© Renee Rendler-Kaplan/Getty Images

In a shocking turn of events, only one of them chose ramps.

Nina Friend
March 20, 2018

So long, butternut squash and apple everything. Today is the first day of spring, which means that chefs across the country will begin going berserk over farmers market finds like rhubarb, asparagus, and fiddlehead ferns. Oh, and a little something called ramps. You know, those wild onions with a cultlike following that pop up on every restaurant menu around this time each year?

We asked 15 chefs — in climates hot and cold — to name the springtime ingredient they’re most excited to cook with as winter finally nears its end. Here’s what they had to say:

Suzanne Cupps, Executive Chef, Untitled at the Whitney Museum

“Spring brings everything green, but I always get most excited about the new baby vegetables—beets, carrots, radishes, turnips. My two favorite ways to cook turnips at Untitled are lightly pickled and whole roasted. I cold pickle turnip wedges with dashi and Japanese rice wine vinegar, which adds the right amount of brightness and crunch to a spring dish. Whole roasted with a little olive oil and salt makes the vegetables magical: tender and sweet. These are delicious alone or can stand up next to a lamb chop.”

Cynthia Wong, Executive Pastry Chef, Butcher & Bee

“Every year, I am most excited about rhubarb! After a winter of citrus, nuts, and chocolate, rhubarb is instant spring! We are making brioche tartlets, filled with a layer of rhubarb jam on the bottom, then filled with vanilla custard, and brûléed on top.”

© Andrew Montgomery

Rodney Scott, Chef/Owner, Rodney Scott’s BBQ

“The one ingredient I'm excited to use this spring is spring lettuce, because we’re creating a salad for the menu at the restaurant and have been testing different ingredients. This is a big deal for me because I'm a meat lover!”

Sarah Grueneberg, Chef/Owner, Monteverde

“RAMPS! I love them for the strong pungent flavor and unique flavor profile, and I love using them in as much as possible since the season is so short. One dish that we’ll bring back soon is our tortelli verdi with roasted miso. We add ramps to the sauce and it’s just awesome. We have a dish at Monteverde called burrata e ham that we serve with tigelle, these bread discs from Emilia Romagna. We’ll add grilled ramps and a rhubarb jam — you open up the tigelle and make a little stuffed sandwich; it’s a fan favorite. At home, I’ll probably make spaghetti with ramps, lemon zest, olive oil and a poached egg.”

© Con Poulos

Shota Nakajima, Chef/Owner, Adana

“Spring in Washington means fiddleheads, devil’s club, morels, and butterbur blossoms. For fiddleheads I like to blanch lightly and shock in ice water then marinate in a savory dashi served cold. The nice crunch, the light slime from the inside, and that springy flavor is to die for. Devil’s club and butterbur blossoms I like to tempura fry. This kills most of the bitterness but still comes through a bit, which is delicious.”

Katie Button, Executive Chef/Owner, Cúrate and Nightbell

Green garlic, I love this stuff. It’s the young tender garlic bulbs that come up in the springtime. In the restaurant we pickle them and make a bread and butter style pickle! Sliced thin, pickled, and jarred. At home, I slice them up and cook with them, just add a little bit of butter and put them in a sauté pan for a deliciously delicate garlic flavor. Serve over anything — your favorite spring veggies to a steak on the grill.”

Diane Yang, Pastry Chef, Spoon and Stable and Bellecour

“Fresh Herbs! Rhubarb! Strawberries!” At the restaurant, Yang plans on using these spring ingredients in mini pies, ice creams, sorbets, caramels, and pâte de fruit.

Step up your warm-weather breakfast game with these earthy and delicious overnight oats.

Anya Kassoff

Brittanny Anderson, Chef/Owner, Metzger Bar and Butchery, Brenner Pass, and Chairlift

“I love spring onions and anything in the allium family in springtime! We roast the spring onion bulbs and turn their tops into ask or a green tangy oil to garnish with.”

© Alanna Hale

Nicholas Elmi, Chef/Owner, LaurelITV, and Royal Boucherie

“In the Mid-Atlantic everyone goes nuts for ramp season, but at Laurel we get more giddy about daylily season. In early April, we'll use the fresh shoots lightly wilted for a garnish for fish dishes, in late April we'll start preserving them in the style of a white kimchi which is very bright and funky, then later in the spring we will have the roots
pulled and we'll ferment them. They taste like intense sunchokes.”

CaoChunhai/Getty Images

Joanne Chang, Chef/Owner, Flour Bakery + Cafe

“At Flour I always look forward to rhubarb. Usually, the first few deliveries of rhubarb are a little green and then as we get more and more into spring it gets deeper red and even more tart and flavorful. I plan on making a brown sugar rhubarb pie with lots of chopped rhubarb and a few eggs and a tiny bit of cream to make it a little custardy.”

Eva Kolenko

Juan Carlos Gonzalez, Executive Chef, SoBou

“The ingredient I'm most excited to cook with this spring is crawfish. Crawfish is seasonal food that happens to be at its best during the spring season. At home with friends and family, we gather around and have crawfish boils and beer. At the restaurant, we have it all over the menu: crawfish bisque served with crawfish popcorn; crawfish, corn and asparagus risotto served under blackened redfish; smoked crawfish croquettes with spicy remoulade; and my favorite, crawfish tamales.”

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Kenny Gilbert, Chef/Owner, Gilbert’s Southern Kitchen & Bar, Gilbert’s Hot Chicken, Fish & Shrimp, Gilbert’s Underground Kitchen, and Gilbert’s Social

Morel mushrooms, spring Vidalia onions, fiddlehead ferns. In my restaurants, I will do Spring Vidalia Onion Jam, Spring Vidalia Onion Marmalade, Spring Vidalia Onion Bacon Compote, Pickled Fiddlehead Ferns, Fried Fiddlehead Ferns with Creamed Morel Mushrooms, quail stuffed with Morel Mushroom Duxelle, and Garlic Fiddlehead Ferns.”

© Abby Hocking

Julia Jaksic, Executive Chef, Employees Only

Fava beans. I look forward to these every year, their flavor is spring to me. I love the versatility of favas; we'll smash them on toast, blanch them and add them to salads or grain bowls, or simply saute them in butter and lemon with a dollop of fresh ricotta.”

Eric Wolfinger

Gavin Kaysen, Chef/Owner, Spoon and Stable and Bellecour

“I am always excited to cook with spring garlic, there is a subtle and beautiful tone to it. We will use spring garlic throughout a few different purees and sauces at Spoon and Stable as well as Bellecour. We will also add it to our Dirty French burger at Bellecour, which is a rotating burger special available at the bar.”

© Con Poulos

Tory McPhail, Executive Chef, Commander’s Palace

“This week we've been brushing fresh, young, and tender collard greens with garlic oil and seasoning each side with Creole seafood seasoning. Then, quickly grilling for 15 seconds each side on the hottest part of the grill. We call them ‘30 second collard greens,’ which flies in the face of how everyone else cooks them. They taste like a leafy BBQ'ed potato chip and have a charred smoky grilled flavor. We're also experimenting with these crazy good sugar snap peas we're getting from Covey Rise. They're the best that I've ever had and so sweet that we'll be pureeing them into a vegetable coulis and using it as a bright green sauce to garnish desserts at Commander’s Palace.”

What’s your favorite springtime ingredient? Tell us via social media by tagging us @foodandwine.