By Nancy Caivano
To me, May is the month that truly defines spring. In April we got our first taste, but April can still have its cold days. May is when the weather turns sunny and breezy, the temperature goes into the 60's and 70's—and the abundance of spring foods are in the markets at full force.
In restaurant terms the word "primavera" has taken on a meaning other than that for which it was originally intended. Primavera is Italian for spring; literally translated, it means "first green." If you say "primavera" to someone, you automatically think of "Pasta Primavera," which has a mixture of vegetables in either a cream or broth based sauce. Lately, any dish that has more than one vegetable in it is labeled "Primavera." What the word "primavera" should really mean in restaurant dishes, are ingredients like—sugar snap peas, fennel, asparagus, leeks, baby carrots and potatoes, crisp greens, baby artichokes and the first, plump tomatoes.
Many ingredients are associated with spring, making it a truly welcome change from winter fare; just seeing the bright colors on your plate can bring you a smile. For this reason, I decided that my recipes this month would be full of vibrant vegetables to get you into the swing of spring.
For our Pastas this month, we start with Pasta with Lemon Scented Vegetables and Goat Cheese, a delicious dish full of vibrant flavors. Pasta is combined with a great combination of spring vegetables and a lemony cream sauce flavored with both lemon zest and lemon juice. It makes a perfect first course or entree. Our other pasta this month, Pasta with Swordfish and Spring Vegetables is a terrific main course dish. Swordfish is cut into strips and sautéed, then combined with a colorful combination of vegetables in a chicken broth based sauce. This would be a lovely dish to eat outdoors on the first night it is warm enough to do so.
Our first risotto of the month, Risotto with Pancetta, Arugula and Goat Cheese, uses a spring green that is more normally thought of as a winter green. Arugula is sweeter and milder in the spring; the leaves are more tender and less bitter. Spring is the best time to add arugula to salads—and this risotto. Our other risotto is the mainstay of this month's column: Risotto Primavera. I use the word "primavera" in its truest form, using spring vegetables (cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, baby artichokes, fresh asparagus, leek and spring peas) for the most colorful, flavorful risotto you have ever put a fork into.
As a little spring treat, I am including a dessert: Lemon Buttermilk Cake with Strawberries. This cake literally tastes like springtime. The tangy flavors of lemon and buttermilk combine with the sweetness of the first spring berries for an unbelievable combination. I think you will enjoy this cake over and over—even when it isn't spring.
Come back next month, when we take our first peek at summer.
- Pasta with Lemon Scented Vegetables and Goat Cheese
- Pasta with Swordfish and Spring Vegetables
- Risotto with Pancetta, Arugula and Goat Cheese
- Risotto Primavera
- Lemon Buttermilk Cake with Strawberries
This page created May 2000