As we shed off our winter clothes and enjoy the warm spring sunshine, the ground also starts to awaken with a bounty of healthy fruits and vegetables. And, there’s no better way to make a complete plant-based meal with this abundance of spring crops, than to incorporate your favorite nuts. Tree nuts, which provide protein, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats, can make vegetable meals more complete and satisfying.
Here are some ideas to add nuts into your spring menu:
- The Italians love to use nuts in their cooking. Pistachios are often an intrinsic part of many savory dishes, such as a puree spread on pizza, to be topped with cherry tomatoes and basil. In spring, they often shave artichoke finely (just the white part) and toss with lemon and olive oil, and then arrange over a bed of salad leaves before scattering with toasted pistachios.
- In warmer, more tropical climates, macadamias are embraced in many ways. Picture a bed of caramelized grilled pineapple, topped with the season’s first Alaskan halibut. Give it a buttery crunch with a diced macadamia nut crust, and roast until the fish just starts to flake, about 10 minutes at 375°F, depending on thickness.
- Hazelnuts make a delicious base for a spring mélange. Process the nuts until coarsely ground with olive oil and parmesan. Smear this on a plate and arrange spring vegetables over the top, such as shaved radish, fava beans and English peas. Decorate with basil or watercress and dollops of fresh ricotta. It looks like a fine dining restaurant meal but is so easy.
- If you are fortunate enough to be able to purchase some fresh nettle, it makes a wonderful soup topped with a dollop of yogurt and toasted pine nuts. Or, puree with pine nuts to toss through pasta with a sprinkling of aged ricotta.
- Baby carrots are wonderful blanched then tossed with honey, lemon and toasted almonds and served as a side dish, or over quinoa, farro or rice. Or, make a real visual treat, and chop finely to toss with warm wild rice!
- Dandelion greens are another Mediterranean favorite and wonderful for your health, like kale and other bitter greens coming out in spring. Sauté until just wilted in a small amount of olive oil, toss with some balsamic or soy, and toasted walnuts. Or cool and wrap in filo pastry for a twist on the Greek spinach pie, Spanakopita.
- You can put a Spring twist on pecan pie by making it a rhubarb pecan pie – and even using pecans to make the pie crust. Cook the rhubarb in water with a little sugar and lemon until soft and thick; add pecans, cool, and then put in a pie crust to bake – top with dollops of crème fraiche. Or make a rhubarb chutney with vinegar and sugar, adding roasted pecans at the end. This is wonderful spooned over fish, poultry or your favorite burger.
- Apricots, strawberries and other berries are at their best in spring and bring life to salads, breakfast bowls and parfaits, especially when topped with nuts like cashews. Cashews are also the perfect nut for a spring stir fry, with snow and snap peas, and prawns. Glaze with a soy miso broth and serve over a bed of rice noodles for a cool spring night.
- Asparagus is surprisingly delicious with some diced and roasted Brazil nuts. Simply blanch, drizzle with avocado oil, and add the nuts with some fresh black pepper.
The options are endless when it comes to nuts and spring produce. Have fun creating your own spring showcase!