The countdown is on! With March flying by there’s one thing on everyone’s mind – spring! Rushing rivers, blooming flowers, the sunshine-filled days, and warmer weather will happily envelop Vermont.
One exciting attribute of spring is its fresh, seasonal spring produce. Though we live in a time where nearly any food or ingredient can be purchased year-round, it goes without saying that the produce produced locally, during its appropriate season, is the most delicious and nourishing!
Here at Junction Restaurant, which is part of The Essex , one of Vermont’s leading culinary establishments, we pride ourselves on using seasonal produce, year-round, to ensure every dish is at it’s freshest! In honor of spring, we asked our very own Chefs what some of their favorite ingredients are, when they’re in season, and how they cook with them, these were their responses.
Seasonal Spring Foods for Delicious Flavor
These diminutive delights are great to snack on raw while one toils in the garden. As a refreshing green vegetable, they pair effectively with most any type of fish. Snap peas are enjoyable sautéed with a touch of garlic butter and white wine.
They also make great pickles. We get them in such abundance that pickling them is a great way to preserve and savor them later on in the season.
Sunchokes are terrific roasted and then flash-fried. The center gets nice and tender, and the exterior remains divinely crispy. Sunchokes also make for amazing soup – while they are somewhat tedious to peel, it is all definitely worth it in the end.
Roasting rainbow carrots at high heat is our favorite way to cook them at Junction. Using high levels of heat allows us to caramelize the natural sugars in the carrots. Finish them off with fresh herbs and a touch of honey.
Be sure, though, to save the tops! Carrot tops make a great hearty salad green that is a fine addition to different varieties of lettuce.
Midnight Dreams Bell Pepper
One of our newest garden additions, the midnight dreams bell pepper brings deep bold color to any cozy kitchen. While there is no difference in taste, this pepper has a dark purple hue when harvested, but turns back to green when heat is applied.
This pepper brings an extra dash of excitement to the open kitchen in Junction, because you can watch it transform right before your eyes.
An unexpected pairing, lemon mint has the perfect fusion of citrus and mint flavor. We utilize this herb as an unexpected twist in recipes that call for mint. This is an ingredient that you can plant inside right now and replant outside once temperatures are more suitable.
But it’s not just our Chefs that enjoy working with lemon mint, but our Bartenders love mixing up fresh mojitos and, even Kirk, down in our Bakeshop has been known to throw lemon mint in our homemade ice cream.
Growing scotch bonnets up north actually plays a huge part in the level of spice the pepper produces. Normally these peppers pack quite a punch but, grown in a more regulated environment, where water is plentiful and sunlight regular, these peppers tend to produce a more mild version.
Our Chefs enjoy creating salsas from these spicy peppers. Roasting them over an open flame and dicing once they are cooled to get that nice smoky flavor. Pro Tip: Remove the seed membrane as that’s the spiciest part.
Replace green basil with purple for a dramatic contrast in the normal sea of leafy greens. With a similar taste and look, purple basil is an easy substitute to add a splash of color in any springtime dish. Be bold and mix and match green and purple basil (just like we do in our Heirloom Tomato Mozzarella Salad) for more dimension.
At Junction, we love to serve our garden tomatoes with fresh mozzarella or burrata and some freshly-baked focaccia bread. The possibilities are endless with these wonderful staples – adorning fresh pasta, or in a versatile sauce base, etc. Find our Heirloom Tomato Mozzarella Salad recipe below:
Heirloom Tomato Mozzarella
- 4 Heirloom Tomatoes
- 8 small basil leaves (garden)
- 1/2 tsp black sea salt
- 1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp reduced balsamic vinegar
- 4 oz mozzarella curd
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
Bring a stock pot of salted water to simmer, place Mozzarella curd chinoise in simmering water until the curd melts and comes together, stirring constantly. Once it comes together, remove chinoise from water and shake excess water. Wrap warm mozz tightly in plastic and form into a log, allow to cool completely. Next, bring balsamic vinegar to a rolling boil and allow to reduce to 1/4 original volume, then let it cool. Meanwhile, slice heirloom tomato into 1/4 segments then in half horizontally and slice chilled mozz into 1-inch cubes. Place tomato and mozz in a small pile on side of plate, sprinkle with black sea salt and basil leaves and drizzle with balsamic and oil. Enjoy!
Fresh flavors and colorful dishes will soon be appearing on Junction’s new spring menu, but our gardeners are already hard at work planting and preparing for the season ahead. If you’re dreaming of savoring each and every flavor of spring, then pop into Junction and taste our chef’s creations firsthand! At Junction we embrace farm-fresh ingredients and strive to bridge the gap between planting and plating by working closely with our gardeners. Ready for a spring getaway? Book a stay at The Essex, Vermont’s Culinary Resort & Spa, where you can spend all weekend long dining at Junction and/or taking cooking lessons at The Essex’s Cook Academy. Playing around with seasonal ingredients and making recipes of your own? Please share them with us!