Spring has sprung and chances are your local farmer's market is now bustling with fresh vegetables and herbs, but how do you incorporate seasonal produce into tonight's dinner? Arrows restaurant in Ogunquit, Maine grows 99 percent of its own fruits and vegetables and on NBC's "Today" show, Arrows chef-owners Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier offer a look at some spring recipes to help you blossom in the kitchen. Check out their recipes here:
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Asparagus Soup with Lobster, Morels and Chervil
This is the ultimate spring soup. Few dishes could make a more elegant start to a celebratory dinner. It is not that hard to make, but be careful not to overcook the asparagus or it will lose its bright green color and turn mushy. We enjoy the delicate look of chervil, and its anise-like flavor brightens this rich soup. Chervil takes about six weeks to grow from seed, but you can plant it quite early (a month before the last frost) or grow it indoors in pots on a sunny windowsill.
Makes 6 servings
2 bunches (36 spears) large asparagus, tough ends trimmed
3 cups Chicken or Vegetable Stock
2 lobsters, 1 1/4 pounds each, steamed and shelled
2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
4 ounces morel mushrooms, cleaned and trimmed
1 cup chervil sprigs, washed and dried.
1. In a large pot bring 2 quarts water and 1 tablespoon salt to a boil. Prepare an ice bath by filling a medium bowl halfway with ice water. Put the asparagus in the pot, return to a boil and cook for 1 minute. Drain the asparagus and submerge immediately in the ice water. As soon as the asparagus are completely chilled, remove from the ice water and wrap in clean kitchen towel to dry.
2. Cut off the tips (about 1 inch) or 18 of the asparagus spears and set aside. Cut the rest of the asparagus in half and set aside.
3. In the jar of a blender, combine half of the asparagus (but not the reserved tips) and half of the stock and puree until smooth, about 1 minute. Push the asparagus puree through a sieve to remove excess pulp. Repeat this process with the second half of the asparagus and stock. The asparagus puree can be made a day in advance and kept covered in the refrigerator.
4. Cut the lobster tails crosswise into 1/4-inch medallions. Split each claw into 2 pieces by cutting across the flat side.
5. In a heavy saucepan whisk together the asparagus puree, cream lemon juice and 1 teaspoon salt. Warm over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally to avoid scorching the soup. When the soup is hot, reduce the heat to the lowest setting.
6. While the soup is heating, melt 4 teaspoons of the butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the morels and sauté, adding 1 teaspoons salt. Cook, stirring, until all the liquid is evaporated and the mushrooms are tender, 10 to 12 minutes.
7. Add the lobster, reserved asparagus tips, and remaining 4 tablespoons butter to the morels, then stir for a minute or so to warm everything through.
8. Ladle the soup into 6 warm bowls or soup plates. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, divide the lobster, morels, and asparagus among the 6 bowls. Garnish with the chervil sprigs and serve at once.
First-of-the-season Lettuce Salad with Herb Vinaigrette and Goat Cheese Toasts
It is always exciting to see the first lettuces of spring poking their heads out of the ground. Our gardeners usually have a fit because we want to pick them so young, but who can stand to wait? You can also use field greens such as arugula, mizuna, and tatsoi, and herbs such as tarragon or parsley for more texture and flavor.
1/2 cup coarsely chopped chives
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup champagne vinegar
1 shallot, peeled
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
2 teaspoons kosher salt
10 whole black peppercorns
Combine all the vinaigrette ingredients in the jar of a blender and process until smooth. The vinaigrette will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
Creamy Goat Cheese Toasts
12 (1/4 inch) slices sourdough baguette
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 ounces mild fresh goat cheese
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup heavy cream
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
2. Toss the bread slices in a bowl with the olive oil. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake until very light golden brown, about 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
3. Put the goat cheese in a bowl and break it up with a spoon. Stir in the lemon juice salt, and pepper, then gradually work in the cream. The goat cheese mixture can be made a day ahead and kept well covered in the refrigerator.
4. Using a butter knife, spread the goat cheese on the toasts.
6 ounces first-of-the-season lettuce (about 1 medium head), washed and dried
Using your hands, gently toss the lettuce with enough vinaigrette to nicely coat the greens, but do not drown them. Arrange the lettuce on 6 chilled plates. Garnish with the gat cheese toasts and serve at once.
Fiddlehead Ferns with Brown Butter and Prosciutto
One of the special treats of a New England spring are fiddlehead ferns, which grow wild along mossy stream banks. They are simply the immature leaf fronds of ostrich fern plants that have not yet opened. Fern leaves are poisonous once they open and can only be enjoyed in this early stage, when they taste like a cross between artichokes and asparagus.
After a fiddlehead is removed from the stalk, the cut end starts to turn brown. Be sure to trim back the stem (about 1/4 inch) to the healthy green section before cooking.
2 pounds fiddle head ferns, tripped and washed
24 paper-thin slices prosciutto
6 tablespoons brown butter
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. In a large pot bring 2 quarts water and 1 tablespoon salt to a boil. Fill a medium bowl halfway with ice water. Drop the fiddleheads into the pot and cook for 1 minute. Drain the fiddleheads in a colander, then submerge in the ice water until completely cool. Let the fiddleheads drain well in a colander and wrap them in a clean kitchen towel to dry.
2. Arrange 2 slices of prosciutto on each of 6 room temperature plates.
3. Put the brown butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the fiddleheads and toss gently, adding 1/2 teaspoon salt and the pepper. Heat for a minute or two until they are warm, then divide the fiddleheads among the 6 plates. Serve at once.
Three-cherry Clafouti with Mint
Clafouti is a cake and custard all in one. It's easy to make and delicious both warm and at room temperature, making it perfect for a spring picnic. We like to use a mix of cherries and types of mint, but this is also good with just one variety of each.
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups half and half
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3 cups cherries, preferably a mix of red, black Bing, and Rainier, washed and pitted
1 cup loosely packed mint leaves, preferably a mix of varieties such as pineapple, spearmint, and chocolate, washed and dried.
1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Butter a 10-inch round baking dish, such as a pie dish or a fluted ceramic tart mold, and sprinkle the 1 tablespoon sugar over the bottom of the dish.
3. Stir together the flour and 1/2 cup sugar. Whisk the half-and-half, eggs and vanilla together in a bowl, then whisk in the flour mixture to make a smooth batter.
4. Arrange the cherries in the bottom of the dish and slowly pour the batter on top to cover them evenly. Bake for 30 minutes until the custard is puffy, golden brown, and seems set when the dish is tapped lightly. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool for at least 1 hour. The clafouti can be stored well wrapped at room temperature for up to 1 day.
5. When ready to serve, stack the mint leaves in piles of about 8 leaves each. Using a very sharp chef's knife, thinly slice the leaves crosswise.
6. Cut the clafouti into 10 wedges and transfer to individual plates with a metal spatula. Sprinkle with the strips of mint.
Recipes provided by Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier of Arrows restaurant in Ogunquit, Maine. Copyright 2004. All rights reserved. To learn more you can visit their Web site at: www.arrowsrestaurant.com
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