Spring is here and chefs have plenty of fresh ingredients to choose from when planning and preparing their menus. We asked six chefs to inspire us with menu ideas just right for spring.
Mike Kamiyama/ John Shimodaira, Nagasaki Inn
Hanami, which means “cherry blossom viewing party,” is a Japanese custom. We go to see “sakura” (the cherry blossoms) and have food and drinks under the tree. The traditional dish for viewing cherry blossoms is a chicken breast Florentine with carrots, burdock asparagus, green onions, Japanese peppers, and shrimp on spring cabbage. On the side is a Breath of Spring salad with okra, grape tomatoes, bean sprouts, and sweet potatoes. Add a Chikuzen vegetable stew with baby zucchini, squash, and pouzu dressing. To drink, we blend cherries with Calpico and shochu (Japanese vodka).
Josh Armstrong, Riverview by Firefly
A spring meal has a brightness and freshness that is missing from fall and winter food. I would love to start with a small portion of pasta handkerchiefs, sautéed fresh morel mushrooms, and wild leeks with a little butter, salt and pepper, and shaved Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Pair with a main course of very small lamb, which reminds me of Easter dinner growing up, a drizzle of olive oil, and a squeeze of lemon. No mint. My favorite lemon dessert is a lemon tiramisu: Italian ladyfingers soaked in a lemon simple syrup, layered with mascarpone cheese whipped with powdered sugar, lemon zest, and a little cream. Top with some crumbled Girl Scout Lemonade cookies for a little crunch.
Ben Jutzi, Biaggi’s Ristorante Italiano
There are few things I enjoy more than the taste of whole roasted or grilled chicken. I like to brine the chicken overnight in a simple salt, sugar, and water mixture. Sometimes I’ll add additional flavors, such as citrus, bay leaf, or dry whole spices. The next day I’ll stuff it with fresh herbs, such as rosemary and thyme, aromatics of carrot, celery, onion, and garlic, and also juniper berry. I then tie up the legs, season the skin with light olive oil, kosher salt, and fresh ground black pepper. Potatoes and asparagus I simply season with olive oil, salt, and pepper. I use indirect grilling to control the temperature and slow the cook time a bit.
Amjad Manna, Manna Mediterranean Grille
Spring to me is tabbouleh and Greek salads. They both have a fresh flavor with dark greens; I call them light and happy dishes. The Greek salad is a color mix of red and green peppers, cucumbers, bright yellow banana peppers, and white feta cheese. Tabbouleh is seasoned with chopped parsley greens, onions, tomatoes, cracked wheat, olive oil, and a spritz of lemon juice.
Penny Nejad, Café Arazu
People tend to eat light in the spring, and I really like a mandarin salad with coconut, mandarin oranges, shrimp, tomatoes, wonton noodles, and finely chopped spinach and iceberg lettuce. The salad is topped with a creamy house dressing. I also think spring means lamb. Our lamb is marinated for 24 hours in lemon, onion, and various spices, and is then grilled. The dish arrives with summer squash and other vegetables, a tomato, and a side of rice.
Ivan Davila, Eclipse Spanish Tapas Bar and Restaurant
Bacalao reminds me of spring because it’s colorful and full of amazing flavors. We have a family recipe for our codfish. Bacalao a la Vizcaina is a dish originally from the Cantabria Coast in the northern region of Spain, and ingredients include codfish, olives, onions, garlic, pimiento peppers, bell peppers, tomatoes, cumin, rosemary, Spanish paprika, and potatoes.