When the weather gets warm and flowers start to bloom, I start to head into the kitchen again. It's not that I wasn't cooking all through the winter months, but just that more exciting fruits and vegetables are coming into season this time of year.
Whether I'm shopping at the grocery store or the farmer's market, some of my favorite Latin ingredients are appearing more and more in the Spring. My goal this year is to cook with as many seasonal ingredients as I can. Luckily for me mint (for mojitos), grapefruit (for ceviche), parsley (for chimichurri sauce), asparagus (for a Serrano ham dish) and West Coast avocados (for guacamole, duh!) are just some of the recipes that are perfect right now—check them out!
Read more ¿Qué más? How to go gluten-free on a Latin diet.
1. Mojito, using mint (recipe courtesy of Taste Of Cuba)
Mint: It is perfect in the Cuban drink and starts thriving in the spring. Although there are tons of variations on this classic recipe, this is the one that famed writer Ernest Hemingway enjoyed at the place of Mojito's birth: La Bodeguita del Medio in Havana, Cuba.
1 teaspoon powdered sugar
Juice from 1 lime (2 ounces)
4 mint leaves
1 sprig of mint
Havana Club white Rum (2 ounces)
2 ounces club soda
Place the mint leaves into a long mojito glass (often called a "collins" glass) and squeeze the juice from a cut lime over it. You'll want about two ounces of lime juice, so it may not require all of the juice from a single lime. Add the powdered sugar, then gently smash the mint into the lime juice and sugar with a muddler (a wooden device that you can find here, though you can also use the back of a fork or spoon if one isn't available). Add ice (preferably crushed) then add the rum and stir, and top off with the club soda (you can also stir the club soda in as per your taste). Garnish with a mint sprig.
2. Coconut & Grapefruit Seviche, using grapefruit (recipe courtesy of Gourmet Gourmand)
Grapefruit: This citrus comes into season in January and stays sweet and juicy into early summer. Hailing from the states of California, Texas, Florida and Arizona, this seviche recipe uses the tropical favorite for refreshing take and a great appetizer for any event.
3/4 lb tilapia
6 oz lime juice
8 oz coconut milk
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp minced jalapeno
1 tsp minced ginger
1 medium shallot, thinly sliced into rounds
1 cup chopped grapefruit
Cut the tilapia with the grain into thin slices. Combine all ingredients, save the grapefruit and cilantro, in a large bowl wide enough to fully immerse the tilapia in the marinade. Grind black pepper into the mixture to taste and mix thoroughly. Let marinate for 30 minutes, mixing occasionally. Add chopped grapefruit and spoon the ceviche into two bowls. Garnish with chopped cilantro and add a pinch of salt to taste. Serve immediately with corn chips or eat as is.
3. Chimichurri, using parsley (recipe courtesy of Simply Recipes)
Parsley: This herb flourishes in the spring coming out of the cool-weather and stays tasty in warm and temperate climates. It's perfect in this classic Argentinean sauce and is traditionally served on a nice, juicy steak but you can also enjoy it on fish, chicken or even as a condiment.
1 cup firmly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley, trimmed of thick stems
3-4 garlic cloves
2 Tbsps fresh oregano leaves (can sub 2 teaspoons dried oregano)
1/2 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp red or white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Finely chop the parsley, fresh oregano, and garlic (or process in a food processor several pulses). Place in a small bowl. Stir in the olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Adjust seasonings. Serve immediately or refrigerate. If chilled, return to room temperature before serving. Can keep for a day or two.
4. Asparagus & Serrano Ham, using asparagus (recipe courtesy of About.com)
Asparagus: You'd never guess that this veggie now comes from Peru, who have become the world's biggest exporter of asparagus. It's easy to prepare (grilled, steamed, roasted, etc) and works great with salsa or Serrano ham, like in this delicious recipe.
1 pound asparagus (young and tender, washed)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons water
2 shallots (minced)
1/4 pound thinly sliced serrano ham (or deli ham, chicken or turkey)
Cut the thick ends off the asparagus. If you can't find young and tender asparagus, you can peel the skin of older, larger stalks. In a large skillet, pour the oil and water. Turn heat to medium. Place the asparagus in the skillet and cook until the water is evaporated and the asparagus is fork tender (3 to 5 minutes depending on the thickness of the asparagus). Add the minced shallots and toss to coat the asparagus. Remove the asparagus to a serving platter. Using the same skillet heat the Serrano ham or sliced deli meat for about 45 seconds. Arrange the ham/deli meat around the asparagus on the serving platter and serve immediately.
5. Guacamole, using avocado (recipe courtesy of Chef Tips)
Avocado: They're considered a fall fruit in Florida but they actually come into season in the spring on the West Coast. Is there any better recipe to enjoy this full-of-good-fats Latin superfood than in guacamole? Don't buy the store-made stuff, though, pick them fresh and follow this recipe instead.
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What is your favorite Latin ingredient in the Spring?