Food

What to cook in March: Vibrant salads, dishes laden with fresh herbs, and zesty pink drinks

Recipes to welcome spring!

Recipes to welcome spring!

If I were to have a cold raw salad in the middle of winter, I would surely get scolded by my mother. "These are cooling foods, Shayma," she'd say. "You should have a warm and aromatic curry or dal with rice instead." This idea that food has heating and cooling energy may sound like the mythical advice of a Pakistani mother, but not if you're familiar with similar concepts that exist in Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine practices. My cultural upbringing is such that I believe food has the power to heal and create warming or cooling energy, so I can't wait to start cooking some spring-forward dishes in my kitchen this March. It is no surprise that the first thing I am going to make is a fresh citrus salad, with gem-like slices of grapefruit and orange.

Many of us still see snow outside, the branches bending sideways and forward with the piercing wind. But March is a new month, and with it comes a new season: spring. And that excites me and inspires me to make changes in the way I shop and prepare food at home. It's been a long slow winter, so I'm really looking forward to that gradual transition from creating hot soups, stews and steaming biryanis to a chilled and vibrant beet soup or ruby-red stuffed peppers to usher in pepper season.

March is also the month of the vernal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, and Nowruz too. Meaning "new day," Nowruz is a celebration of the new year on the Persian calendar, when the sun crosses the celestial equator and day and night hours are in perfect balance. It's celebrated in countries ranging from Iran and Kazakhstan to Pakistan and Turkmenistan, and it's a tradition rooted in fertility, joy, abundance and, most importantly, renewal and hope. To mark it, I plan to make vibrant dishes incorporating greens and herbs, which symbolize rebirth, and eggs, which represent fertility and continuity — perhaps kuku sabzi or pajeon. Won't you join me?

I can't wait to get my hands on rhubarb, and though what I'll find in March is out of season, I'll take it. The colour of a rhubarb sipper, with its jewel tones, will be a gorgeous combination with a bowl of chips and a cooling cucumber dip, mast-o khiar.

I think it's safe to say my mother will approve of me eating these dishes (including the cooling salad) to welcome spring. I hope you, too, will be inspired to make these dishes in your home.

Vegan Cheese Board

(Photo credit: Lisa Dawn Bolton)

Mast-o Khiar

Rhubarb Shrub Martini

(Photo: David Bagosy, Styling: Melissa Direnzo)

Citrus Salad

Beet Fennel Soup

(Photography by Ellen Silverman)

Kuku Sabzi

(Photography by Betty Binon)

Korean Scallion Pancake

(Photography by Soo Kim)

Hungarian Stuffed Peppers

(Photo: David Bagosy, Styling: Melissa Direnzo)

Shayma Owaise Saadat is a food writer and chef. She lives in Toronto with her husband and son. You can follow her culinary journey at www.shaymasaadat.com or on Instagram at @SpiceSpoon.

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