More than ever, spring carries a sense of renewal this year, a chance to start living fully again—enjoying the outdoors, cooking with the newly abundant options at the farmers market or grocery, experimenting with new ingredients or techniques that you’ve hesitated to try before. Here are five delicious options, each with a wine pairing, to encourage your culinary exploration, from new ways to enjoy spring produce like asparagus, artichokes and fava leaves to a creative way to make use of ramps during their short-lived season.
White asparagus is quintessential springtime—fresh and fleeting, in season just from March through May—and this salad makes the most of the meatier, sweeter and less vegetal counterpart to the more common green version. Chef Abram Bissell poaches the white asparagus in a bath of stock, butter and lemon, then combines it with fresh peas and three quick, easy-to-prepare sauces: perky lemon vinaigrette, aromatic chive oil and homey buttermilk dressing. Although asparagus can cause many wines to taste metallic or bitter, a juicy, herb-tinged, crisp Sauvignon Blanc is an ideal pairing for this dish.
Part of our 8 & $20 series of weeknight recipes, this simple bruschetta highlights creamy, fresh, whole-milk ricotta on a toasted baguette as an ideal base for spring asparagus. The asparagus is oven-roasted to tamp down some of the green flavors, while crisped pancetta lends warmth and depth to each bite. Adding lemon juice to the ricotta amps up the flavors and ties them into the wine pairing, a Sauvignon Blanc with the acidity to balance the rich cheese and the citrus and herbal notes to manage the asparagus. Throw in a side of arugula salad dressed with olive oil, lemon juice and parmesan shavings, and you’ve got yourself a solid, veggie-packed dinner that can be ready within a half-hour.
Spring is also peak season for artichokes, which can be roasted in the oven or outdoors on the grill and punched up with a piquant vinaigrette. This version, by way of the Barcelona Wine Bar collection of tapas restaurants in the U.S., brings the acidity of tomatoes, brininess of olives, and the salty and floral character of capers together in a juicy, tart lemon–olive oil topping. (Don't miss the tips for preparing artichokes more easily.) Just before serving, the artichokes are topped with a cloud of creamy grated Manchego. Like asparagus, artichokes are considered one of the most challenging pairings for wine. Gretchen Thomas, who oversees the restaurants' wine and spirits program and more, heads to Spain’s volcanic Canary Islands for a high-acid white that's savory and salty to the core, but backed by citrus and orchard fruit. Kick back and enjoy a taste of Spain!
This elegant pork tenderloin dish from Chris Royster, executive chef and partner of Wine Spectator Grand Award winner Flagstaff House in Boulder, Colo., overlays fine-dining sensibilities onto easy home techniques. The tenderloin is pan-seared, then roasted in the oven, and the pan is deglazed with a fistful of frisée that soaks up the flavorful browned bits. It’s plated with goat cheese and seasonal accents: tangy, sweet, quick-pickled strawberries and an herbaceous ramp pesto.
Seek out ramps—a species of wild onion that somewhat resembles a scallion—in the market from April to early June. “A ramp is a perfect onion, in my opinion,” Royster professes. “It’s beautiful. It’s got this lovely sweetness to it, and a little bit of a garlic spice, but it’s really, really mild.” The ramp pesto and berries call for a fresh, juicy, light- to medium-bodied red wine full of bright red fruit, such as a cool-climate Grenache. Try this out for your next dinner party!
Buttery, perfectly seared sea scallops—with their caramelized, golden-brown tops and soft, melt-in-your-mouth flesh—aren’t the exclusive domain of professional kitchens. Scallops are simple to make at home too for a quick dinner. (Hint: Use clarified butter for best appearance and flavor.) These are plated with a salad of avocado, green apples and goat cheese mixed with fava leaves; another hallmark of spring, these have a buttery, grassy taste. The rich, buttery, creamy elements of this dish beg to be balanced by a white wine with bright acidity, such as a juicy white Rioja with notes of thyme and stone fruit that complement the slightly sweet shellfish.