Spring has sprung, which means a bevy of delicious fruits and veggies will soon be arriving in our grocery stores. It’s also a time to start lightening up your dinners so that you can lighten up your body, too. After all, swimsuit season is just around the corner. Here are some frugal ideas for delicious spring foods.
Strawberries with Cream
They actually have strawberries at my farmer’s market year-round, but the prices are outrageous. Now they’re available on the cheap. If you’ve spotted strawberries at your local store and the price is reasonable, they’re best served simply: sliced and dipped in fresh cream. You can whip the cream if you want to get fancy.
This is a crowd pleaser that couldn’t be simpler. Buy shortcakes, or bake them yourself. Mix sliced strawberries with sugar, then spoon over the cakes. Top with whipped cream.
White asparagus season is a major event in Germany because it’s so short. We mostly have green asparagus in the U.S., so snap it up while you can. You may be able to find it at the store outside the season, but it won’t be nearly as good. You can get fancy with it by mixing it into pasta or frittata, serving it as a prosciutto-wrapped side dish, or simply steaming it and drizzling lemon and butter over the top.
Rhubarb also has a short growing season. If you find rhubarb stalks at the store, it’s best in a pie or crisp. Do not eat the leaves. They’re toxic, but my research tells me that they also taste so awful that you’re unlikely to eat enough to get sick.
Pasta with Fresh Herbs
Make a simple pasta sprinkled with olive oil and fresh herbs for a simple, delicious taste of spring. You can serve it warm or cold, with just about any herbs you like. Basil sounds good to me. You could also add spring vegetables like bell peppers to the mix.
Snapper with Almonds
This is one of my favorite dinners and it couldn’t be simpler. Simple pan-fry roast snapper with oil. Remove from the pan and add toasted slivered almonds and lemon juice to the pan. Cook briefly, pour over snapper, and serve.
Cuban Fried Rice
If you buy pineapple pre-cut in the store, it’s fairly cheap and much easier than dealing with a whole pineapple. Trust me, those suckers are hard to cut. Almost as bad as peeling mangoes and papayas. This simple recipe for fried rice with ham, pineapple, and black beans is delicious and fast.
Artichokes are one of my all-time favorite foods. They become available in the spring and then ramp up in the summer. Since a whole artichoke is quite a meal by itself, I simply steam it to eat with melted butter and a small serving of pasta with white cheese sauce. Add white wine and it’s simple, decadent, and elegant.
Pork Tenderloin with Baby Carrots
Pork is actually now a very lean cut of meat, thanks to the way pigs are raised. Pork tenderloin is one of the leanest cuts, so it’s very figure-friendly. Try this version of spice-rubbed tenderloin for a simple meal that will impress guests.
Spring Vegetable Rice Salad
This is an Italian dish that is simple to put together. The recipe calls for Arborio rice, which can either be expensive or cheap. If you buy “risotto rice,” it will be expensive. You can probably find rice labeled “Arborio” for less at your store. Or you can go to Trader Joe’s and get a big bag of Arborio for about $3. Make a lot for a party, where it will impress for less.
There are fewer foods that scream spring, the way certain foods call out for winter, summer, and fall. However, this is the season when everything you’ve been missing for six months starts to show up in the stores again. It’s time to start celebrating the bounty again!