We certainly welcome warmer weather with hopefully fresh spring recipes, filled with favorite seasonal ingredients like peas, asparagus, strawberries and more. Spring is all new life and delicate color while the world shakes off the winter cold. Days gradually lengthen encouraging early crops of asparagus and tiny potatoes, fresh lettuce and tiny bright red radish. It’s a great time to forage for the gorgeous massed blossoms of elderflower and the surprisingly pretty and unmistakably perfumed wild garlic. Tender young lamb is back on the menu and it’s a great time for poultry as well. There’s Easter of course which needs lashings of chocolate in all possible forms — go for sweet light white for cheesecakes and intense dark blocks for serious desserts. You will delight everyone.

Seems like everyone is on a different diet these days, from Paleo to gluten-free to low-sugar to vegan. If you’re cooking for friends to satisfy anyone’s hunger without worrying if they eat meat but avoid wheat with these recipes you’ll be showcasing bright, peak-season fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

Grilled Lamb Chops

2 racks of lamb about 2 pounds each trimmed and cut into individual chops

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Marinade

1 cup soy sauce

1 cup mirin sweet sake

1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil

2 cups chopped scallions

1 tablespoon dried red chile flakes

Cilantro Mint Vinaigrette

1 cup peanut oil

1/2 cup rice wine vinegar

1/4 cup coarsely chopped mint,
cilantro and parsley

1 tablespoon honey

1/2 tablespoon chopped ginger

A dash of chili oil

Prepare the marinade: In a bowl, mix together all the marinade ingredients. In a large shallow dish, pour marinade over the lamb chops and refrigerate, covered, for
1 hour.

While the lamb chops are marinating, prepare the vinaigrette. To make the vinaigrette, in a blender combine all the ingredients, except the oil, and blend until smooth. Slowly add peanut oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Preheat grill.

Remove lamb chops from marinade and place them on a hot grill. Grill medium rare, about 3 minutes each side; or sauté them in a skillet over high heat for about 2 minutes on each side. Cook the chops in several batches if necessary, but don’t crowd the pan.

Yield: 4 servings

Braised Artichokes with Leeks & Peas

4 large artichokes

2 1/2 to 3 cups homemade vegetable stock or water

2 leeks, including an inch of the greens, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds

2 fennel bulbs, cut into 1-inch wedges, joined at the root end

2 tablespoons butter or olive oil

1/4 cup diced shallot

1/2 cup white wine

1 teaspoon sea salt

12 ounces yellow-fleshed or new red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into quarters

1/2 or less cup crème fraîche

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 cup shelled peas or fava beans

3 tablespoons chopped fennel greens or parsley

Freshly milled pepper

Trim the artichokes by snapping off several layers of the tough outer leaves by pulling them downward so that they break off at the base. Stop when the inner leaves become a lighter yellowish green and look tender. Trim the stem and slice off the top third of the artichoke. With a paring knife, smooth the rough areas around the base, removing any dark green parts. Cut the trimmed artichoke into quarters and remove the fuzzy chokes with a paring knife. Slice into sixths, and set them aside in a bowl of acidulated water water and lemon juice or vinegar until ready to cook.

Melt the butter in a wide soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and leeks and cook, stirring frequently, without browning for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the wine, raise the heat, and simmer for 2 minutes.

Drain the artichokes and add them to the pan with the fennel and stock. Season with 1 teaspoon sea salt, then press a piece of crumbled parchment or wax paper directly over the vegetables. Bring the liquid to a boil, then simmer, covered, until the artichokes are tender, about 25 minutes. Meanwhile, steam the potatoes until tender, 10 to 12 minutes.

When the artichokes and fennel are tender, remove them with a slotted spoon to a dish. Whisk enough crème fraîche and the mustard into the broth and boil briskly to make a thin sauce, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the peas and cook until tender, then return the vegetables and potatoes to the broth. Add the chopped fennel greens, season with pepper, and serve.

Yields: 4-6 servings