After a long winter, chefs and mixologists alike are feeling the springtime inspiration in their dishes and drinks. In this month’s Culinary Chronicles article, Chef Steven Winka (Product Development – Culinary, Symrise) explores the biggest food and drink trends blossoming this spring.
RAVING ABOUT RADISH
There is arguably no better ingredient to embody what spring food is all about. Fresh and crisp with a little bit of sharpness; you can’t go wrong with any of the radish varieties. Be sure to check out this radish tartine currently on the menu at High Street on Hudson. If you can’t make it there, I suggest trying them the French way, simply dipped in softened butter and sprinkled with sea salt. But don’t skimp on the butter, find some high quality French butter to make this versatile veggie pop!
Now that the weather is changing and flowers and greens are starting to blossom, it’s a great time to enjoy a refreshing cocktail outside. This list of DC’s best spring cocktails highlights orgeat, rhubarb, fruit vinegars, pandan and soursop as the inspired ingredients of the season. For the perfect spring elixir, we suggest using a lot of fresh fruit juice because “tis’ the season.”
ROOT TO STEM ASPARAGUS
One of the biggest dilemmas when preparing any asparagus dish is the sheer amount of waste that comes from trimming the woody end of the stalks. This spring, waste-free asparagus dishes are a top hit. With sustainability and up-cycling as growing concerns among consumers, whole stalk asparagus recipes are a great way to tap into the movement. Depending on the dish, you could freeze the woody ends until you have enough to make a simple asparagus stock (simply simmer in water with some aromatics).
RAMP UP THE GRILL
Probably the trendiest of all the spring ingredients, ramps are extremely easy to find this time of year. These scallion look-a-likes are comparable to an onion and garlic fusion, making it an extremely versatile vegetable. Try them simply charred on the grill to accompany a steak, in place of caramelized onions.
THE GREEN GARLIC
Similar to the flavor profile that you’d find in ramps, green garlic is just as versatile but gets a fraction of the love. This spring, swap out regular garlic for its green cousin for a more subtle, richer flavor to highlight the freshness in any seasonal dish. I suggest charring them just like you would ramps and whipping them into an aioli for dipping just about anything in (my favorite being boiled, smashed and fried potatoes).
SOUTHERN STYLE CRAWFISH BOILS
Although some of us may think it never truly gets cold down south, if you speak to most southerners they’ll express the same excitement for the warmer weather that the spring brings. This warmer weather means more cookouts, and what better way to celebrate being outside than enjoying piles of crawfish, potatoes, corn and andouille with family and friends? That’s what brings crawfish boils into our top 10 spring food trends.
FAVA BEAN FEAST
In my opinion, fresh fava beans are one of the more underappreciated ingredients of the spring. However, fava beans can be one of the sweetest vegetables available during this time of year. They don’t get as much love as spring peas, but have a similar flavor profile and arguably a better texture when cooked properly. Try blanching and pureeing with high quality olive oil and serve with crudité for a great dip alternative.
RHUBARB FOR DINNER & DESSERT
One of the sole dessert ingredients that will get attention this time of year is rhubarb. The fruity vegetable can be used in both sweet and savory applications. Try roasting it and mixing into an arugula salad studded with fresh goat cheese. If you have more of a sweet tooth, rhubarb has one of the more unique flavor profiles in sweet applications. A rhubarb crisp is a delicious way to celebrate the spring weather. But beware; although you usually never see it sold with the leaves attached, they are in fact poisonous!
SOFT SHELL CRABS
Soft shell crabs are my absolute favorite of all ingredients available in the spring. Soft shells are only around for a short period of time so make sure to jump on them fast and frequently when they hit stores and menus. These crabs have molted their old shell and pulled from the water before the new shell can form, so you can indeed eat the entire crab without having to pick through shell. Try them crusted in corn meal, fried and accompanied with the green garlic aioli for a super seasonal dish.
Every year when the weather starts to turn, I make my pilgrimage to my absolute favorite warm weather outdoor dining spot called Grand Banks. An old oyster schooner converted into a restaurant/bar located on one of the Hudson River piers, this spot is sure to make you forget all those blustery winter days. This time of year is perfect to enjoy a dozen (or a few dozen) oysters on the half shell with a cold glass of rosé outside.