We asked chefs: What’s your favorite spring ingredient?

Last modified on April 27th, 2018 at 9:17 am

Charred Sugar Snap Peas at Reilly Craft Pizza & Drink (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“What’s your favorite spring ingredient?”

We asked Tucson chefs this question and let them answer as briefly or in as much detail as they wanted. Here are their responses.

Dee Buizer

Senae Thai Bistro
Dee Buizer, chef and owner of Senae Thai Bistro (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Dee Buizer, chef and owner of Senae Thai Bistro (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“Springtime is my favorite time here in Tucson, especially because of the wonderful greens coming out of the community gardens and our local produce providers. This week we received the first crop of pak boong (Thai water spinach) of the season from Manzo Elementary School where the children grow it in their garden and sell as part of the University of Arizona Community and Schools Garden program. I serve it in our Pbedt Takai, my signature duck dish, a seared breast of duck served on a bed of pak boong, seasoned with my chili-lemongrass purée. ”

View our October 2017 Nine on the Line with Dee Buizer.

Ryan Clark

Casino Del Sol Resort
Executive chef Ryan Clark at PY Steakhouse (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Casino Del Sol Resort executive chef Ryan Clark at PY Steakhouse (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“Fresh herbs are by far my favorite spring ingredient. They take off when it starts to warm up and you have an abundance until the summer hits hard. I love to lighten up spring menu items with herb salads, herb vinagrettes and herb marinades. They can be used in savory dishes, desserts, and even cocktails. Herbs add a punch of fresh flavor that really express what the spring season is all about. Julep anyone?”

Riley Chandler

Barrio Sandwiches
Pop-Up Tucson and Barrio Sandwiches chef Riley Chandler (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Pop-Up Tucson and Barrio Sandwiches chef Riley Chandler (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“Spring radishes. I found it is easier as a novice gardener to grow radishes in the springtime rather than the winter. They are easy to plant and harvest, the seeds mature much faster, and the flavor is very crisp. I also enjoy the ‘Easter egg’ color variety available in the springtime. Fun fact — radishes also have their own holiday in Oaxaca, Mexico – “La Noche de Los Rabanos.” Find springtime radishes on our new Birote Beef Sandwich at Barrio Sandwiches!”

View our June 2017 Nine on the Line with Riley Chandler.

Michael Elefante

Mama Louisa’s
Executive Chef Michael Elefante at Mama Louisa's (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Executive Chef Michael Elefante at Mama Louisa’s (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“My favorite spring ingredient right now would either be for our spring pea rigatoni carbonara that we run for features or our house-made ricotta. The ricotta has a touch of fresh-squeezed lemon in it, and it creates this bright fresh flavor that you don’t get from store-bought ricotta.”

View our November 2016 Tools They Use with Michael Elefante.

Tyler Fenton

Reilly Craft Drink & Pizza
Chef Tyler Fenton at Reilly Craft Pizza & Drink (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Chef Tyler Fenton at Reilly Craft Pizza & Drink (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“Seasonality in Tucson is unique. When half the country is buried in snow, we are 75 and sunny. I think we only had three frosts this winter! But when it comes to a classic spring ingredient, I am a sucker for snap peas. Their texture is so addictive. We have a dish on our current menu that is charred snap peas, dressed in a basil purée and plated on top of some house-made ricotta. It’s a simple, clean spring dish. I hide snap peas in my apron and constantly snack on them throughout the day.”

View our February 2017 Nine on the Line with Tyler Fenton.

Matt Kraiss

Thunder Canyon Brewstillery
Thunder Canyon Brewstillery team Matt Kraiss (left), Adam, and Bryan (right) (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Thunder Canyon Brewstillery team Matt Kraiss (left), Adam, and Bryan (right) (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“Right now I’m sourcing a ton of local produce through Pivot Produce. Just got some of the first tomatoes of the year and they were fantastic. It’s definitely hard to pick a favorite, but right now I’m patiently awaiting kumquats. For me, it’s definitely a tossup between the kumquats that we will be getting shortly here and the apricots that we will be getting at the end of spring, beginning of summer. Grilled apricots with whipped cream and mint with balsamic is one of my favorite dishes period.

Aside from the food itself, spring and summer are when all of my favorite sour beers come out. I consider myself somewhat of a sour beer connoisseur. From the Victory Cherry at the beginning of spring to the Anderson Valley Briney Melon that comes shortly after. These are also some of my favorite things to cook with as well as consume. To me there is nothing better than getting off a long day’s work and cracking a nice fresh sour beer in the shower to relax. #showersours”

View our July 2017 Nine on the Line with Matt Kraiss.

Doug Levy

Feast
Executive chef Doug Levy at Feast (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Executive chef Doug Levy at Feast (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“How are we supposed to pick one favorite? I love all the spring mushrooms: morels, chanterelles, mousserons, truffles — and I love ramps and fiddleheads and green almonds. The problem with all of them is that we can’t get them for very long, so we can’t put them on the menu with any regularity. We are, however, putting a dish on the May menu with pork and rhubarb, each prepared two different ways: medallions of pork with rhubarb-wrapped pork belly on a rhubarb-nectarine-charred-onion sauce, with sautéed spinach and Logan Turnpike Mill grits. Fresh and fried basil garnish.

I like talking with Debbie at Logan Turnpike Mill, because she’s got a thick Georgia accent and always calls me ‘honey’ in that neighborly southern way. Our grits were just milled today and they’re on the way to Tucson as we speak.”

View our September 2017 Nine on the Line with Doug Levy.

David Martin

Red Desert BBQ & Catering
David Martin, owner and pitmaster of Red Desert BBQ (Credit: Jackie Tran)

David Martin, owner and pitmaster of Red Desert BBQ (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“Being in the ‘cue biz, I really don’t have much opportunity to use seasonal ingredients. When I was going to culinary school in Phoenix I had the opportunity though at the Phoenician resort. I loved artichokes, cleaning a case a day down to the heart then braising them in lemon and white wine till very tender. We used these as a pizza topping and a flatbread topping. I also had the pleasure of using fresh morel mushrooms during the spring, cooking them in butter, garlic, and wine till soft. Best was a flatbread with four cheeses, artichokes, morels and drizzled with a balsamic reduction… HEAVEN! Perhaps one day I’ll open a fine dining establishment and get back to my roots, but I’m having so much fun doing barbecue right now.”

View our December 2017 Nine on the Line with David Martin.

Kyle Nottingham

Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa
Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa executive chef Kyle Nottingham at a Pop-Up Tucson event (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa executive chef Kyle Nottingham at a Pop-Up Tucson event (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“HONEY!

It’s always the best time of the year when Noel Patterson brings us our first harvest of honey comb. Noel is our resident bee keeper on property at Miraval and we have over 20 hives we harvest from. When in season, honey truly encapsulates time and place even more so than wine. You get the exact flavor of everything that is growing and blooming in that specific area to reflect the locality of where it was harvested. I love exploring the difference between each honey from where it was harvested — some of the best I’ve ever tasted was from Noel’s backyard in downtown Tucson.

Bee pollen and fresh nectar are also incredible spring/summer flavors that are unique byproducts of harvesting honey. Bee pollen has this incredibly sweet, and toasty flavor and almost has the mouth feel of shortbread. It’s great for cocktails, charcuterie, and just eating raw. We used it for chocolate-covered honey comb and rolled it in bee pollen last year and it was phenomenal. You can see and taste Noel’s honey spread throughout our menus and beverage lists this spring. We are even working on developing a signature pain au levain bread featuring Noel’s honey and made specifically for Miraval Tucson from Monsoon Chocolate’s Nathan Teufel. He will be creating this loaf to reflect the locality of the Catalina valley by using locally milled mesquite flour, honey, and some native flours and should be available this summer.”

View our March 2017 Nine on the Line with Kyle Nottingham.

Devon Sanner

The Carriage House
Executive Chef Devon Sanner at The Carriage House (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Executive Chef Devon Sanner at The Carriage House (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“I get excited for spring when I start seeing really great asparagus at terrific prices in the markets. It’s delicious, versatile, and has flavor affinities with so many of my other spring favorites — peas, artichokes, mushrooms, tarragon, and chervil. It also matches well with potato chips and beer, with white chocolate and hazelnut… it’s got some surprising flavor complements. I geek out for grilled asparagus with a béarnaise sauce or steamed asparagus with a Sherry and mustard vinaigrette, pancetta lardons, topped with a poached egg… it’s ineffably delicious.

As a second-line total niche fetish spring ingredient, though — I have to sing the praises of cholla buds. Harvested just before the flowers bloom, cholla buds have a flavor that marries artichoke and asparagus (already two of my other favorites). They dry very well, so you can rehydrate and use them throughout the year in salads, as pickles, as hyper-local alternatives wherever you would use asparagus tips or artichoke hearts. And where else in the world are you going to get them? It’s one of those amazing only-in-Tucson kind of ingredients.”

View our September 2015 Nine on the Line with Devon Sanner.

Coralie Satta

Ghini’s French Caffe
Owner and chef Coralie Satta of Ghini's French Caffe (Photo provided by Coralie Satta)

Owner and chef Coralie Satta of Ghini’s French Caffe (Photo provided by Coralie Satta)

“Rosé is my very most favorite spring ingredient, and fresh Lavender… in food, drinks, tea, cocktails. I could bathe in both happily :-)??

We have both on the menu right now! yummmmmmm?”

David Solorzano

Ume at Casino Del Sol Resort
Chefs plating at a Gastronomic Union of Tucson (GUT) dinner at the Carriage House (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Chef David Solorzano (left) plating at a Gastronomic Union of Tucson (GUT) dinner at the Carriage House (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“Spring is definitely my favorite season of the year followed by fall, I love them so much I tattooed spring ingredients on my arm. Other than heirloom carrots and beets, I love fiddlehead ferns, ramps and garlic scapes. I wait all year and gorge on as much apricots I can get my hands on.

I usually use as much fresh product I can at the beginning and load up towards the end and preserve and pickle. A few years ago, we had a particularly great season for ramps and I ordered almost 100 pounds of them. I pickled most of them so I could have them all year.”

View our July 2017 Nine on the Line with David Solorzano.

Brian Smith

Maynards Market & Kitchen
Maynards Market & Kitchen executive chef Brian Smith (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Maynards Market & Kitchen executive chef Brian Smith (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“Spring has to be my favorite time of the year when it comes to produce offerings so this is a tough one, but artichoke takes the cake for me. I am not a fan of the canned ones but you cannot beat fresh steamed or grilled whole artichokes, squeeze on a little lemon and dip those suckers in some mayo, and melted butter. I could eat this forever.”

View our May 2017 Tools They Use with Brian Smith.

Janos Wilder

DOWNTOWN Kitchen + Cocktails
Executive chef Janos Wilder at Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Executive chef Janos Wilder at DOWNTOWN Kitchen + Cocktails (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“Bone-in leg of lamb rubbed with mustard, garlic, and rosemary and slow-roasted over mesquite.”

Jackie is a food writer and photographer native to Tucson. He loves corgis and still thinks rickrolling is funny. If you'd like to stalk him, visit jackietran.com.
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