By Nancy Caivano
April, to me, has always been a "hopeful" month. We hope for the end of the long, cold winter, we hope to see some beautiful spring flowers, and, food-wise, we hope to see some lovely spring produce. of course, it can also snow in April— which is why need to hang on to our hope.
After a long winter of simmering stews, bubbling soups and other comforting foods, our taste buds yearn for a change. When our eyes begin to see the vibrant spring produce start to appear, our taste buds go wild! Perfect pencil thin asparagus, baby artichokes, and tiny, sweet spring peas finally begin to show up at our markets, whetting our appetite for the dishes we can create with them.
There are also some wonderful holidays in April — Palm Sunday, Easter and Passover, which of course, are big food holidays. The foods that we eat on these days are as important as the religious aspects of the holiday. They bring our families together for sharing, laughter and good times. What better way to celebrate these holidays than with the first foods of spring!
I have four recipes for you that all use lovely spring produce, and would be welcome at your holiday table. For our pastas, we have the beautiful and delicious Pasta with Orange Chicken, Spring Peas and Mint. Chicken is sautéed and simmered in orange juice until it forms a glaze, then tossed with pasta, a creamy orange infused sauce, fresh spring peas and the surprising addition of freshly chopped mint. The mint brings the dish together perfectly adding a surprisingly mellow note of its own. Our other pasta is Pasta with Lemon and Roasted Asparagus. This simple and straight forward dish tastes divine. Fresh asparagus is roasted to add a smoky note to its subtle flavor and tossed with pasta and a lemon cream sauce to serve as a first course or entree that could make your dinner something to remember.
Our risotti for this month carry on our spring theme. Risotto with Caramelized Fennel, Asparagus and Orange is a delicious meatless choice. This risotto is full of vibrant flavors; the smoky licorice flavor of the fennel, the fresh flavor of the asparagus and the sweet note of orange combine together in the risotto to make a smashing combination, as a first course or even a very rich side dish. Our next risotto looks like springtime in a dish—Risotto with Shrimp and Spring Vegetables. It's almost too beautiful to eat! Fabulous, bright pink sautéed shrimp combine with an array of vibrant spring vegetables that infuse this risotto with a riot of colors and flavors. Again, this dish makes an exciting first course, or entree.
As a little bonus, I am also including a recipe for my family's traditional Easter cookie. I'm sure that they have an Italian name, but we have always called them Easter Cookies. They are a rather plain, not too sweet cookie that is twisted into a knot and coated with a thin powdered sugar icing tinted light pink or yellow. My mother has made them since I can remember, and I have carried on the tradition myself too. I hope that you enjoy them.
May your first spring days leave you happy and joyful, and your holidays be blessed. I will see you again in May when spring is in full swing!
This page created April 2000
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