A spring feast

As we near the end of winter and spring comes into focus, a time of renewal is upon us. I like to take this spirit of renewal into the kitchen with classic flavor combinations using global influences to put some new energy and life into the basic dishes I usually cook for the family. The idea is not to complicate things, but to rely on tried-and-true flavors and techniques that deliver great results every time.

Try combining fresh garlic and ginger into a paste. Add scallions and vegetable oil and use this as a rub for bone-in chicken parts or the whole bird. Let the chicken marinate overnight with this rub. Add salt and white pepper just before roasting. Cook at 375-degrees Fahrenheit until internal temperature reaches 165-degrees Fahrenheit, and skin is crispy. Serve with hoisin sauce for dipping!

Combine carrots with spices such as cumin, coriander, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper. Try sprinkling the spices on sliced carrots before roasting. You can also boil the carrots, and then add these spices into a carrot puree: add the hot, cooked carrots, spices, salt, pepper, and a few pats of cold butter to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth (for a vegan meal, substitute olive oil for the butter). Serve with your favorite protein and some brown rice.

Make a balanced dressing for a soba noodle salad. Combine soy sauce, white miso paste, rice wine vinegar, a little brown sugar, chili flakes, and sesame oil in a small bowl. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking. Try this dressing on cooked, rinsed, and chilled soba noodles. This makes a great side dish or main course, depending on what you add to it. Some great additions are blanched broccoli, roasted tofu, sliced red bell peppers, and sesame seeds.

Try lamb this spring. I love cooking lamb at home for my family; it is easy for children to digest and tastes delicious. Lamb chops are easiest, but I also like getting a boneless leg of lamb and grilling it. Marinate the lamb overnight in garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, mint, and oregano. Let the marinated meat sit out, covered, for about an hour to take the chill off before you start cooking. Then either grill outside or sear in a hot pan, as you would for a steak. A broiler also works well for this. Once you have a nice brown color or grill marks on the exterior, you can roast the meat to your liking. I prefer pink, or medium, but your family’s tastes may vary. Let the lamb rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing. Serve with rosemary roasted potatoes, and braised artichokes for a classic spring feast!

Change up your shrimp recipe by using Spanish flavors. I love the combination of smoked paprika, saffron, garlic, and lemon. A hit of sherry vinegar adds just the right amount of acid to make this dish pop!

Joanna DeVita is a mother of two (ages 5 and 2) and is the executive chef at Léman Manhattan Preparatory School.

Sauteed shrimp with Spanish flavors


1 pound cleaned and deveined shrimp (seek out large, head-on shrimp if possible. The heads contain the most delicious juice!)

¼ tsp. chili flake or to taste

Juice of ½ lemon

2 tsp. Spanish smoked paprika, also known as pimenton

1 tsp. saffron threads, rehydrated in 2 Tbsp of hot water

2 tsps. sherry vinegar

2 tbsp. plus 1 Tbsp good Spanish olive oil

2 tsp. chopped fresh parsley

3 cloves garlic, sliced very thinly

Salt and pepper to taste

Lemon wedges for serving

DIRECTIONS: Marinate the shrimp in a non-reactive bowl with smoked paprika, lemon juice, and parsley for up to two hours. Heat a very large sauté pan with 2 Tbsp of olive oil until oil is shimmering, loose, and just starting to smoke. Add garlic slices and allow to toast. Do not allow them to turn dark brown, they will be bitter.

Carefully add shrimp into the hot garlic oil.

When shrimp are almost cooked through (this will vary in time depending on the size of the shrimp), add the hydrated saffron threads, sherry vinegar, remaining olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.

Serve piping-hot with good bread and lemon wedges.