Early Spring Menu

Weather is so strange. In the East, y’all are just cleaning up after a veritable hurricane. Here in the West, after months and months of cold and rain, it’s suddenly 80 degrees and gorgeous blue skies. So while my husband fetches a rose to sip outside tonight, I’m going to pull together an early spring menu:

early-spring-menuGrilled Crostini with Fava Bean SpreadThis nibble comes together super-quick once the favas are shelled, so you can whip it up and be back outside before the conversation even hits a lull.

Fusilli with Artichokes and Swiss Chard I love this dish. It’s winter and spring and light and creamy all at the same time.

Lemon-Herb Lamb ChopsThis makes a perfect first grill–tender lamb chops bathed in a garlicky, lemony marinade. Mmmmm.

Blood Orange GranitaThis granita makes the most of the last of the blood oranges in a light, refreshing dessert.

And I have to throw in a favorite sandwich for this time of year too:

Radish and Goat Cheese Baguettes Everything about this sandwich makes me happy. The radishes–so vibrant and colorful–come straight from our backyard, the bread from our local bakery, and the cheese from grazing goats just a few miles away. Even the olive oil comes from a local producer.


Have a Social Hour

All the way through early summer, peas and favas are at the market. Now some will look at those piles of pods, shake their heads and think “too much work,” and I’m the first to agree that frozen peas can be a saving grace on a busy weeknight. But there’s another way, too, to view the labor-intensive process of prepping spring produce–as a treat in and of itself to be relished rather than rushed. It’s a mindful eating practice in the form of sharing the prep work.

Maybe it’s the communal bowl set out to catch the fruits of your labor. Maybe it’s the tactile act of nudging peas out of their pods, popping favas out of their skins, whittling baby artichokes into edible wonders. Whatever it is, something clicks to allow conversation to unfurl at its own speed, to let strands of thought unspool silently in our minds without feeling the need to speak out loud.

Most people, I’ve found, have sepia-tinted memories of sitting on a sunny stoop with someone–a child, a grandparent–with a bowl between them. Just yesterday, my mom and I were shelling favas for our Easter meal when she shared a memory of shelling peas with her mother–a moment I’m sure I’ll recount to my own daughter a month, a year, a decade from now. It’s a timeless act that, amidst this busy world, people tend to tuck away and cherish deep in their hearts.

And I haven’t even mentioned the joy these little gems bring to the plate.

So for one meal this week have a few friends over, wrangle the kids together, invite your spouse to sit for a spell and prep some seasonal produce . . . all the better if you have a sunny day and a stoop.

Grilled Crostini with Fava Bean Spread

This nibble comes together super-quick once the fava beans are shelled, so you can whip it up and be back outside before the conversation even hits a lull.


Note: Fava beans need to be shelled twice–once from their pods and again from the skins that hold the bean itself.

1 baguette, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices
3 cloves garlic, peeled and divided
3 pounds fava beans, shelled from the pod (about 2 cups)
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Grill or broil the baguette slices until crisp and use a halved clove of garlic to rub both sides of each. (can be done ahead of time)

Bring a pot of salted water to boil and drop fava beans in for 20 seconds. Drain. Then slip each bean out of its skin and into the bowl of a food processor.

Add remaining 2 cloves of garlic, Parmigiano-Reggiano and lemon juice to the bowl and process until smooth. Drizzle in extra-virgin olive oil and blend until emulsified. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground pepper and spoon into a serving bowl.

Serve fava bean spread with the crostini.

Serves 6-8