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Spring Food Trends
by Cara Di Falco
I headed over to Spuntino Wine Bar & Italian Tapas in Clifton NJ to hang out with Chef Michelle Desjardins and talk about Spring food trends. The restaurant changes its menu four times a year to incorporate fresh, local, and seasonal produce as much as they can. Chef Desjardins showcased some of the new dishes for their Spring menu, talked about the ingredients they're using and how you can pick and use them at home!
Strawberries are the first berry to get the markets in Spring. Bright and beautiful they're a nice change of pace from the apples and pears I've been eating all winter. At Spuntino's, they showcase this delicious fruit by topping one of their famous crostini with mascarpone cheese, sliced strawberries, chiffonade basil and a drizzle of honey! Chef recommends picking berries that have bright green tops, no moisture or mold in the bottom, and that are firm to a gentle touch.
Fennel, or finucchio as it's referred to in my family, is a delicious licorice flavored bulb. Spuntino braises it which is a form of cooking that uses both dry and moist heat, typically you would put the fennel in a closed pot in the oven with some type of liquid and cook it on low heat. They tossed that with their made in house pasta, some shrimp, lemon preserves and cherry tomatoes.
Asparagus are always popular in spring and Chef actually used them in two of the dishes he showed me. The first was a grilled asparagus salad which also included roasted shiitake and portobello mushrooms, frisbee, parmesan and crispy bacon bits. They were also shaved on top of the pizza they brought out. He says make sure to look for bright green, firm asparagus when picking them for home.
Artichokes are actually so popular in Italy, they have whole festivals centered on them. At Spuntino's, they topped their Spring vegetable pizzette with shaved artichoke hearts, asparagus, shaved fennel, red onion and cherry tomatoes, drizzled with a balsamic glaze. Possibly more interesting to me was that they used a combination of ricotta and taleggio - which if you're not familiar with it, is a very stinky cheese - but it works well on the pizza! When selecting artichokes to take home, they should also be bright green and firm to the touch - and don't forget you can eat more than the heart! Try my recipe for stuffed artichokes.
I encourage you to try these Spring foods at home, but if they, or your kitchen, makes you nervous, you can always head to Spuntino's and let them do the work for you.