Countdown to Spring

By: Alison Sickelka
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Are you caught in the middle of yet another winter snowstorm? Take heart! Punxsutawney Phil didn't see his shadow this morning, which means spring is (supposedly) going to be early this year. We can't wait. As much as we love chili and stews, we're ready for a return to the fresh fruits and vegetables that springtime has to offer.

One of the first signs of spring is asparagus. It's a hotly anticipated item at the farmers' market where I work. We sell flowers in the early spring, but people in the know ask about our limited bunches of asparagus we keep on the truck. Even when we transition to a vegetable stand in April, the asparagus is usually sold out by noon. Asparagus can be cooked a number of ways, but my personal favorite is Kelsey's recipe. She wraps bundles of asparagus in proscuitto and roasts the bundles in the oven.

Another springtime favorite is rhubarb. This versatile fruit (vegetable?) can go sweet or savory. A favorite childhood memory of mine is eating rhubarb at my grandmother's house. We ate it raw, with as much sugar as could fit down the middle of the stalk. I've since upgraded from that mouth-puckering snack and cook the rhubarb with sugar and strawberries for a delicious pie filling. This take from Emeril finishes the dessert with a crunchy almond topping.

Or take your love of spring to the Iron Chef level. Michael Symon combines ramps and morels, two early to mid-spring favorites that can be hard to find, into one elegant dish.

And while it's a little too early to step into the kitchen and make any of these dishes, you can bake a cake in honor of Punxsutawney Phil and his early spring prediction (image above).

What is your favorite springtime fruit or vegetable?
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