Last week I taught a spring baking class. While the weather outside was gray, rainy and cold enough for me to see my breath, inside the kitchen the oven was singing the flavors of spring. The weather may not be ready to admit that it’s April but my kitchen is.
The evening started with a rhubarb bellini made from a simple rhubarb puree (vanilla bean, rhubarb and a splash of water cooked until tender then blended until completely smooth). There was also freshly baked fennel pollen shortbread served with herb goat cheese and a tangy red onion jam.
Next came a salad that spring invented. A soft butter lettuce paired with thinly shaved radish, creamy avocado chunks and a healthy handful of chives, parsley and tarragon. This salad shed its heavy winter dressing in exchange for a light champagne vinaigrette made ever so creamy with a touch of creme fraiche.
From there we inundated the class with pizza. The first was sauced with homemade creme fraiche and topped with bacon and caramelized onion with a whisper of fresh nutmeg grated right on top. Secondly, we served a roasted asparagus pizza with a perfectly cooked (lovely runny yolked) egg, mozzarella and, while still hot from the oven, we finished it with prosciutto and grated parmesan.
As a ploy to coax the sun to push its way through the dense wall of clouds, we fired up the grill and made a grilled crust pizza with fontina, mozzarella and fresh asparagus all over the top.
And for dessert, more rhubarb. This time it was roasted with orange zest, vanilla bean and served with homemade ice cream and vanilla bean shortbread.
The participants were full, happy and ready to embrace this new season with invigorated taste buds.
I’d like to welcome you to spring! Home of asparagus, citron green herbs bursting with flavor that has been suppressed for months, rhubarb dressed in more pink than my daughter, mildly spiced spring onions and a gentle warmth – just enough to make the cherry blossoms pop and the seedlings emerge.
by Ashley Rodriguez
Chef, food blogger, and full-time mom. Read more of her writings at www.notwithoutsalt.com