Whether you're talking about new ideas or the verdant produce that's just starting to make its debut, spring is the season for freshness.
This month's Featured Chef, Brad Farmerie of New York City’s PUBLIC and Saxon + Parole, is all about cooking the unexpected to help his diners gain a new perspective at the table. We asked him to share thoughts on the spring side dishes he’d prepare with grass-fed red meats. With his infectious energy, Chef Brad had no shortage of fresh suggestions, including:
Also known as pea shoots, these spiraling, delicate young leaves, stems, vines, and flowers of a pea plant are subtly sweet, with a mild bitter aftertaste and a light, nutty crunchiness. Making their debut at the close of winter, they're only available during a few weeks of the year (and their appearance is a sure-fire sign that spring has sprung). Harvested before pea pods have developed, they’re also available earlier in the season than shelled peas. "They offer more body, freshness and acidity," says Farmerie, praising their ability to give a lamb dish more of a salad-like, light feel. Additionally, a pea shoot salsa verde can make a fitting partner for goat, offering a different, complex flavor.
"A bullseye," says Chef Brad, of the pairing of eggplant and grass-fed lamb or goat. During the spring, one way to use this year-round favorite would be to top meat with an eggplant relish, made with roasted eggplant, pickled onions, mint and lime juice, or a combination of eggplant and preserved lemon. Additionally, "eggplant can take on an even richer, meatier flavor when it's enhanced with miso or tahini," says Farmerie, who’s also a fan of Asian and Middle Eastern-inspired flavors. An Australian Lamb Loin with Black Baba Ghanoush (Farmerie's take on the traditional Middle Eastern roasted, peeled and mashed eggplant-and tahini-based spread) is currently on the menu at PUBLIC. Rounding out the dish are Za'atar Roasted Cippolini Onion, Goat’s Milk Feta and Pistachio Vinaigrette.
A Hint of Sweetness
As we’re moving away from winter's rich, savory fare, "there's something about spring that suggests sweetness, whether actual or implied," says Chef Brad. As part of his cooking philosophy, Farmerie likes to stay true to his ingredients, while also challenging diners to push their culinary boundaries. To get there, he often looks to the Middle East (and the influence of his Lebanese grandparents) for inspiration, particularly during the spring. In his repertoire are spices commonly used in Moroccan cuisine, like star anise, cloves and cinnamon. They’re ideal for adding a level of aromatic sweetness to a lamb dish, while keeping things light and seasonally on-point. Farmerie often likes to add a few dried fruits to continue the theme while adding a bit of texture that harmonizes with the texture of the meat.