A culinary ode to spring in Groni

Spring is shameless in its temptations, culinary and otherwise. Never am I happier to stroll around town, never more in love with Groningen, whom I may even call Groni with overflowing affection. 

Ol’ Groni is generous now: from wild garlic carpeting the parks and gardens, to nettles nudging their way through the soil, magnolia flowers draping the city in all shades of pink, dandelions dotting yellow the fresh green, to the bursting cherry tree blossoms. But to merely admire them is to miss half the joy. Bite the blossom, eat spring!

I bring you a spring feast, an ode to my witches, fairies, and our exuberant magic. 

Start with a dandelion salad. Dandelions, the sun-kissed rebels of the green world, shine brightest in a salad. Pluck the young leaves, tender and full of spunk, and toss them with slices of apple, toasted walnuts, and crumbled goat cheese. Dress it in a simple vinaigrette, and there you have it – a dish that laughs in the face of convention, as sprightly as a spring breeze.

Consider adding magnolia vinegar to your salad. Magnolia flowers, ethereal beauties, beg to be pickled, and magnolia vinegar is a concoction so whimsical it could be a love potion. Pluck the petals and pack them into a jar, then cover with warm, white wine vinegar. Let them steep for a month, and what emerges is a vinegar so floral and delicate, it transforms salads and dressings into dishes fit for the nymphs. 

Now, onto the nettles, the stingy rascals. But fear them not, for in a nettle soup they become as tender as a poet’s heart. Don gloves to harvest, then blanch them to strip away their bite. Sauté onions, garlic, and potatoes in a pot until they’re soft and dreaming of finer days, then add the nettles, a splash of stock, and let it all simmer gently. Blend until smooth, and finish with a swirl of cream. Each spoonful is like a hug from spring itself, warm and reassuring.

To merely admire the flowers is to miss half the joy. Bite the blossom, eat spring!

Next, let us pay homage to wild garlic, a pungent harbinger of spring. Imagine a wild garlic pesto, as audacious as it is sublime. Take a generous bunch of wild garlic leaves, a handful of toasted pine nuts, a good glug of olive oil, a shower of Parmesan, and a squeeze of lemon for brightness. Blitz them in a blender as you whisper sweet nothings about spring, and this creamy goodness will cling to pasta like a lover.

As for the drinks, us nymphs love a magnolia cocktail made with flower syrup, a drink like a midsummer night’s dream. Start by making magnolia flower syrup. Gently rinse your magnolia petals, then combine them with equal parts sugar and water in a saucepan. Simmer this mixture until the sugar dissolves and the liquid takes on the subtle, sweet fragrance of the flowers. Allow it to cool, then strain out the petals. For the cocktail, mix this syrup with a splash of gin to add depth, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice for brightness, and a hint of sparkling water to lift the spirits. Stir gently, like you’re coaxing the magic from the flowers themselves. Serve this concoction over ice, garnished with a few fresh magnolia petals floating delicately on the surface.

Lastly, cherry tree blossoms, symbols of life’s ephemeral glory, find their calling in a cherry blossom tea. Carefully rinse the blossoms, then steep them in hot water, adding just a hint of honey to gently enhance their natural sweetness. Allow the tea to infuse until it adopts a soft, pale hue, carrying a delicate aroma. 

And there you have it, a culinary ode to spring in Groni, a feast for the senses, splendid as the season itself. Each dish is a love letter to the ingredients that grace us briefly, luring us to partake in their fleeting beauty. And we, ever so willingly, succumb to these charms, fork in hand, eyes wide shut.

VALERIA CERNEI

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