Savoring Spring

Santafe.com - March 20, 2018

Feasting on the bounty of the new season

Spring officially arrived on Tuesday, bringing with it an annual crop of fresh, flavorful ingredients to usher in this welcomed season. The edible offerings this time of year make up a feast of delights, from tender spring peas and stalks of earthy asparagus to lemony artichokes, sweet spring onions, nutty morel mushrooms, tart rhubarb and more.

Now is the time to celebrate the changing of the seasons with fresh ingredients that are intensely more flavorful than those you've been purchasing from grocery stores during the winter months. Shop the area farmer's markets and you'll see these spring delights starting to appear, or perhaps they're growing in your own garden. Why not pay tribute to the start of spring with a feast put together at home made of ingredients plucked from your garden? Or head out on the town to taste the creative dishes Santa Fe chefs have put together with spring's delights. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.

Chef/owner Mark Kiffin's Easter Brunch menu at The Compound honors the season with a cornucopia of spring ingredients, starting with spring pea soup that's as fresh as can be, made to order just for you. For entrées, the Scottish salmon is served with a spring vegetable sauté, along with a chive potato pancake and beurre blanc. Buttered asparagus accompanies the upscale steak and eggs, in this case Black Angus tenderloin medallions and a scrambled egg phyllo tart. And what could be sweeter for brunch than Farm House Pancakes, topped with spring berries, orange butter and maple syrup? Be sure to make reservations now for this Easter feast as April 1 is just around the corner.

Spring is in full bloom at Coyote Cafe, where Chef Eduardo Rodriguez has created delicious dishes that give a nod to spring. Start with the squash blossom with lobster and sweet-roasted corn, served with Hoja santa crema. Then try Patagonian Sea Bass with potato and spinach ravioli, Romero Farm vegetables and ruby grapefruit butter. One of my favorite dishes here is Tacos al Pastor, a popular Mexican dish made with thinly sliced marinated pork, in this case Iberico pork tenderloin, joined by pineapple butter, micro cilantro and caramelized onions, all piled onto house-made tortillas.

At El Farol, Chef Shane Alexander's tempting tapas incorporate flavorful spring ingredients. Try the Bosque en su Plato, featuring seasonal mushrooms with snails, basil, fresh herbs and pesto made with foraged green. The brightly flavored alcochofas also showcases spring, featuring a grilled artichoke with Sapore del Paive cheese and lemon thyme aioli. Artichokes also are part of the roulade de pollo entrée, consisting of a chicken breast with Serrano ham, Manchego, cheese artichoke hearts, black kale, pepitas, with roasted squash purée and rioja ajada.

Chef José Rodriguez's Easter Brunch menu at La Casa Sena includes New Mexico grass-fed beef tenderloin with asparagus, black truffle mashed potatoes and foie gras butter. Artichoke hearts add flavor to the pan-seared Sottish salmon, served with grain salad, grape tomatoes, broccolini dried cranberries, cashews and a tarragon butter sauce. The challah French toast is a tempting dish, too, served with mascarpone mousse, crispy bacon, strawberries and buttery maple syrup. Even though carrots aren't quite in season, the carrot cake here makes an excellent dessert that tastes like spring, bright and sweet, served with candied carrots and toffee ice cream.

Savor spring at Geronimo with Chef Slin Cruz's innovative fare, including the warm leek and white asparagus bisque, served with spinach purée, jumbo lump crabmeat and a soft buttermilk biscuit. The New Mexico Four Corners grilled rack of lamb is paired with fresh pea purée, and served with Parmesan-polenta cakes, roasted leeks and merlot lamb-reduction. Asparagus Provençal provides the perfect seasonal note with the Cedar River New York strip steak, also accompanied by potato lyonnaise, red onion marmalade and bordelaise sauce.

Vinaigrette offers dishes that celebrate spring as well. With the Eat Your Peas salad, you'll enjoy sweet green peas with fresh baby lettuce, bacon shards, Asiago cheese and a white mushroom sauté, all tossed in a tart vinaigrette. Or try the Spinach-Mushroom salad composed of baby spinach and sautéed mushrooms, bacon, hardboiled egg, red onion and honey balsamic vinaigrette. For a sweet spring note, order The Beet Goes On, a combo of fresh baby greens with arugula, roasted beets, goat cheese and pistachios, all with a honey balsamic vinaigrette.