This time of year, we can look forward to longer days full of sunshine, bright and fragrant blooms, and fresh bounty from our gardens (or the farmer’s market). To celebrate this season of renewal and add a dose of creativity to your kitchen routine, we asked three professional chefs for their favorite spring recipes.
Embrace the season with these delicious yet approachable dishes that are sure to delight—whether you’re cooking for a party of one or are hosting a socially-distanced outdoor lunch with your bubble.
James Beard Award-winning chef Gerard Craft of Niche Food Group is based in St. Louis, a city exploding with culinary creativity. For his spring fare, Craft looks to his wood-fired downtown restaurant, Cinder House at Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis, which focuses on traditional Brazilian and South American cuisine. One of the most popular menu items is lamb ribs served in mango honey-glaze.
“I hope to evoke a sense of comfort from simple, fresh ingredients,” Craft shares. “The lamb ribs are one of my favorite items on the menu; they are every bit as tasty as lamb chops, but often less expensive and thought to be more flavorful with extra marbling. I would venture to say they are generally overlooked in favor of more popular cuts of meat.” Whether served at special birthday dinner or a casual backyard barbecue, this recipe for impossibly tender lamb ribs is the perfect new dish to try at home this spring.
Honey mango lamb ribs by Gerard Craft
Lamb marinade ingredients
- 5 pounds lamb ribs
- 6 cups fresh lime juice
- 2.5 cups soy sauce
- 1 cup scallions, thinly sliced
- 1.5 cups fresh ginger, minced
- ½ cup jalapeno, minced
- 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
- Mix the marinade ingredients together in a bowl.
- Break the lamb racks into half (four bones per portion).
- In a large baking dish or stock pot, pour in the marinade and then submerge the ribs. Allow the ribs to sit in the refrigerator overnight.
- Remove the ribs from the marinade. Wrap them in plastic wrap and then in tinfoil.
- Preheat the oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the wrapped ribs on a cookie sheet and cook in the oven for one hour. Remove from the oven and allow the wrapped ribs to come to room temperature. Do not remove them from the tinfoil during the cooling process.
Mango honey glaze ingredients
- 1 tablespoon green peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon coriander
- 1 tablespoon anise seed
- 4 cups mango nectar
- 2 cups honey
- Heat a medium skillet over medium-high. Add the green peppercorns, coriander, and anise. Stir often and toast until they are aromatic (about one minute).
- Stir in the mango nectar and cook without stirring until the liquid is reduced by half (about eight minutes).
- Remove from heat and pour through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a bowl; discard the solids. Stir in the honey and set aside.
- Do not refrigerate—the mixture needs to stay at room temperature.
- Preheat your grill to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Unwrap the lamb ribs and discard the plastic and foil. Once the grill is hot, place the ribs on top.
- Hold the rosemary springs together (like a brush). Brush on the honey mango mixture. Grill the ribs for approximately six minutes, rotating once—creating a lightly charred crust on the fattier side.
- Remove from the grill, and transfer the ribs to a cutting board. Let them rest for 10 minutes.
Cut between the ribs, transfer to a platter, and sprinkle with sea salt. Serve with remaining mango honey sauce.
Denver mainstay chef Jeff Osaka loves his petite pea and vanilla soup; it provides a taste of spring but still offers something to warm us up on those in-between days. The celebrated chef-owner of Sushi-Rama, Osaka Ramen, and The Empire Lounge and Restaurant had more to say about this dish, which was on the menu at his original Twelve restaurant that shuttered in 2014.
What makes the soup ideal for spring is that, “especially early in the season, English peas are smaller, and naturally sweet. As the season progresses, they grow in size and become starchier if left too long on the vine,” Osaka explains. “As with most dishes or menu items, the inception always begins with what’s in season. Produce when at its peak always tastes the best and is plentiful, which makes it more affordable.”
Spring pea and vanilla soup by Jeff Osaka
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 1 stalk garlic, minced
- ½ teaspoon thyme, chopped
- 6 cups frozen peas
- 8 cups vegetable or chicken broth
- 1 vanilla bean’s seeds (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
- ½ cup half-and-half (optional)
- Kosher salt
- Fresh-ground black pepper
- Heat the butter in a large pot over medium heat, until it melts. Add in the onion, stirring occasionally, until softened (about four to six minutes).
- Add the garlic and thyme, stirring until fragrant (about two minutes).
- Add the broth, and bring to a boil over high heat. Maintain the boil and cook until the onions are very tender (about five minutes).
- Add the peas and vanilla, and bring back to a boil for three minutes—just until the peas are hot throughout, but not dulling in their bright green color.
- Puree the soup in batches in a blender until smooth. (Use caution when pureeing hot liquids.) Stir in the half-and-half (if using), and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve immediately, or cool and refrigerate for up to three days.
Chef Gavin Kaysen is a homegrown Minnesota restaurant icon of Spoon and Stable and Bellecour, and formerly Cafe Boulud. Like many others in pandemic times, he pivoted to an at-home series as a way to connect with his cooking community. The two-time James Beard Award-winner has a favorite salad recipe that he loves to make in his own kitchen.
“This recipe was really created for my home,” he says. “I made this dish for my wife many years ago and she loved it so much, she suggested it be on my menu. That was the best praise I could have received.” This veggie-forward, flavorful kale salad is made with acorn squash, marcona almonds, and a buttermilk vinaigrette that’s light and refreshing.
Kale salad with acorn squash by Gavin Kaysen
Buttermilk vinaigrette ingredients
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- ¼ cup buttermilk
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- Using a blender, food processor, or whisk, blend the vinegar, mustard, and buttermilk until well combined.
- If using a blender or food processor, turn to low, and stream in the olive oil until smooth. If using a whisk, pour the oil in and continue to mix.
- Season with salt. Set aside or refrigerate until ready to use.
Kale salad ingredients
- ½ bunch of kale, cleaned and dry, stems removed (1/3 whole, 2/3 chopped)
- 1 acorn squash, quartered, seeds removed
- 4 tablespoons butter, softened
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground clove
- 1/2 teaspoon light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1⁄4 cup marcona almonds, toasted and lightly crushed
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- In a small bowl, combine the spices, sugar, and one teaspoon of salt.
- Lay the squash flesh-side up on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Rub butter onto the squash flesh, and sprinkle evenly with the spice mix.
- Bake for 30 minutes, or until the squash is tender. Remove from the oven, and once cool enough to handle, peel the skin and cut the squash into two-inch cubes.
- Decrease the oven temperature to 220 degrees Fahrenheit. On a tinfoil-lined baking sheet, lay one-third of the whole kale in a single layer. Drizzle it with olive oil and sprinkle it with salt and pepper.
- Transfer to the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until crispy. Cool at room temperature.
- To serve, toss the raw and crispy kale with the almonds and some of the buttermilk vinaigrette in a large bowl. Divide onto plates and top with the squash. Drizzle with more vinaigrette and serve.
Spring, three ways—delicious.