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Spring marks the beginning of my favorite food season of the year, and it's largely due to three of my favorite vegetables all coming out at once: asparagus, peas, and ramps.
For the first two, you may think, what's the big deal? Asparagus and peas are both available year round, right? Well, there's a huge difference between winter asparagus shipped up from Peru and spring asparagus dug up fresh that morning from a farm a few miles down the road. With both peas and asparagus, as soon as they're picked, their sweet sugars start to rapidly convert into starches. Even one day out of the ground, asparagus is noticeably less sweet.
Similarly for peas, for the sweetest, freshest flavor, get peas picked on the day you buy them (head to your farmers' market and ask if you're unsure). If you happen upon a good deal on fresh peas and can't possibly eat them all, your best option is to shuck them and blanch them in boiling water for a few minutes to destroy the enzymes that cause the conversion of sugar to starch. Once blanched and cooled, peas will keep in the refrigerator for a few days.
And as for ramps, well, I've already made my opinion on them pretty clear. A member of the onion family, ramps have a very short but intense season that lasts only a few weeks, but man, do they make the most of their short time on this earth. Packed with intense, sweet oniony flavor, there are few things in the world I like more.
The best way to showcase these great vegetables is to treat them simply. This spring risotto flavored with broth and Parmesan is an ideal platform to let them shine.
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About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.