April Showers Bring Fresh Flavors: 9 Tips to Savor for Spring Cooking

Something happens once we make it to spring — people seem to crave fresh, crisp foods and flavors. Maybe it’s inspiration to be fit and healthy for the warmer months or just the abundance of delicious fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables in the market that are begging to be paired with dairy foods, whole grains and lean protein sources for a delicious dish.

We’ve come up with nine tips and recipe ideas to keep in mind as you leap into spring cooking:

  1. Grow Herbs - Plant in pots on your porch or in a small garden; check out this frost map for best time to plant in your area. If you live in a condo or have harsh winters, you can grow many popular herbs year-round via a windowsill garden.
  2. Hero Herbs - Our top picks for fresh herbs to grow and have on hand include basil, rosemary, thyme, chives, oregano, mint, flat leaf parsley, cilantro and dill.
  3. Seasonal = Sensational - Learn what produce is in season during the spring and summer months in your local area — they should be easy to find at your supermarkets or farmers markets. Check out this chart for guidance.
  4. Powerful Pairings - Pair your seasonal produce with fresh herbs and foods from other food groups (dairy, grain, protein).
  5. Perfect Pesto – Make pesto for fresh, spring and summer meals. Hint: You can freeze it in ice cube trays and transfer to re-sealable plastic freezer bags once frozen to have on hand all year. Here’s a traditional pesto with fresh basil, but get creative and try a persillade (fresh chopped parsley and garlic; can also add lemon juice and olive oil with salt and pepper) or chimichurri which typically is fresh parsley or fresh cilantro or a mix of both. We love pesto with fish, chicken, lean meats, whole grains and some fresh mozzarella or Cotija cheese and tomatoes or roasted veggies, depending on the dish. You can even use pesto as the base for a homemade pizza instead of traditional red sauce to transform a dish for spring. 
  6. Tzatziki Takes Ten – This is such an easy yogurt-based sauce with fresh dill (sometimes also with a little fresh mint) that you can make in under 10 minutes, and it pairs well with anything from salads, sandwiches, veggies for dipping, whole grains or on top of fish, chicken or lamb. Try this all-time favorite chicken wrap recipe.
  7. Italian Inspired – Make a bread salad (i.e., panzanella) with fresh thyme, basil, oregano, flat leaf parsley, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, roasted peppers and fresh mozzarella to bring out the freshness of spring and summer. Here’s a recipe for inspiration.
  8. Grill Greats – Make a rosemary rub for grilled meats (goes great with veggies like potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, zucchini or summer squash, too).
  9. Meant for Mint – Fresh spring and summer fruits go great with fresh mint, a drizzle of honey and a little Greek yogurt. Fresh mint also tastes great in a smoothie made with low-fat chocolate milk, frozen strawberries and Greek yogurt. Try this fun grilled fruit kabob with mint yogurt sauce recipe.