Spring is here, so you can act like winter never happened and stop pretending you actually love root vegetables.
Some of the borough’s favorite chefs have had their fill of brussels sprouts, parsnips, kale and rutabaga, and they’re ringing in veggie high-season with fresh spring offerings like ramps, artichokes, and morel mushrooms.
Celebrate spring at these eateries, or heed these handy pointers and make the most of a greenmarket bounty at home:
Artichokes don’t immediately come to mind when thinking of Asian-influenced ingredients, but chef Dale Talde hails the prickly globes at his eponymous Park Slope eatery.
“They’re really one my favorite things to eat, so we’re going to fry them up and toss them in our green sambal sauce,” he said.
Afraid to prepare the thickly armored veg yourself? Talde says it’s easy once you know what to look for.
“When you’re at the market shopping for artichokes, make sure you pick the ones with tightly bundled leaves. If they’re loose and spread out, leave them alone,” he said. “People get nervous about peeling and using artichokes, but here’s a simple rule to follow: once you start seeing white at the bottom of the leaves, stop peeling.”
Talde [369 Seventh Ave. at 11th Street in Park Slope, (347) 916-0031].
Chef Brad MacDonald also sings the praises of the artichoke at his small plates, Brooklyn Heights spot Colonie — but his cultivar of choice can hardly be found at your average corner store.
“We get these beautiful violet artichokes at Colonie, which we keep simply because they’re crazy delicious and don’t need much,” he said. “We fry them until crispy, then serve with fennel pollen and garlic herb emulsion.”
That means, if you’re lucky enough to spot a few of these beauties at a local farmers market, don’t think twice.
“Since they’re so easy to clean, much more so than regular artichokes, they’re a good spring ingredient to bring home,” MacDonald said. “Just fry them in some olive oil and season them with citrus and some salt. It makes the perfect snack or could be a good side dish for nearly any protein.”
Colonie [127 Atlantic Ave. between Henry and Clinton Streets in Brooklyn Heights, (718) 855-7500].
The Meatball Shop
It’s easy to go green when assembling a spring menu, but Daniel Holzman of The Meatball Shop prefers to give a shout-out to the incredible edible egg.
“They’re a treasure that we tend to overlook or take for granted — but they’re a favorite ingredient of mine in the spring, which is their rightful season,” he said. “On any given spring day at the farmers market you can find wild turkey and goose eggs, which I love to substitute for chicken eggs in any traditional recipe or, better yet, soft boil and serve on top of a warm asparagus salad with a tangy grain-mustard vinaigrette.”
The Meatball Shop [170 Bedford Ave, between Seventh and Eighth streets in Williamsburg, (718) 551-0520].
It’s all about the alliums at James in Prospect Heights — namely spring onions, green garlic, and that perennial chefs’ favorite, the ramp.
The foraged wild leek is a foodie favorite at restaurants across Brooklyn, maybe because they’re so simple to prepare, so easy to add to dishes, and so delicious in genearl.
“We blanch them really quickly in salted, boiling water, dry them out, and throw them on the grill,” said owner and chef Bryan Calvert. “They’re great in sandwiches, or to use instead of garlic in just about anything. You can sauté them and add them to pasta. You can pickle them — which a lot of chefs do — and stick them in a meat dish or add them to your Bloody Mary.”
James [605 Carlton Ave. between Prospect Place and St. Marks Avenue in Prospect Heights, (718) 942-4255].
For Boerum Hill restaurateur Julian Brizzi, the season hasn’t changed until morel mushrooms hit the menu.
“Once morels become available, we know the bounty that is spring and summer has started in earnest,” he said.
The spongy specimen of edible fungi is a staple in French cuisine, and Brizzi’s kitchen staff have made it a lynchpin in their warm-weather menu, serving morel mushrooms alongside roasted lamb, marinated and sautéed with asparagus, scrambled into eggs, and tumbled into pasta.
“We serve them with fresh tagliatelle, English peas, and Parmigiano Reggiano,” said Brizzi. “It’s a dish that will soon be at Rucola once morels become available, hopefully as early as next week!”
Rucola [190 Dean St. between Hoyt and Bond Streets in Boerum Hill, (718) 576-3209].