BY CAROLYN O'NEIL - FOR THE AJC
The arrival of spring in Atlanta with happy daffodils popping up and pink blossoms budding on trees is even more wonderfully welcome this year after shivering through an unusually icy cold winter. Restaurant menus are showing signs of springtime, too.
“Artichokes are starting to arrive, and we’re so excited to see asparagus, which is a really good price right now,” says E.J. Hodgkinson, executive chef of JCT Kitchen and Bar. The bar menu gets a spring makeover, too, with floral notes such as a touch of St. Germain elderflower liqueur in a tequila and grapefruit cocktail.
STEAL: A steamed artichoke with lemon will keep you svelte and only cost 55 calories. Zero fat grams, hello!
Just as you want to keep a cozy sweater or light jacket handy — braised lamb shanks, slow-cooked stews and hearty soups are still appreciated with the chilly temps of March. But there’s a seasonal menu change in motion as we move closer to April.
“I’m really tired of root vegetables,” says Daniel Porubiansky, chef partner of Century House Tavern in Woodstock. Porubiansky, who’s participating in Downtown Woodstock’s Restaurant Week (which runs through March 30), serves seared halibut on a bed of sauteed baby sweet peas, artichokes and fava beans. “I season them with what I call my magic herb mixture of fresh rosemary, thyme and parsley.”
For vegetarians and pasta lovers, also on the spring menu at Century House Tavern: gnocchi with artichokes, sweet peas and mushrooms.
The Italian word for spring is primavera and you’ll find Arroz Primavera on the menu at Eclipse di Luna — a pretty dish of spiced basmati rice with wild mushrooms, red pepper, green beans and spring peas sauteed in basil butter.
Sweet taste of spring
Another sign of the warming times is just-picked strawberries. The Century House Tavern’s dessert menu features the sweet spring crop in a strawberry shortcake and creme caramel with strawberry compote. Porubiansky says, “I like Florida strawberries better than California because they’re a deeper red color and taste more like a strawberry. In two weeks, we’ll start seeing them from South Georgia.”
Spring into good nutrition
Artichokes are rich in bone-building magnesium, immunity-boosting vitamin C and as much heart-healthy potassium as a small banana.
Asparagus spears are a good source of the heart-healthy B-vitamin folate, as well as vitamins A, C, E and K.
Fava beans are an excellent source of vegetable protein with 13 grams of protein per cup and a good source of iron and dietary fiber.
Green peas are a good source of folate, vitamin K, vitamin C, dietary fiber and vegetable protein with 8 grams of protein per cup.
Strawberries are very low in calories with only 50 calories per cup. And did you know that a serving of eight strawberries provides more vitamin C than an orange? Sweet.
Carolyn O’Neil is a registered dietitian and author of “Southern Living: The Slim Down South Cookbook.” Email her at email@example.com.