March 20th, 2014 will signal the beginning of spring, and I can’t wait! This winter has been the coldest and grayest winter I have seen in years. Massive piles of snow clog our streets, temperatures so cold even the salt is freezing to the streets. I need a fresh new wind to break the monotony of these winter doldrums. I need some color and excitement to burst through these low hanging clouds and splash some color upon my fatigued palate. Enter the colors of spring, bright and bold dishes inspired from the heart of the season to distract our senses from our current climate and transport our taste buds to the warm embrace of a spring day.
There is no better way to start our seasonal culinary venture than with a twist on one of my favorite vegetables, the beet. Now I have posted many times before about my love of beets; roasted, pickled and fried I love them all, but this fun little appetizer is a new favorite. A perfect taste of spring in every bite of this, our fried beet chips topped with a wasabi and green onion Japanese mayo, toasted sesame seeds and chiffanade cilantro. The beet crisp starts your journey with a deep and earthy bite, mixed with that touch of natural sweetness, followed by the spicy and sweet kick of the mayonnaise all finished off with the herbal hit of cilantro and the crunch of sesame seeds.
But why stop at this one format? Let’s revamp the classic fish and chip basket with tempura fried tuna, roasted red and golden beets all served with this scallion-wasabi mayo and fresh cilantro. It's a brand new take, for a brand new season.
While we are discussing beets, and why should we ever stop, let’s talk about golden beets. Both beautiful and tasty, and they don’t stain your hands, golden beets are slightly tamer and sweeter than there crimson brethren. And in this application I think we found their perfect match, Roasted Golden Beets with grilled asparagus tips, shaved fennel and parmesan dressed with a charred fennel vinaigrette. The sweetness and slight earthiness of the beets dances with the darker green asparagus while hitting its high notes with the sweet anise of shaved fennel. The parts that really take this dish over the top is the charred fennel vinaigrette, a smoky and sweet concoction pureed smooth with diced shallots and cider vinegar. The saltiness and texture of the shaved parmesan is the final cap to each bite.
Speaking of cheese, there is no better pizza in my mind than a classic pizza margherita. Sweet and fresh tomatoes and gooey mozzarella cheese all on a crisp flavorful crust accented with fresh basil and herbal EVOO. But with the increase awareness of people with gluten allergies we wanted to create a pizza pie worthy of the name, yet still safe for our gluten intolerant friends to enjoy. In comes the Cauliflower and Polenta crust, topped with fresh heirloom tomatoes, creamy mozzarella, torn basil, EVOO and a healthy drizzle of aged balsamic. The crust has a deep earthy flavor with a perfect texture and sweetness from the grains of polenta. But spring is not all about vegetables and tomatoes, meat and fruit play very well together as the mercury rises and the BBQ grill come out of hibernation.
There is something so magical about the combination of meat and smoke, make that pork and smoke. Whether we are talking Carolina pulled pork or apple wood smoked bacon, pork and smoke were made for each other. This year we decided to try something a little different and were shocked by the results, so much so that this segment features two dishes with pork loin as the star. Introducing our Golden Pear wood smoked pork tenderloin, with purple Peruvian potato salad tossed with fresh arugula and roasted corn, garnished with house made preserved lemon. The potato salad is dressed with a light and refreshing mixture of EVOO and white balsamic vinegar, a perfect combination to the peppery bitterness of the arugula. The smoke on the pork loin is subtle and smooth with a light touch of sweet fruit flavor.
But why not play up that fruit flavor by adding more fruit? Since we were working with a golden pear wood, let’s get some golden pear in on the action. Now you could just slice the pear, add it to the pork and move on, but we wanted more. So we grilled the pear slices adding another element of smoke and caramelization to our flavor profile. But now we wanted something to light and fresh to balance out the deep flavors. The combined dish is quickly making its way to my top dish for spring. Presenting our green and red kale salad tossed with black berry vinaigrette, crumbled Gorgonzola and fresh blackberries. This flavor pack highlighted by the deeply fruity smoked wood and grilled pears is a perfect combination for the warm spring luncheon or cool night in.
Let’s talk about brinner, or the wonderful phenomenon of breakfast for dinner. Now the fried chicken and waffle trend has taken the world by storm, but we wanted to play back to breakfast’s sweet side in a new and exciting dessert. To me spring means citrus margaritas, sweet sangria and mimosas all enjoyed in the warm sunshine. What do all of these drinks have in common? Citrus! To that end we created an extraordinary brinner treat, the citrus trio pancake stack. Blood orange pancakes topped with white chocolate mouse and a blood orange syrup, Myer lemon pancake topped with chocolate mouse and Myer lemon syrup, and finally a key lime pancake topped with toasted coconut and white chocolate mouse and key lime syrup.
With the weather warming and our winter coats finding a more seasonal place in our closets, it’s time to drop the heavy winter dishes and get ready for the colors of spring.