No Recipe Required

Spring’s first edible gems are so delicious that recipes are not required. Learn more at TwiceasTasty.com.
May began with a week of firsts for Twice as Tasty. I had my first experience baking in a real woodfired pizza oven during a Grilled Sourdough Pizza workshop, and I taught my first Fine Dining: Front Country workshop for Outsiety. In both classes, I was able to share first cuttings freshly snipped from the garden. This week, I also baked the first stalks of rhubarb into a dessert to share with friends.

My first cuttings are almost always from perennials pushing up through the ground year after year. You probably think little of these plants when you see them in a produce section: they’re not showy, or colorful, or supersized. But when they’re the first edibles to pop through your garden soil, on their own time and with no effort on your part, they’re gems. And my favorite ways to eat them are so simple that you don’t even need a recipe.
Read more about simple spring meals

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Asparagus

In our garden, asparagus kicks off the edibles’ season. Only herbs like chives and mint beat it to the mark. With these perennials, there’s minimal work involved once the plants are established. Simply wait for them to start popping out of the ground, and you know it’s time to get to work in the rest of your beds.

Hands down, my favorite way to eat asparagus is grilled. It’s so easy to prepare and is a fabulous accompaniment to anything else you would throw on the grill. It also works beautifully on pasta, in risotto, or over salad greens. We often gobble it all up fresh, saving only a little for refrigerator-pickled asparagus, but sometimes we can’t keep up and the spears get tough. It’s a perfect excuse to turn those spears into a puree that can be used to flavor sauces, soups, and rice dishes after the plants have stopped producing.
Learn to grill asparagus and make Asparagus Puree

Chowders

I’m a fan of thick, hearty soups. Although I make miso or hot and sour soup when I’m down with a bug, I gravitate toward soups that you know are filling just by looking in the pot.

Last week, I mentioned a range of thickeners that can be added to the pot. My favorites are flour-and-butter roux, as in 30-Minute Cherry Tomato Soup. and potatoes. Potatoes have the advantage of acting as both main ingredient and thickener and can be the prominent—or even the primary—ingredient; they can be added to the pot precooked or raw. Like tomatoes, potatoes are mostly water, but the portion that is solid is almost entirely starch. As you heat potatoes, the starch softens, expands, and gels, making the soup more viscous. Keep this in mind when you’re preparing a potato-thickened soup: Potato starch gels at a lower temperature than flour. The result is a far thicker soup. Learn to make Hearty Corn Chowder and Boozy Potato Chowder

Eggplant

I fell in love with baba ghanouj when I lived in San Francisco; Kan Zaman, just around the corner from my basement flat in the Haight, made the tastiest version. This Middle Eastern dip is the lesser-known cousin of hummus, pairing equally well with pita bread and made just as easily from scratch. Unfortunately, I’ve seen baba ghanouj recipes that are as flavorless and bastardized as the premade hummus popular in American grocery stores. Some even get the dip’s distinctive flavor by mixing in liquid smoke. Ew.

We spent a season working to replicate the Kan Zaman version—or at least my memory of it—and taste-testing it whenever we had people out for a sail or over for dinner. After grilling the eggplant to get a fabulous smoky flavor, we knew we had our recipe. If you grill, puree, and freeze the eggplant, you can make baba all year. The same goes for onions: grill, dice, and freeze for a year-round dip that will make you the hit of any party. Learn to make Baba Ghanouj and Grilled Onion Dip