Spring

You Can Make a Lot of Salsa with a Case of Mangoes

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by Susan Russo

casemangoesA week without a trip to the farmers' market is like a week without the sun: it makes me grumpy. I can’t remember the last time I bought produce in a regular grocery store. Sure, I go to the supermarket for eggs, milk, and cereal, but fruits and vegetables come from the farmers. So, what I did other day, shocked me. I tell myself it a was just a transgression.

I was at Costco stocking up on bottled water, protein powder, and toilet paper (why two people need 36 rolls of Northern toilet tissue, I’ll never know). On my way to the protein powder, I passed pineapples, tall, fragrant, ripe pineapples each topped with a crown fit for a king. They had no brown spots, no fuzzy fur on the bottoms—they were perfect. Better yet, they were only $2.99 each. I couldn’t believe it! I put two in my carriage and buried them under the toilet paper.

Not 20 feet later on my way to the water, I passed a mountain of mangoes, whose green and yellow skins were taut and unblemished. Having just paid $1.75 each for some (which weren’t even good), I stopped to check the price -- $8 for a whole case! I debated whether or not to buy them. What would we do with a whole case of mangoes? Would they be sweet? What if they all ripened at the same time?

Quinoa Salad with Arugula, Asparagus & Avocado Recipe

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by Amy Sherman

quinoasaladAh, Spring! We are enjoying a warm spell right now and the fresh produce reflects the change of seasons with earthy root vegetables giving way to tender bright greens. I am so happy to have sunshine and bright green asparagus to eat!

I recently discovered how delicious asparagus is when served raw, in salads. The trick is to shave it thinly with the sharpest vegetable peeler you have, then dress it with oil, lemon and salt so it wilts, just slightly. Asparagus is like the poster child for Spring.

I had eaten quinoa, but never tried cooking it until just recently when I received some samples of it--red, white and black--from Roland Food. Reading about quinoa I discovered while it has the texture of grain, it's actually a fruit. It's also gluten-free. It is very bitter unless thoroughly soaked and rinsed. Fortunately quinoa from Roland Food is already soaked saving me the bother.

Radishes with Butter and Salt

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by Joseph Erdos

radishesThis really isn't a recipe—it doesn't even involve cooking or assembly. It's just a few simple ingredients brought together in a perfect way: radishes, butter, and salt. Most people don't give radishes a second thought mainly because they don't eat them. As I've shown in recipes before and will show this week, radishes can be made into many different dishes with ones that are even cooked. But the absolute best way to eat them is with just a little salt and butter.



Radishes are a very humble vegetable, so you would never expect to eat them anywhere but home, let alone find them served at a high-end restaurant. But a few years ago at ABC Kitchen I was served radishes with salt, bread, and butter.

I couldn't believe my eyes because it was such a simple presentation but a very effective one that truly represented the restaurant's "green" objective very clearly—it was all about the fresh produce. Besides all the wondeful dishes I enjoyed that evening, the radishes really stood out in my mind and memory—it's why I'm writing about them now.

Putting Romaine Lettuce's Feet to the Fire

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by David Latt

heartsofromaineGoing out to eat has many pleasures, not the least of which is learning a new trick to add to your own repertoire at home.

Recently at Il Fornaio, during the Lazio Regionale, we had Lattuga Romana alla Griglia or lightly grilled hearts of romaine topped with shaved pecorino pepato and Il Fornaio's creamy house dressing.

The rest of the menu was terrific, but the real stand out was the deceptively simple grilled hearts of romaine.

The dish is easy to make at home. So easy, in fact, you can serve it on the spur of the moment because it takes barely fifteen minutes to prepare.

Cooking with White Asparagus

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by Joseph Erdos

whiteasparagusEveryone knows green asparagus—it's making an appearance right now in the markets, announcing that spring has arrived. But not everyone knows white asparagus. It rarely shows up in the market because it's such a specialty but it's definitely worth searching for. Not only does the color (or absence of) make it unique, its flavor is more delicate and milder than green asparagus. But why is it white?

White asparagus is not a genetically modified variety, which most people would assume. It's really just green asparagus that has been kept from turning green. To keep it from turning green farmers cover the asparagus with mulch before it sprouts from the ground. This keeps out the light, shuts off photosynthesis, and produces the pale cream-colored spears.

Cooking with white asparagus is not much different than green, however, it's recommended that you peel the stalks because the skins tend to be tough and bitter. The simplest way to prepare it is just to boil it. Typically a hollandaise sauce or melted butter would then go on top but my recipe features a savory brown butter vinaigrette made with tangy lemon juice and sherry vinegar. It's perfect as an appetizer or even a side dish for any spring menu.

Strawberry Blonde

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by James Farmer III

astrawberryblondeSo strawberry season is upon us. These sweet treats have been zipping up I-75 from Florida for a while now and Middle Georgia’s very own crop is coming!

Places such as Lane’s  has a strawberry patch and, well, if by chance one finds themselves pickin’ in the patch, one might as well stay for ice cream! Since spring is upon us, let us enjoy the fruits of the season!

What a perfect name for a lovely drink! Taking the fiery redness of strawberries and blending it with the calming color of cream, one will find the most beautiful pink drink to serve your friends and family.

Pan-Seared Sole with Sautéed Chanterelles

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by Joseph Erdos

solechanterelleOftentimes simplicity is the answer to most everything. Simple recipes with ingredients cooked in an unadulterated way yield very flavorful and inspiring results. For me that's always the case when cooking fish. Here I'm always reminded of the story of Julia Child's culinary revelation, when she is presented with a sole Meunière at a restaurant where she and Paul are dining after arriving in France. Most of us has read about this or has seen it in the movie Julie and Julia. Can it be so simple that a dish of sautéed fish with butter sauce inspired her to cook? Yes!

Here is my take on that sole dish but served with woodland mushrooms. On a recent Greenmarket trip I purchased a handful of beautiful chanterelles from Honey Hollow Farm, which forages its mushrooms from the wild in Middleburgh, N.Y. These mushrooms are one of the more pricey varieties, but their delicate flavor is worth it. That flavor is best maintained with simple cooking methods. That's why I sauté them in butter. Pair them with a seared mild fish such as sole along with a buttery sauce and it makes for a very nice meal. I bet Julia would have loved this dish for dinner any day of the week.

Quickest Asparagus Recipe Yet

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by Susie Middleton

easyasparahusWhile I wait (and wait) for our local asparagus, it occurs to me that everyone else is not waiting. The grocery stores are full of asparagus (from elsewhere, wherever that is) and it is hard to walk down the produce aisles without snatching up a bunch. I understand, really I do, and that is probably why my two blogs on asparagus from last year are getting hit up a lot these days. So okay, I can’t be my stubborn self and wait another month to offer up more asparagus recipes. Especially because there are about a gazillion different ways to cook asparagus—almost all of them pretty darn quick—so I can come back to this provocative vegetable again. Soon.

While I love quick-braising and sautéing asparagus, I think the method that may be the absolute speediest may offer up some of the best flavor, too. It’s stir-frying. Two to three minutes, and you’ve got a beguiling roasty-toasty flavor and a nice crisp-tender texture. A few keys here: Slice the asparagus thinly on the bias for the best browning; don’t use a lot of fat; keep the heat cranked up. (I love the bowl shape of my non-stick stir-fry pan, but you can substitute with a nonstick skillet—just stir more frequently.)

I like to include a bit of garlic, some sliced scallions or shallots (as in the recipe below), or a combo of ginger and garlic in an asparagus stir-fry—but not much more. I don’t make a finishing pan sauce for it, in order to let that pure flavor shine through. (I do, however, sometimes like a cool, creamy garnish for this dish—crème frâiche is lovely.)

Avocado Tofu Salad with Ponzu

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by Amy Sherman

tofusaladThis is a zen salad. For one thing, like meditation, it requires slowing down. Normally salad is something you throw together at the last minute. Not this one. Patience, little grasshopper. You need to marinate the tofu overnight. It's also simple and straightforward. And it requires no oil. I know what you're thinking, what does THAT have to do with being zen? I'll tell you. This is an enlightened salad. The avocado is rich enough that you really don't need any additional oil.

I know there are people out there who don't like tofu, but I wonder, have they had any good tofu dishes? I like tofu with something to really give it flavor and tang. Ponzu sauce is perfect. The extra firm texture of this tofu really shouldn't bother even people with "texture issues." But if you or your guests really are adversed to tofu, you could certainly substitute diced chicken breast or chunks of seared tuna.

This salad is perfect for when your are trying to eat healthy or to enjoy on a warm day. It's very light and refreshing but at the same time hearty and filling. If you try it, let me know what you think!

Cooking with Fennel

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by Susan Russo

fennelbarleyCashier: Picking up the two fennel bulbs I was buying and examining them. "Do you cook with fennel a lot?"

Me: "Oh, yeah. All the time."

Cashier: "I’ve always wondered what to do with it. It just looks so cool, you know?"

Me: "Oh, I can give you lots of idea about how to cook with fennel. You could put it in salads or saute --"

Cashier: Waving the hands as if she were trying to stop traffic, she interrupted,  "Oh, no, no! I don't want you to tell me. I won’t actually do it. I’ve just always wondered."

In case you're wondering about fennel bulb, it's actually an herb that has been enjoyed since antiquity. When eaten raw, you'll appreciate its crunchy, refreshing celery-like texture and sweet licorice flavor. When sauteed or roasted, you'll find it morphs into something more savory, with an earthy depth of flavor. It gets along well with many ingredients but has a special affinity for citrus fruits, figs, olives, nuts, and hard cheese like Pecorino Romano and Parmesan. And those feathery fronds? They're edible too. Toss them in your salad or munch on them as a digestive aid.

 

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