It's time to hit your farmers' market.
With spring in the air, many delicious things are finally back in season after a long, dreary winter. La Sirena executive chef Anthony Sasso shared his favorite spring ingredients with us when he stopped by our test kitchen to make his Spring Chickpea Salad with Avocado Hummus.
Chef Sasso loves to prepare fava beans simply. "Once they’re out of the shell, all you do is cook them for 20 to 30 seconds in boiling water and then dress them with some olive oil, lemon juice and a little thinly sliced raw red onion," he says. "I'd also throw a little Parmesan or Manchego in there too. Then that could be vinaigrette for a salad with some leafy greens—or you could just eat it by the bowl."
Instead of the traditional avocado toast, Sasso likes to lighten up the dish with peas. "Avocado is a really rich ingredient, but you can basically do the same preparation with mushy peas," he says. "Just boil your peas for an extra minute to get them softer than normal and then smash them in a bowl to make them a little creamy before you spread it on some nice toast. Again, lemon juice is a simple garnish for that, along with fresh herbs like basil or parsley."
"Rhubarb is great all by itself when cooked simply with just a bit of honey over low heat," he explains. "The thing is, rhubarb goes from 'just right' to 'so wrong' within a five-minute window if you cook it too high. Treat rhubarb like you would a braised dish and cover it halfway with water with a little drizzle of honey or brown sugar. Essentially you want to almost create a tea for it to steep in."
"Asparagus is coming along now and it’s great because you can eat it raw or cooked," he says. "If you do want to eat it raw, you can use a mandolin to shave the asparagus into long ribbons and then toss those with a light dressing of your choosing. You can also sauté those and then you have an alternative to pasta."
Sasso likes to make a simple ceviche with this fish. "Fluke is readily available this time of year and it’s super-affordable," he says. "If you want to keep it light, eat it raw. Cut it into big chunks with lots of lime juice, some olive oil and whatever fresh chili pepper you can get your hands on. You can top it with something crispy like cucumber, potato chips or even popcorn, which is a traditional garnish for ceviche."