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Dining For Dummies: Spring Produce in Dallas/Fort Worth

Oh, springtime. You’re my blue sky; you’re my sunny day. Turn your love my way! Despite the cooler than usual springtime temperatures, restaurants in North Texas are incorporating spring produce into their menus. Fort Worth restaurant AF+B just released a new spring menu, with a few items that left me scratching my head. As you can see below, it wasn’t alone. Aiming to make you look a little smarter at your next springtime dinner club, here are a few springtime produce items demystified.

Fava beans: While fava beans may look like overgrown lima beans, they are not the same thing. These beans come in a large pod that, unless very young, is not itself edible. Looking to buy some fava beans? They are not often found fresh, but are more often sold dried or cooked in cans. Fava beans have a very tough skin, which may be removed by blanching before cooking. They’re very popular in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes, can be cooked in a variety of ways and are often used in soups. You may also see them referred to as a broad bean.

Where you can find it: AF+B (HOUSE MADE RICOTTA with fava beans, green garlic pesto, grilled sourdough)

Watermelon radish: Probably not surprising, given the name, but watermelon radishes are green on the outside and pink on the inside. The watermelon radish’s flesh is white closest to the exterior, evolving into bright circular striations of pink and magenta as you move inward. The flesh is tender crisp, succulent and firm. Its flavor is mild, just slightly peppery with almond-sweet notes. These radishes range in size from that of a golf ball to a softball.

Where you can find it: Pyramid Restaurant & Bar (Red Quinoa & Watercress Salad, Local Feta Cheese, Watermelon Radish, Burnt Honey Citrus Dressing)

Spring peas: A sign of spring, these peas are ripe very early in the season and often bear large crops on medium-sized plants. Not only known for their early ripeness, the sweetness of these garden peas is legendary.

Where you can find it: Local (cara cara_balsamic glazed salmon with fava bean whip, sugar snap + spring pea saute, mint oil + daikon radish slaw)

Pea tendrils: Pea tendrils, also known as pea shoots, are the young leaves, stems, vines, and flowers of a pea plant. All the parts of the plant are edible. Don’t shake your head just yet. They generally have a surprisingly robust, spinach-like flavor, but different parts of the pea plant may have different textures, and the stem in particular can be crunchy and tougher. They are commonly found in Asian markets, but if you can’t find them for a recipe, pea sprouts are a good stand-in. The season for pea tendrils is just at the close of winter, so if you spot them, it is a sure sign of spring … somewhere.

Where you can find it: AF+B (SPRING VEGETABLE BARLEY with sugar snaps, asparagus, rhubarb, pea tendrils, black pepper granola)

Rhubarb: I have zero idea what rhubarb is. Because of this I have never tried rhubarb pie, so I will now remedy my situation. In an unprepared state, rhubarb has thick, celery-like stalks that can reach up to 2 feet long. Only the stalks are edible – the leaves contain oxalic acid and can therefore be toxic. Though rhubarb is generally eaten as a fruit, it’s botanically a vegetable (tomato’s opposite!). Rhubarb is pretty tart, and most varieties fall into one of two basic types: hothouse and field grown. Rhubarb grown in a hothouse has pink to pale red stalks and yellow-green leaves. The field-grown variety, which are more pronounced in flavor, have cherry red stalks and green leaves. The field-grown plant is the “spring” rhubarb, usually peaking from April to June. Because of its intense tartness, rhubarb is usually combined with a considerable amount of sugar (hello, rhubarb pie!). In America, a traditional flavor combination is rhubarb and strawberries; in Britain, rhubarb and ginger. Rhubarb contains a fair amount of vitamin A, so don’t feel too guilty about consuming it – there are bonuses!

Where you can find it: Emporium Pies (Strawberry Fields – a pie filled with a medley of strawberries, raspberries, and rhubarb)