Spring has sprung and people are flocking to restaurants to dine al fresco, enjoy light fare, and sip refreshing cold drinks.
With just a few tweaks to your menu, you can ensure a smooth transition from winter to spring to make guests happy and keep costs under control. Transitioning menu items from season to season can be a challenge for establishments especially after this last year, but it’s a great opportunity to draw in more foot traffic with revamped dishes and cocktails. These tips to utilize leftover winter ingredients to create fresh spring dishes will attract customers without breaking your budget.
Winter Root Vegetables
You might be tempted to toss leftover winter pantry items and perishables, but you can sneak many winter vegetables into spring dishes and create a whole new dish! Parsnip puree has been a staple on plates year-round for some time and goes great under a flaky white fish. However, there’s much more that can be done with this root veggie. Try roasting parsnips with leftover carrots and serving them with a mint yogurt sauce or throw them into a spinach salad.
Turnips and rutabaga can be used in similar fashion and fit right into dishes that bridge the seasons. Pairing with bright spring onions or garlic greens can dial up the spring theme immensely. Other contenders can be celeriac with its vague celery taste that can be cooked or shredded for a salad and Jerusalem artichoke, another trendy root veg that can be served several ways, including as a puree.
Barley and bulgur absorb tons of flavor and add heft to winter stews and soups but can help liven up spring dishes as either a side or a grain salad. When added late to the braising process of fatty meats, like chuck or leg of lamb, they develop a deep umami flavor without the grease. Even cooked separately and livened up with fresh spring herbs like dill or mint, they will complement many rich and spicy dishes. You can even make the dishes brighter, for example featuring a harissa-spiced lamb with bulgur, drizzled with a little yogurt.
Yet another dish that can be comfortably filling during the winter, but with the right preparations can translate to spring menus. Consider a light arugula salad with a vinaigrette and use lentils as the base. Throw in some asparagus, peas, cherry tomatoes, and parsley and you’ve got an entirely new dish. Or test out a new burger using lentils, along with some red onion, spring greens, avocado, and big slice of tomato - a perfect vegetarian special for spring.
Pasta dishes are so versatile and relatively low cost to produce. The challenge can be keeping them less heavy and relevant for spring. Ramps or fiddlehead ferns are a fun addition. Throw in many of your leftover root veggies here but use white wine and olive oil-based sauces in place of heavier tomato or cream-based. Pasta primavera would be a wonderful addition to the menu, as well as a veggie-filled pasta lunch dish.
Transitioning between seasons can always be a challenge, and there’s so much more than can be carried over,. But with a little creativity, you can clean out those pantries to add wonderful transition dishes that work perfectly for the season.