It was a head of purple cauliflower from a friend’s winter garden that began my obsession with colorful produce. I’d never seen purple cauliflower before and it made me begin to consider vegetables differently—not in terms of ingredients to make a meal, but rather what colors inspired me. Once I began hunting for color, it popped up everywhere: the shocking pink in the rib of a chard stem; the flecks of deep reds and purples in baby kale leaves; the pale shades of new green that emerge in the spring; and even the quiet yellows and whites in winter vegetables.
One of my great discoveries in working on a cookbook about colorful food was that both flavor and texture are equally important in creating a dish one can rightfully call vibrant. The purpose of my book, Vibrant Food, is to start with color and employ flavor and texture to build gorgeous, dynamic dishes.
Sometimes the joy of food can get lost in the nuances of nutrition. Over the past few years, a lot of information has come out on the value of phytonutrients in colorful vegetables and fruit. I care deeply about what I eat, but I’m not going to always eat only the foods with the very highest antioxidant content. The fact is that all colorful food straight from nature is loaded with antioxidants and nutrients—and focusing on eating a variety of colors is more fun than researching the phytonutrient content of every vegetable we intend to eat. And so goes my book: If we let color guide our choices, we can trust that we’re eating well.
Spring’s color palette is my favorite. It’s all softness and pastel and light in those tender shoots and roots. What dominates spring produce is a range of magnificently tender green hues, the bright new growth of the season. Those soft greens are the vegetable equivalent of a baby animal—gentle and welcoming. And then there are those wisps of pale lavender or soft pink streaking through the greens, and these are everywhere, too: in baby artichokes, spring onions, ramps, asparagus, shallots.
Here are a few spring recipes loaded with bright colors and flavors:• Squash Blossom and Green Coriander Quesadillas Recipe
• Nettle Pesto Pasta Recipe with Blistered Snap Peas
• Lemon-Shallot Fava Beans Recipe
Reprinted with permission from Vibrant Food by Kimberley Hasselbrink.