The Bounty of Spring | Zehnder's of Frankenmuth

The Bounty of Spring

By Chef John Zehnder, CEC, AAC, HGT

Well, spring has finally arrived and it’s time to look forward to the bounty of local delicacies available here in Michigan. We began our celebration of spring a few weeks ago here at Zehnder’s Restaurant with “Spring Along the Amalfi Coast”; a special seasonal dinner/seminar I hosted which featured many items normally associated with the awakening of the growing season in Michigan. We began with asparagus bisque, served in a Parmesan cheese bowl.  Our salad featured strawberry vinaigrette and the main entrée included baby peas and wild spring mushrooms. We host these limited seating, special dinners in both spring and fall.

They’re somewhat of a non-traditional cooking class where I try to show technique rather than the normal; “and now you put a pat of butter into a sauté pan” approach.
If you’re interested in attending one of these dinners, I don’t have a date yet, but we’ll do another dinner/seminar in the fall.

Also, Zehnder’s Foodstore will offer spring specialties throughout the spring season.
They change every week so keep coming!

Getting back to spring in Michigan, we are fortunate in that Michigan has many “here today, gone tomorrow” food specialties that literally “pop up” in spring.
Asparagus is the first of our local vegetables to peek their crowns through the still cold ground. Next come morel mushrooms and fiddleheads along with wild leeks.
Finally, strawberries! Not those steroid pumped, baseball size California and Mexico varieties, but true Michigan strawberries! Thumbnail sized, crimson red, utterly sweet and delicious Michigan strawberries! My wife and I went to France in May a few years back and all the buzz in Parisian restaurants was about in-season French strawberries.
Sorry, but our Michigan berries are just as good, if not better.
The only problem with Michigan strawberries is that the season lasts about two weeks.
If you want to extend the season, I suggest you make strawberry preserves and a few jars of strawberry vinaigrette. Strawberry vinaigrette is an easy product to make and wonderful to use as a basting agent in summer for BBQ chicken.

Easy Strawberry Vinaigrette

Use a one quart glass jar
Fill half full with strawberries cut in half – cut off green top
Fill remainder of jar with white distilled vinegar
Cover jar loosely
Set in warm spot for two weeks
Drain fruit and puree
Add pureed fruit back into vinegar
Add sugar to taste – remember, not too sweet, you still want that vinegar tingle
Refrigerate and use on salads or as a basting agent when barbecuing
You can add a small amount of oil to this vinaigrette if you want – personally I don’t.