Spring is in the air! It’s the season of warmer, sunnier days, fresh starts and new beginnings—and an abundance of delicious, fresh fruits and vegetables ﬁlling the markets after a long winter.
The Mediterranean Diet is built upon locally and seasonally available foods. Mediterranean cooks shift with the seasons to make the most of the freshest produce, and spring is the time of year when they embrace bright leafy greens, ruby-red strawberries, and other seasonal treasures. You can, too! Read below for our suggestions for cooking with six Mediterranean springtime staples.
One medium artichoke is an excellent source of dietary ﬁber, vitamin C, and folate, and a good source of magnesium. Wondering how to prepare a whole, fresh artichoke for cooking? Rinse and lightly scrub it under cold water. Cut about an inch oﬀ the top, and remove the bottom of the stem. Snip the thorns oﬀ the petal tips with a pair of kitchen shears. Spread the petals slightly apart, rub all cut parts with a lemon, and you’re ready to cook!
For a classic Turkish preparation, check out these Istanbul-Style Artichokes from Ferda Erdinc, who owns Istanbul’s Zeneﬁl restaurant, and shared the recipe in Ana Sortun’s wonderful cookbook, Spice. Try serving these artichokes as a meze before the main meal, or with grilled ﬁsh.
For a dish with Spanish ﬂair, check out this Spring Pea and Peanut Paella with Brown Rice. It uses canned or jarred artichoke hearts, which is a great shortcut to delicious artichoke ﬂavor, without the work of prepping fresh artichokes.
If you’re picking up artichokes this spring, our list of 12 Great Ways to Use Artichokes has even more ideas for you, from blending artichoke hearts into hummus for an extra-creamy result, to skewering them with other vegetables and chicken and ﬁsh the next time you grill kebabs.
Asparagus is a sure sign of spring! You can steam asparagus, sauté it in olive oil, or roast until crispy in the oven, and have a delicious side in a matter of minutes. However, asparagus can also play a starring role in many Mediterranean dishes.
Borrow inspiration from Italy and make this delicious asparagus risotto. With freshly-grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and a splash of white wine, this is an elegant meal that will please a crowd.
On chilly spring days, this Springtime Soup is a warm, comforting meal. It uses the asparagus stalks for full ﬂavor in the soup, but reserves the beautiful spears for a garnish. Bright, jade green in color, it pairs perfectly with a side of crusty whole grain French bread.
Fresh fava beans are a delicacy not to be missed! Though they take a bit of work to shell from their pods, you’ll ﬁnd that they’re well worth the eﬀort. Puree them into a Fresh Fava Bean Soup, or pair them with other spring favorites in this medley of New Potatoes, Fava Beans, and Spring Garlic
In Italy, Fave e Cicoria (fava beans and chicory) is a popular dish in Puglia, the heel of Italy’s boot. It takes inspiration from Egyptian bean purées across the Mediterranean, and uses a few quality ingredients in similar ways. Bitter greens balance the warm, hearty ﬂavor of the bean puree perfectly in this simple dish.
Leeks are related to garlic, onions, shallots, and chives. They have a mild, slightly sweet onion taste, which is brought out when they’re cooked slowly or sauteed.
Kufte de Prassa are leek patties made with a small amount of ground meat and mixed with parsley and breadcrumbs before being cooked in olive oil. Salmon on a Bed of Leeks is a delicious, light spring supper. And for brunch, try this Potato and Leek Frittata with Swiss Chard.
It’s time to think beyond salad! There are countless ways to use spinach in your cooking. Throw an extra handful of spinach leaves into your soup, in a sandwich or wrap, or scramble them with eggs. Or, try making Spinach Lamejun, an interpretation of the classic Turkish crispy ﬂatbread. This version has spinach, haloumi cheese, and labneh instead of the traditional minced meat and vegetables.
For dinner, make this Greek Grilled Chicken with Spinach and Tomatoes, which is sure to become a household favorite.
Ending on a sweet note, let’s explore some delicious recipes with strawberries! In countries across the Mediterranean, you’ll ﬁnd beautiful, jewel-like strawberries in the marketplaces throughout the springtime, and they’re perfect when they’re fresh and in-season.
This Spring Salad with Farro and Strawberries pairs the fruit with nutty, whole grain farro, a type of ancient wheat. For an extra-special hors d’oeuvres or (slightly) savory dessert, impress your dinner party guests with these Blue Cheese and Pistachio Stuﬀed Strawberries.
Soon, your local farmer’s market will be overﬂowing with springtime produce! What’s the ﬁrst recipe you’d like to make? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to subscribe to our Fresh Friday newsletter for seasonal inspiration all year long.
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