Spring

A Recipe for Springtime

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by Susan Russo

babyartichokes.jpgAccording to In Style, shades of gray, scarlet, and yellow are hot this spring. I, however, prefer green and purple, as in fresh English pea green and baby artichoke purple. Apparently, so do San Diego's farmers; our farmers' markets have some of the most stylish looking artichokes around – ranging from petite purple baby artichokes to hefty, celery green Big Heart artichokes.

Despite their diminutive size, baby artichokes are fully mature artichokes with a full-bodied, earthy flavor. They simply don't grow as large as Globe or Big Heart artichokes because they're picked from the lower part of the artichoke plant. As a result, the characteristic fuzzy choke isn't all that fuzzy and can be eaten. Indeed, other than a few tough outer leaves, the entire artichoke is edible.

Baby artichokes are delicious in many dishes ranging from risotto and pasta to salads and soups. Paired with Italian Farro or emmer, as in this Farro with Baby Artichokes, Mushrooms, and Peas, baby artichokes are exceptionally stylish.

Asparagus for breakfast? Why not?

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by Sue Doeden

asparagus.jpg "I never thought I'd be eating asparagus, much less for breakfast."

That was my husband on Saturday morning as he dangled a small chunk of roasted asparagus from his fork. He was just finishing up his breakfast of poached egg atop roasted asparagus spears with an Italian-seasoned ground almond crumble.

Just after he headed to the golf course, I started cleaning up the kitchen and discovered one asparagus spear still on his otherwise empty plate. I guess expecting him to eat up six asparagus spears was pushing my luck a bit too far.

I love asparagus. Steamed, roasted or grilled, just hand it over. Althought I strongly support the Buy Local movement, I just can't stop myself from buying some of the first asparagus that appears in the grocery stores in the spring. Green and bright, my first asparagus each April truly is a rite of spring. Around here, asparagus is often harvested for the first time in June. That would seem a rite of summer.

Stalking Wild Watercress

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by Susie Middleton

watercress1.jpgSneaking around is so much fun. Like heisting those leeks a few weeks ago, we had the best time on Friday clandestinely gathering wild watercress from a fresh-water stream deep in the woods. Scissors in hand, we scurried down a path of pine needles, all the while looking over our shoulders, hoping no one would see us through the mist and fog and tangled brush.

Soon we could hear the gentle burbling of the stream, and then the green mirage appeared–a carpet of a million leprechaun-green petals, so shiny and inviting you’d almost want to walk across it. But unless you’re wearing waders, it’s best to snip wild watercress by draping yourself over a fallen tree branch. Which is exactly what we did. Snacking as we snipped, we filled up a big bowlful of the freshest, zippiest taste of spring you could ever hope for.

Gathering wild watercress is a time-honored Spring tradition on the Vineyard. But don’t ask an old-timer where his favorite patch is, like I did when I was just a new “wash-ashore.” He looked at me, only half-smiling, and said, “If I tell you, I’ll have to kill you.”

Mango Soup...Hot, Hot, Hot!

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by Sue Doeden

mangos_013.jpgThere are two things in my world that tell me spring is officially here. One, the call of the loons wake me from my morning slumber as they float on the river just outside my window. That just happened Wednesday morning. Two, the small juicy yellow-skinned mangoes are ready to purchase by the case at my favorite little Asian market in Fargo. Done. Spring is here.

This year the mangoes are from Mexico and are called Adolfo (Ataulfo). I've seen some that look similar that are called Champagne mangoes. All I know for sure is that these small mangoes are the sweetest and juiciest I've ever tasted.

If the mangoes you bring home from the store look like the ones pictured above, let them sit out at room temperatue until the skins get all wrinkled with a few little brown spots. Then you will know the mangoes are sweet and ready to eat.

I decided to prepare a savory mango soup for a Caribbean-themed dinner I was planning to attend. To add some coconut flavor to the finished soup, I tried to recreate a coconut custard I recently tasted.

Lemony Spuds

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by Ivonne Mellozzi

greek-lemon-roasted-potatoes.jpgI could not possibly have let April go by without sharing this lemony recipe with you. This is one that will become a classic in your repertoire. Trust me. Easy, yet so delicious, this dish is perfect for a small dinner or for a huge gathering. The recipe can be halved or doubled easily (or tripled … believe me I’ve done it).

I’m willing to bet that you have all of the ingredients in your pantry right now. It takes ten minutes to pull together and about an hour in the oven. This dish goes perfectly with meat, poultry and fish, or you can enjoy it on its own (as I have) with some fresh, crusty bread.

What starts off as raw potatoes in a pan full of water ends up as a dish of luscious lemony potatoes lounging in a bath of the most divine lemon sauce you will ever taste. And if that isn’t enough to convince you, then try to imagine the aroma that will fill your home. It starts off with the faint scent of potatoes beginning to roast. Very soon the potato aroma is joined by the unmistakably crisp and bright scent of lemon. And for the finish comes the oregano, which releases its herby scent as it heats up.

Spring Salade Lyonnaise

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by Joseph Erdos

springsalad.jpgSalade Lyonnaise is one of the most popular salads in small French restaurants and bistros. In Lyon, from where the salad originates, it is typically found on the menus of tiny eateries called Bouchons, which specialize in comfort foods such as soups, stews, sausages, cheeses, etc. You can most certainly also find this salad served at Thomas Keller's Bouchon and at many of the restaurants of Lyon native Daniel Boulud. Comfort food knows no boundaries of class. It is simply just that popular that both high and low places offer it. And why wouldn't this salad be comforting? It is made of lettuce, croutons, bacon, and a poached egg perched on top.

Inspired by all the gorgeous lettuces I saw at the Greenmarket on a sunny and warm last Friday, I knew this salad would be the one to make. Not only can it be put together in minutes, but it also features ingredients that most people have in their refrigerator or pantry at all times. Of course not including the fresh frisée, which is traditionally used in this recipe for it's unique texture, crunch, and slight bitterness. This salad makes such an impressive presentation: With the lettuce piled up just right, and the egg set in the center, it looks like a bird's nest. It's a lunch that presses all the comfort buttons, and it also can be a pleasing appetizer at a dinner party.

In Awe of the Choke

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by Matt Armendariz

artichoke_graphic_mattbites.jpgMy first foray into a closer relationship with artichokes began as a work assignment. Drive to Lompoc, California, chat with a farmer, get some pictures and get back to Los Angeles without becoming a part of the daily human-and-metal gridlock. Coffee in hand, I raced up the 5, beating traffic and made it with a few minutes to spare.

Until that point, I categorized artichokes as one of those foods shrouded in history, enjoyed by Romans and Greeks but not necessarily an everyday part of my kitchen. Spiky, thorny, gorgeous yet inhospitable, my little mind was about to be opened to the joys of this thistle.

I spent the day with Steve Jordan. Steve is a man who knows his chokes. In fact, his level of knowledge is quite intimidating. Serious, polite and quiet, Steve is a forth generation California farmer who has been growing artichokes for over twenty years. California grows the majority of artichokes consumed in the United States, and they’ve been grown here since the 1800s when Italian immigrants brought them to the west. The coastal weather of areas like Lompoc and Castroville are perfect for artichokes, and here they thrive like crazy.

Asparagus is a rite of spring

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by Russ Parsons

From the L.A. Times

asparagus.jpgI'm wary of people who dig too deep for food metaphors, particularly when they involve religion, but if ever there were a case for a perfect pairing of produce and season, it would be asparagus and Easter.

I love brightly colored eggs and bunny rabbits as much as the next guy. But if you want a concrete example of rebirth and the potential for new beginnings, just walk an asparagus field in early spring. What a few weeks before had been acres of brown raw dirt is now studded with hundreds of bright green asparagus spears poking through. In a month or so, the harvest finished, it will be a waist-high forest of ferns.

This is one metaphor that never fails to make me hungry. Over the last couple of weeks I've eaten asparagus for dinner at least three times. That may not seem like a lot, but when I say "eaten asparagus for dinner," that's just what I mean: My dinner was asparagus. OK, maybe some bread, too. And a glass of wine (though asparagus can be a tough match, Navarro Gewürztraminer is perfect).

The first night, I boiled it and dressed it with just a little very fruity olive oil, lemon juice and a generous sprinkling of crunchy sea salt. The next time, I steamed it and served it with a brown butter sauce and minced herbs.

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Spring Tomatoes

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by David Latt

tomatoes.jpgJudging by the latest rain storms and night time cold, it's still winter, at least the Southern California version.  But a walk through our local farmers' market (the Wednesday Santa Monica and Sunday Pacific Palisades Farmers' Markets) and you'd think it was summertime.  Just about everything you could want is in the market, with the exception of fresh corn and pluots.  Tomatoes are showing up again and they're beautiful, but they're better for roasting than eating raw.

One of my favorite recipes (and one of the easiest) uses those late winter tomatoes to good advantage. Some farmers this time of year mark down their mottled and misshapen tomatoes.  Eaten raw, they aren't desirable, but roasted and used with pasta or in a sauce, they're delicious.

Gazpacho 2 Ways

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by Matt Armendariz

gazpacho-duos.jpgGazpacho, how much do I love you? This cold, raw tomato soup hails from Andalusia, Spain and if I don’t get my butt to España soon I will be forever cranky.  I could easily dedicate an entire blog about the country of Spain, it’s one of my favorite places on the planet that I would gladly pack up and move to tomorrow if I had my druthers.

The only problem is that a) I am an American so there’s that pesky paperwork problem and b) I’d fall asleep at the dinner table each and every night. Oh who am I kidding? I would have been in bed for 2 hours by the time everyone assembles for dinner. Old man, me.

These two recipes for gazpacho come from Chef José Andrés. Whenever I think of him I get warm and tingly and I am thankful that he has chosen to live here in the US. I believe it makes this a better place, for sure.

 

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