By Chef Noah Michaels
As the flowers finally start popping up after a long winter (especially for those of us in the Northeast), Chefs around the country are rediscovering the joy of simple cooking. Expect to see ramps, peas, morels, and asparagus on every menu (literally every menu). These tender vegetables are typically treated with more restraint than we’re used to seeing in the cold months. As the year progresses, our cooking much like our outfits, tend to become more complicated and time consuming. By the end of winter, slow cooked pots of beans and pork belly become the norm (all covered up by a bulky sweater and jacket) but as spring starts across the country, Chefs start getting access to beautifully tender leaves and shoots which require almost no cooking to highlight their flavor.
Just like you put away your winter clothes and clean up your house, spring is a perfect time to clean out the fridge, organize and refresh your spices, or plant a garden. I love spending as much time outside as possible this time of the year and the last thing I want to do is spend a lot of time in the kitchen. This usually results in quick meals which inherently preserve more for the fresh flavors of spring. While I love long cooked sauces and stews, I truly appreciate the opportunity to rededicate myself to my craft, finding new and innovative ways to “cook” my spring foods in order to gently coax their delicate flavors into a dish with the same stark contrast as a daffodil poking out of the melting snow.
Spring is an important time for chefs as well and it gives us a chance to re-center and focus on simplicity of taste, texture, and presentation. This meditative period allows us chefs to reinvigorate our culinary spirit and reinvent our cooking each year. In fact, the asparagus and peas of spring are equivalent to a culinary new year’s eve as our more agrarian forefathers would be running out of the cellared root vegetables and preserved foods which nourished them through the winter. The coming of the first tender shoots and leaves represents the beginning of the agricultural year, forcing us to think about how to prepare for the next long winter.
I like to focus on re-learning how to appreciate and highlight the essence of spring by embracing its bright, crisp, and vibrant flavors. Here is a quick recipe that does just that:
Spring Pappredelle Recipe
- Fresh pappardelle — 1 pound
- Spring peas, shucked — 1 cup
- Pea tendrils — 2 ounces
- Ricotta salata or feta — ½ pound, diced
- Extra virgin olive oil, Novello — ½ cup
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- Chili Flakes to taste
- Salt to taste
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt generously. Cook pasta according to manufacturers instructions, adding peas in the last 90 seconds of cooking. Drain, reserving ¼ cup of pasta water and toss pasta and peas with remaining ingredients, adding reserved water as necessary. Serves 4.
For more info and inspiration on Spring cooking check out these articles: