Seasonal Secrets

The period between the end of winter and the start of spring is the toughest time to find fresh produce to put on the table. TIP SHEET asked three chefs what healthy ingredients they're cooking with now.

English peas. "Most of us grew up eating them frozen or out of a can, but when consumed fresh, they have an entirely different flavor. They're vibrant and very, very sweet, and they're just coming into their own right now [in the South]."

Preparation: Sauté in olive oil and garlic or combine with chicken stock, potatoes and onions for a delicious puréed soup.

Parsnips. "One of the things we're really looking forward to in the next couple of weeks are parsnips. They're at their best when left in the ground until early spring, when they pick up a lot of sugar and lose some of their bitterness."

Preparation: Peel and cut into meaty, wedge-shaped pieces. Drop into boiling salted water for a few minutes to start the cooking process. Then spread into a small roasting pan and sprinkle with olive oil, salt, pepper and some chopped fresh thyme leaves. Roast at 375 degrees. Turn after 8 or 9 minutes, then roast until the edges begin to brown and the center is tender. Serve hot right out of the oven with any roast.

Radicchio from Treviso. "In Italy, it's known as a 'winter flower' because it's only available from November until March. Like radicchio, it has red leaves, but they are long and skinny, and the flavor is very intense."

Preparation: To braise, place 1 pound radicchio in a roasting pan and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar; 1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar; salt and pepper; 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil; 3 tablespoons red wine; 3 tablespoons vegetable broth. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and roast the radicchio at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Serve immediately.