Recipes to celebrate the arrival of spring

With Passover now underway, Easter just a week away and temperatures staying above 72 degrees these days, it’s starting to officially feel like spring in L.A. To kick it off, I created an Easter-ish menu that celebrates the ingredients that remind me of the season and holiday: lamb, new potatoes, mint and coconut. Like most seasonally-minded cooks in Southern California, I note the different seasons not by the calendar month but by which ingredients are in the market. In anticipation of all the new green things and non-citrus fruits appearing in the market, I’m taking screenshots of recipes, dog-earing pages in cookbooks and having chats with fellow cooks to collect recipes to use with all the goods.

For new baby artichokes, I turn to Bavel’s treatment of low-simmering them in olive oil teeming with spices and lots of herbs like mint, cilantro and parsley. Fava beans are somewhat of a chore to coax from their pods, and then skins, but I make a day out of it and freeze all the beans to use when a craving hits — this dead-simple scampi pasta makes great use of a hearty handful of them. For all other peas and their relatives, I love this recipe from the Exchange that dresses them in a tart salsa verde-meets-pistachio pesto sauce that just screams “spring!”

For new potatoes, I treat them as simply as possible — see my recipe for marble-sized ones dressed in a mint and lemon sauce — to preserve their earthiness. I prefer to serve them warm, too, so they soak up whatever flavorful sauce I dress them with, like the mustardy vinaigrette in this recipe, which coats them in oniony nigella seeds. Then, for something sweet, it’s got to be rhubarb, of course. I love the sour stalks roasted and served with duck or lamb, but sometimes you really do want to give over to convention and make a bubbly, sweet strawberry-rhubarb crisp. While winter’s leftover, cooler nights still hang around, it’s the perfect thing to eat and dream of warmer spring temps, indigo jacaranda blossoms and the kind of eating that celebrates the season of renewal.

Spring Pea Salad with Pistachio Pipian

Make the pistachio pipian a day or two before you plan to make the salad so once you’re ready to cook, all you have left to do is blanch the peas and chop up any herbs at the last minute.
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Cook time: 1 hour.

A dish of spring pea salad with pistachios

(Evan Sung / For The Times)

Herbed Confit Baby Artichokes

Turning, the process of removing the tough outer leaves from baby artichokes to prepare them for cooking, is much easier than on mature artichokes. Do this up to 2 days ahead of time and keep the artichokes in a bowl of cold water — mixed with lemon juice to keep them from browning — until ready to use.
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Cook time: 50 minutes.

A plate of herbed confit baby artichokes

(Evan Sung / For The Times)

Warm Potato Salad with Nigella Seeds

Dressing potatoes in a mustardy vinaigrette while they are still warm allows them to soak up the dressing, becoming extra flavorful. Keep nigella seeds on hand for other recipes after this — they’re great used in place of sesame seeds, or as a crunchy topping for roast onions, carrots or other root vegetables.
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Cook time: 30 minutes.

Nigella seed potato salad

(Leslie Grow / For The Times)

Fava Bean Scampi

Preparing fava beans is not hard but takes some time. De-pod and de-shell them ahead of time, blanch them to preserve their brightness, and then freeze them in small bags to use whenever you’d normally grab that bag of frozen green peas or broccoli. They’re great tossed on salad, stirred in rice or puréed into a hummus-like dip.
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Cook time: 15 minutes.

Fava Bean Scampi

(Leslie Grow / For The Times)

Strawberry and Rhubarb Crisp

Don’t skimp on the sugar here — rhubarb is more tart than you think, even when cut with all the beautiful, sweet first-season strawberries. The nutty pecans and bitter brown sugar pair wonderfully with the floral fruit. Prepare the crisp up to 2 days ahead of time and bake when ready to serve.
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Cook time: 1 hour 50 minutes.