— By Camille DePutter
Ahh, it’s April. For me it comes with a bit of relief. In years like this, when spring takes its time, we might still be wishing for warmer weather. But the good news is, once it’s April, we start to see signs that spring is, indeed coming. There are times in winter when it seems impossible that at some point everything will be green again and we will get to put away our parkas. In such moments, I almost can’t believe that the seasons will change, and this miracle well come again.
But it is coming. Trees are starting to bud and crocuses are poking up from the ground. At this particular moment, the sun is shining. And there are days when I can trade in my winter boots for rain boots – or even better, my favourite perfectly worn-in Converse sneakers.
This month, the Withrow Market blog will be focused on ‘Signs of Spring.’ We are all anticipating the market’s opening next month and it’s of course still too early for all that amazing diverse local produce to start rolling in, but until then, we’re going to enjoy every little step towards spring.
With that in mind, here are a few suggestions on how to enjoy the first tastes of spring, even when it doesn’t totally feel like it’s arrived:
1) Bring spring to your table. I find that setting a table can be a fun, refreshing way to bring seasonality to your meals. Try mixing up your china, using different pieces that may be hidden at the back of your cabinet in new and creative ways. For example, I love using my Grandmother’s tea cups as a way to serve small appetizers, soups or desserts. For an appetizer, I’ve been known to make ‘veggie vases’ where I layer kale or sprouts in a squat glass vase and then fill with veggies such as julienned carrots and cucumber, cherry tomatoes, cut broccoli florets, etc. It’s like an edible garden in a glass. Of course, flowers are a great way to celebrate spring time and I love finding fun vases for them, including unique beer bottles, vintage pitchers, an old fish bowl, or once again, tea cups for blooms. Breaking a bouquet up and using several smaller, interesting vases allows me to fill my house with little colourful gems.
2) Be a kid. For some reason when I think about childhood memories, so many of them are about spring. This time of year makes me want to go outside and play, go for hikes, or run around. The dinner table is a great place to be a kid, too. For Easter, I covered my table in butcher paper, drew on the placemats for my guests’ settings, and provided crayons in colourful glasses so they could draw, too. There were no actual kids at the table, but by the end of the night, our ‘tablecloth’ was covered in artwork! Similarly, sometimes it’s fun to abandon ‘serious’ cookery and just have fun. The previous Easter I made a panna cotta with lemon-basil syrup and it was delicious – but this year I threw that fancy pants stuff out the window and made creme egg cupcakes! I had a lot of fun making them and we had even more fun eating them.
3) Try something new in the kitchen. All winter I do a lot of roasting – vegetables and meat. I am so sick of it! I can’t wait for the bounty that late spring and summer will bring but until then I’m experimenting with some fresh flavours. I like to make things up as I go when I cook, so for me this means stocking my kitchen and pantry well and then leaving myself open to inspiration. Last night I wound up making a West Indian style curry with chicken, spinach, peas, carrots and coconut milk – it was a refreshing change from my usual repertoire and a bit of a surprise since it just sort of evolved as I cooked. But if you prefer using recipes, perhaps use this opportunity to try a new cookbook. My favourite books are those that reflect the produce of the season and get you inspired by the season. One of my most used and loved cookbooks is Jamie at Home by Jamie Oliver; a slightly newer favourite is The Farm by Ian Knauer. You might think about taking a wander through the wonderful Cookbook Store to get inspired.
Enjoy, and relish those first signs of spring!
P.S. Here’s a pic of my Easter table!