8 Amazing Dinners That Are Full of Spring Flavor

posted on March 24, 2014 at 9:02 pm

Spring has sprung and you know what that means… it’s time for flowers to bloom and gardens to grow! Farmer’s markets and roadside produce stands will soon be overflowing with fresh fruits and veggies in a rainbow of colors.  Want to know how you can capture the colors and flavors of the season in dinners that are healthy and delicious for your family?  Try these easy recipes that feature some of spring’s best ingredients:

1.  Chicken Piccata with Lemon, Capers and Artichoke Hearts

Chicken Piccata


  • 4 (4-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, quartered
  • 1/4 cup drained capers
  • 1 cup quick-cooking brown rice
  • 1/2 cup frozen lima beans


  1. Place chicken in zip-top bags and pound with a meat mallet or rolling pin until 1/4-inch thick. Remove chicken from bag and season all over with salt and black pepper. In a shallow dish (or plastic bag), combine flour, lemon zest, paprika, and garlic powder. Mix well. Add chicken and turn to coat. Remove chicken from flour mixture and shake off excess flour.
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and saute 2 minutes per side, until golden brown and cooked through. Add lemon juice, wine and chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Simmer 5 minutes, until chicken is cooked through and sauce thickens. Add artichoke hearts and capers and simmer 1 minute to heat through.
  3. Cook rice according to package directions, adding lima beans at the beginning of cooking process. Serve chicken and sauce with rice.


2.  Creamy Farfalle with Cremini, Asparagus and Walnuts

Creamy Farfalle


  • Salt
  • 1 pound farfalle pasta
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 pound cremini mushrooms, thickly sliced
  • 1 pound thin asparagus, trimmed, cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup mascarpone cheese
  • Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the farfalle and cook until al dente, stirring occasionally, about 12 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta water.
  2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and saute until tender and most of the juices have evaporated, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the asparagus and saute until the asparagus is crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the farfalle. Stir in the mascarpone and nutmeg and toss until the cheese coats the pasta, adding the reserved cooking liquid 1/4 cup at a time to moisten. Stir in 1/2 cup of walnuts.
  5. Season the pasta, to taste, with salt and pepper. Mound the pasta in a large bowl. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and remaining 1/4 cup of walnuts. Serve.


3.  Beet, Bacon and Herbed Goat Cheese Flatbread

Beet Flatbread



  • 1 red beet or 2 to 3 baby beets
  • 1 yellow beet or 2 to 3 baby beets
  • 1/2 cup goat cheese
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 1/4 recipe Simple Pizza Dough, recipe follows
  • Flour
  • Olive oil, for brushing
  • 1/4 cup arugula
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 pound bacon (4 slices), cooked crisp

Pizza Dough

  • 1 3/4 cups warm water (105 to 110 degrees F)
  • 1 envelope active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Nonstick spray

Simple Pizza Dough:

  1. In a liquid measuring cup, combine the warm water, yeast and sugar. Allow the yeast to dissolve and bloom, about 5 minutes. Once bloomed, add the olive oil.
  2. Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour and salt. Stream in the water/yeast mixture and as the dough begins to come together, switch to a dough hook attachment. Allow the dough to knead, adding a bit more flour if needed, so that the dough releases from the sides of the bowl, 1 to 3 minutes. You should be able to touch the dough and not have the dough stick to your fingers.
  3. Once the dough has kneaded and has pulled away from the sides of the bowl, remove the dough from bowl to a floured work surface and, with floured hands, continue to knead it by hand for 1 to 2 minutes. Then form the dough into a round ball and place it into a large bowl sprayed with nonstick spray. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a clean dish towel and let the dough rise in a warm area of your kitchen until it doubles in size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. After the dough has risen it is ready to be cooked however you’d like!


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Wrap the beets in aluminum foil and roast in the oven until the beets are tender and a paring knife inserted in the center is met with no resistance, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Once cooked, set aside until they are cool enough to handle. Then, using a paper towel, rub the skin off the beets and then cut into moons or dice.
  3. Mix the goat cheese with the rosemary and thyme until combined and set aside.
  4. Gather up the rest of the ingredients and have them at the ready before you grill your bread.
  5. Preheat a cast-iron grill pan, or a grill, to medium-high heat. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and stretch and press with your hands to form a thin, rectangular shape. If you need to, pick up the dough and let the natural weight of the dough stretch itself out. It doesn’t need to be perfect, matter of fact it is better when it’s not. Once you have the dough in the shape you like, brush one side of the dough with olive oil and lay that side down flat onto the preheated grill. Cook the dough until it is charred and has a crisp texture, about 5 minutes, brush the other side with some oil and then flip the dough and char the second side. Once the bread is charred and cooked, remove it from the grill and assemble the flatbread.
  6. Spread the herbed goat cheese onto the flatbread. Toss the arugula with some lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper and then place it on the flatbread. Top with sliced beets and crispy bacon and another drizzle of olive oil. Cut the flatbread and serve.


4.  Spring Tart with Bacon, Leeks, Green Garlic and Gruyere

Spring tart


For the crust:

  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour (120 grams)
  • 1/2 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour (68 grams)
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 10 tablespoons very cold, unsalted butter (5 ounces, 1 cube plus 2 tablespoons), cut into 10 or 12 pieces
  • 1 egg, beaten
For the filling:

  • 3 strips bacon, diced
  • 2 large leeks (white parts), sliced in half lengthwise, then across into 1/8″ strips
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green garlic
  • 1 pinch fine sea salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, plus sprigs for garnish
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 ounces Gruyere cheese, shredded


  1. To make the tart crust, add both flours and salt to the bowl of a food processor; pulse a few times to combine. Sprinkle butter over top and pulse several times until the largest butter pieces you see are a bit larger than a pea. Pour egg over flour mixture and pulse several times, until clumps begin to form. Turn mixture out onto a work surface. Quickly gather the dough together into a ball, knead it just enough so that you can form it into a 6″ disc. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  2. After 30 minutes, transfer the tart dough to a work surface lightly sprinkled with flour. Roll dough into a 12 inch round; lift and turn the dough often to keep it from sticking. Place your rolling pin over one end of the dough round and roll it up. Unroll the dough over a 9″ tart pan with a removable bottom, doing your best to center it. Gently press dough on bottom and sides of pan (patch any torn or short areas); trim dough to 1/2 inch overhang. Fold overhang to create a double-thick edge and pierce all over with a fork. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for at least 1/2 an hour, preferably longer (see headnote).
  3. When you’re ready to bake the crust, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Trim a piece of foil to fit and place on bottom crust. Cover foil with pie weights (whole beans that you don’t plan to cook work well too). Bake for 10 minutes. Remove foil and weights. Return crust to oven and reduce heat to 375 degrees; bake 20 minutes more. Remove from oven and set aside. (If your filling is ready, you can pour it right in and bake.)
  4. For the filling, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add bacon; cook and stir until fat begins to render, about 3 minutes. Add leeks, green garlic, and a pinch of salt. Cook and stir about 10 minutes more, until leeks and garlic are soft and bacon is cooked through. Set aside.
  5. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, sour cream, thyme, and pepper. Stir in Gruyere and bacon mixture. Pour into crust and bake at 375 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, or until set in the center.
  6. Remove from oven; transfer to serving platter and garnish with thyme sprigs. Slice into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature.


5.  Sweet Pea and Artichoke Lasagna

Sweet Pea Lasagna


  • 2 (8-ounce) packages frozen artichoke hearts, thawed, coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups whipping cream, divided
  • 1/4 cup (packed) chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 2 (15-ounce) containers whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 1-pound bag frozen petite peas, thawed
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (8- to 9-ounce) package no-boil lasagna noodles (12 noodles)
  • 4 cups coarsely grated mozzarella cheese (about 1 pound)


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Brush 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish with oil.
  2. Mix artichokes, 1/2 cup cream, and basil in medium bowl. Purée remaining 1 cup cream, ricotta, and next 4 ingredients in processor. Spread 1 cup ricotta mixture over bottom of prepared baking dish. Arrange 4 noodles in single layer over ricotta, breaking noodles as needed to cover. Spread half of artichoke mixture over. Spread 2 1/2 cups ricotta mixture over artichokes. Sprinkle 1 cup mozzarella cheese over. Repeat with 4 noodles, artichoke mixture, 2 1/2 cups ricotta mixture, and 1 cup mozzarella.
  3. Top with 4 noodles. Spread remaining ricotta mixture over, then sprinkle remaining 2 cups mozzarella over. Tent with foil, sealing edges.
  4. Bake lasagna 30 minutes. Remove foil; continue baking until bubbling at edges and brown on top, about 25 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.


6.  Pulled Slow Cooker Chicken with Cherry-Chile Barbecue Sauce

Slow Cooker Chicken


  • 2 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • 1⁄2 cup coarsely chopped shallots
  • 1 Tbs. peeled chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp. minced fresh jalapeño (seeds and membranes removed)
  • Scant 4 cups dark sweet fresh cherries, pitted and de-stemmed (3 cups afterwards)
  • 2 14-1⁄2-oz. cans diced tomatoes, no salt added
  • 1⁄4 cup blackstrap molasses
  • 1⁄4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbs. chipotle chile from a can of chipotle chiles en adobo
  • 3 Tbs. Dijon mustard, divided
  • 1-1⁄4 tsp. chile powder, divided
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt, divided
  • 15 grinds black pepper, divided
  • 2 tsp. light brown sugar
  • 3 lb. bone-in, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed if necessary (about 8)
  • 4 to 6 warmed burger buns, for serving


  1. Heat the oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the shallots, ginger, and jalapeño and sauté until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the cherries, tomatoes, molasses, vinegar, chipotle, 1 Tbs. mustard, 3⁄4 tsp. chile powder, 1-1⁄2 tsp. salt, and 5 grinds pepper, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a simmer over medium heat, and cook until aromatic and thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and carefully transfer half to a blender; purée until smooth, about 20 seconds. Purée the second half until smooth (you should have about 5-1⁄4 cups). Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, mix 2 Tbs. mustard, 1⁄2 tsp. chile powder, 1⁄2 tsp. salt, 10 grinds pepper, and the brown sugar in a large bowl; add the chicken and mix well with your hands. Put the chicken in the bottom of the slow cooker and pour 1-1⁄2 cups of the barbecue sauce on top (reserve the remainder for serving and extras). Cover and cook on low until the meat is cooked through and tender, 4 to 4-1⁄2 hours.
  3. Use tongs to transfer the chicken to a cutting board and carefully use a fork to separate the meat from the bones, discarding the bones (you should have about 4 cups meat).
  4. To serve, stir together 1 cup of the remaining sauce and the shredded meat, and reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop. Spoon some meat and sauce onto the bottom half of each bun, cover with the top bun, and serve.


7.  Strawberry Rhubarb Calzone

Rhubarb Calzone


For the filling:

  • 3 pounds fresh rhubarb, sliced into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 pints fresh strawberries, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

For the dough:

  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 prepared pizza dough rounds, about 4 ounces each
  • 1/2 cup crystal sugar
  • 1 tablespoon anise seed
  • 1 egg, beaten with splash water


  1. Add all the filling ingredients to a sauce pot and bring up to a simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes and let cool. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  3. Lightly flour a cutting board and roll out each dough to approximately 8-inches in diameter. Sprinkle on sugar and anise seed and gently roll into dough to incorporate. Turn over (sugar side down) and fill with 1/2 cup filling, brush sides with egg wash and fold over and seal using pie crust fold.
  4. Pierce the top with a fork and bake in preheated oven until medium brown. Let cool and serve.


8.  Grilled Salmon with Pineapple, Mango and Strawberry Salsa

Grilled Salmon


  • 4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets, skin-on
  • 2 teaspoons Essence, recipe follows
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 recipe Fruit Salsa, recipe follows

For Emeril’s ESSENCE Creole Seasoning:

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme

For the Fruit Salsa:

  • 3/4 cup small diced pineapple
  • 3/4 cup small diced mango
  • 1/2 cup small diced strawberries
  • 1/4 cup small diced red onion
  • 1 jalapeno, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  1. Preheat a grill to medium.
  2. Brush both sides of the salmon with the olive oil. Season the salmon on both sides with the Essence, salt and pepper. Place the fish on the grill, skin side down and cook for about 3 minutes then turn the fish 45 degrees and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Turn the fish over and cook for an additional 2 minutes, or until cooked through to the desired degree of doneness.
  3. Remove the fish from the grill and serve with the fruit salsa spooned over the fish. Serve immediately.

For the salsa:

In a medium non-reactive bowl, combine all of the ingredients and stir to blend. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the salsa to macerate for 20 to 30 minutes before serving.


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