Spring Flavors

2 years ago By Christine Sahadi Whelan
Spring Flavors

Spring is the season of renewal and new beginnings. The leaves are coming out on our fig tree, the herb garden perennials are poking their heads up and the blueberries and pears are flowering. My husband has been diligently nursing our Aleppo and Urfa pepper plants grown from last year’s seed, as well as many other varieties. We even managed to germinate some fresh zaatar seeds that family brought for us! Life is good. The incessant rain is supposed to bring May flowers and so far, is trying hard to do its job. I can’t wait to see our summer garden in its full glory.

With the spring holidays upon us, we have been doing a lot of entertaining. For our open house brunch, we were lucky enough for the sun to poke out in the afternoon which allowed people to enjoy coffee and a meal outside.

One of my favorite parts of spring is the promise of spring vegetables and the return of lighter, fresher dishes from the garden. While it’s still a little early for that, I did manage to get enough early herbs for a lovely spring vegetable salad.  I intentionally left it all green to evoke the colors of the season. I used 4 cups spring vegetables, cut into bite sized pieces, blanched and shocked with ¼ cup of chopped garden herbs and 1 cup sliced scallions, tossed in a toasted mustard seed vinaigrette. It looked gorgeous. I am partial to asparagus, fresh fava beans, fresh shelled peas and sugar snap peas so I used these in equal amounts. The fava beans and the fresh peas took a bit of time to shell and steam, but the fresh spring taste was worth it. Plus, you can enjoy the extra fava beans with a glass of crisp white wine, a lemon and some spicy salt for a beautiful snack.

I do like to spend a few moments making an extra special vinaigrette.  This one is currently my favorite.  The toasted mustard seeds lend a bit of pop, toastiness and crunch to the dressing and the Dijon adds depth of flavor. Plus, I think prosecco vinegar tastes light like the season.

                Toasted Mustard Seed Vinaigrette

1 tbsp yellow mustard seeds

2 cloves garlic, minced or grated

¼ c prosecco vinegar

¼ c extra virgin olive oil

2 tsp Dijon mustard

½ tsp sea salt

½ ts fresh ground black pepper

1 tsp Aleppo pepper

 Toast the mustard seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat until they smell toasty and begin to pop. Cool. Whisk all remaining ingredients in a small bowl, then whisk in the mustard seeds.  Taste for seasoning. It’s wonderful over hearty greens or still crisp, just steamed spring vegetables.

This dish was one of the standouts on our holiday table and we drained the balance of it and recycled it in an omelet the next evening with a soft goat cheese and a little harissa.  Yum! Maybe I should recreate this dish for Mother’s Day (reminder, it’s coming up on May 12th!).