spring has SPRUNG, Sparklebutts! At least if you live in the southeastern United States, like me. If you live in the Arctic Circle, hang in there!
If you are a food-lover, then part of the joy of this bounteous season is the return of farmer's markets and all the yummy, fresh-from-the-manure fruits and veggies they offer. Eating strawberries (or strawberry-like red balls) in December just isn't the same as chowing down on the sun-ripened May berries that you can smell across a room.
With the grass growing and the bees buzzing and the birds birding, spring is known for many seasonal offerings, including artichokes, asparagus, and that vegetable of the sea: crab! Not sure what to do with them? No prob. Try your hand at these tasty treats—some simple, all delicious:
Steamed Artichokes with Dipping Sauce
Fresh artichokes look like poisonous prehistoric dinosaur eggs, but they are actually amazingly tender and tasty and fairly simple to prepare. Trim and steam artichokes according to these directions. Serve with one of these three super simple (okay the middle one requires a degree in advanced bio-chemistry) Martha-approved dipping sauces. It's a good thing.
Roasted Asparagus with Balsamic Drizzle
Something many people don't know about asparagus: You don't cut the ends off. (You thought I was going to say it makes your pee smell, didn't you?) Instead, you bend the spears slightly until the end snaps off where it wants to. This way you get only the tender part of the stalk and not the tough, woody end. To roast your asparagus, rinse and dry them, snap them, toss them in a tablespoon of olive oil, and spread them on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and put in an oven set at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes, or until they are starting to turn kind of brown and crisp. To make the sauce, whisk together 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon plain yogurt. Drizzle it over the asparagus spears.
Strawberries with Vanilla Whipped Cream
Here's the thing about really fresh berries: They're best when their essential berryness is allowed to shine. Really fresh, in-season berries, especially strawberries, don't need much tampering with. They are God's natural dessert. As we are made in God's image, I imagine God also likes them topped with vanilla whipped cream. Here's how you do that: Take some really cold whipping cream (or heavy cream) and put it in a really cold bowl (copper is best, or metal or glass) with 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Whisk until your arm feels like it's going to fall off. Then whisk some more. Come on! Put some back into it! Eventually soft peaks should form. Sometimes, if I'm feeling really frisky, I also add some finely chopped crystallized ginger. Plop a generous scoop on top of a bowl of berries. Enjoy.
Again, we are going to let the crabbiness of the crab speak to us. (In some circles, I am in fact known as the Crab Whisperer.) You can always buy canned, but in the spring, why not ask your grocer or local fishmonger if he has fresh-picked crab? You'll want to spread it out on a cookie sheet and brush your hands through it to make sure there aren't any stray pieces of shell. Serve this ridiculish (that's a portmanteau for ridiculously delicious) Cajun sauce I learned in a cooking class on top of fried green tomatoes (you know what I'm talkin' 'bout, Southern Sparklers) or on crackers.
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
3/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup chopped white onion
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup chopped celery
2 tablespoons horseradish
3 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
3 tablespoons yellow mustard
3 tablespoons ketchup
3 tablespoons parsley
pinch cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup minced white onions
1 pound lumb crabmeat
salt and pepper
Make the sauce: Process all the ingredients in a food processor for 30 seconds.
Prepare the crab: In a large sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the minced onions. Season with salt and pepper. Sauté for 1 minute. Add the crabmeat. Continue to sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the sauce. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 1 minute. Keep warm over low heat.
Who else's tummy is rumbling?
Related post: It Phyllo So Good: Kathryn's Spanakopita Recipe