Spring

Vidalia Onion Season is Here!

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by Nancy Ellison

onion.jpgLike some twelve-year-old boy waiting for baseball’s opening game each spring, I count the days until my sweet Georgia Vidalia County onions arrive. There is nothing so sweet or crunchy as a Vidalia onion. One can eat a fresh spring Vidalia onion as if it were an apple!

I first discovered Vidalia Onions in Rome, Georgia during location shooting on Mosquito Coast. A neighbor brought over a bowl of lightly chopped spring Vidalia Onions with a bit of sour cream. Not impressive looking, but when we all sampled the simple dish we melted! While crackers were offered, the taste was so fresh and delicate, l found myself gobbling it down without any added assistance.

The soil in Vidalia, Georgia has a low sulfur content, which apparently accounts for the sweetness of its onions. While Georgia has expanded the legally trade – marked onions cultivation to thirteen counties in the state, I like to get mine from Vidalia county – sentimental, I guess.

Antipasto Pasta Salad with Tangy Red Wine Vinaigrette

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by Cathy Pollak

pastasalad.jpg Who doesn't love a good tangy pasta salad?  I have tried many, many recipes over the years and I have to say I like the idea of antipasto meets pasta salad.

Every bite is something different, I love that; crunchy cucumbers, salami, artichoke hearts, kalmata olives and especially the smoked mozzarella.  It's quite the yum factor.

This salad is best when made and dressed a day ahead so the flavors can marinate.  If you don't have the time to do that, adding a generous splash of red wine vinegar just before serving gives the salad the same bright, tangy flavor.

Make it now or for an upcoming picnic. You will love it.

Chop Chop! Don't Forget the Stems

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by Susie Middleton

swisschard.jpgThe second coolest thing about Swiss chard is that it cooks so darn fast. (The first coolest thing being its amazing neon color—especially the Bright Lights and Rainbow varieties.) So I hate to spoil the party, but I’m going to. My recipe takes a bit longer than the standard sauté.

That’s because most recipes tell you to discard the chard stems and “use them for vegetable stock” or something else. (I know how many of you are busying yourselves making vegetable stock.) This is so you can then wilt the leaves like spinach and have a side dish in seconds. But if you have a few extra seconds (okay, minutes), you can simply slice up those stems and cook them until crisp-tender before adding the leaves to the pan. The stems add nice texture and make the side dish feel a little more substantial, too.

Meyer Lemon Tea Cake

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by Sue Doeden

meyer-lemons.jpgSpying bright yellow Meyer lemons in the refrigerated produce case at my local natural food co-op never fails to give me a lift. This occurrence usually takes place in March, my least favorite month of the year in northern Minnesota with its dull gray skies, dirty slush, and sometimes, snowstorms that, by this time, no one wants to experience.

I grabbed several Meyer lemons last week, brought them home and arranged them in a shallow white bowl with the kumquats that also came home with me.

After enjoying their burst of brightness in my kitchen for a couple of days, I knew it was time to use them up. I was ready to make some little tea cakes, tiny loaves infused with the juice of Meyer lemons.

Spring Radish Tart

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by Cathy Pollak

radishtart.jpg It's true, radishes are often considered the "Rodney Dangerfield" of vegetables...no respect.  But that's too bad because they are so much more than an afterthought, a garnish or a decoration.

They are spicy and delicious and add great texture to any dish. And look at the color they give this amazing tasting tart.

My love of radishes begins in Paris...strolling the Seine, grabbing a baguette, a crock of butter, a bunch of radishes and some sea salt from the street vendors.  Finding a bench and plopping down to people watch while dipping the peppery radishes into the soft butter and sprinkling them with sea salt.  A bite of bread and it's heaven.  Those were the days. 

This is a beautiful spring dish.  I served it yesterday alongside roast chicken for friends.  The perfect side with a light green salad.  You can serve it warm or room temperature, you'll love it!

Instant Gratification: Roasted Fingerling & Watercress Salad

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by Susie Middleton

roastedfingerling.jpgIt’s funny how things come together in the kitchen. This week I’ve had lots of fingerling potatoes lying around, as I’ve been developing recipes with them for Vegetarian Times magazine. As it happens, I also treated myself yesterday to a watercress gathering excursion. Nice to be out in the quiet of the early morning under clearing skies, walking along a damp compost-y path beneath a gradually thickening canopy of budding branches. (Buds—finally.) I had my little scissors, a bag, and my camera. Sadly, I couldn’t linger long—lots of recipe testing scheduled for the day. But I crouched low in the black mud, hung over the stream, and snipped enough crisp clusters of Leprechaun-green watercress to fill my bag. And then reluctantly carried on my way. Retreating out of the cool forest, I heard the buzz of cars on the roadway calling me out of my reverie.

Back home at lunch time (after another recipe test—Asian slaw), I looked at the fingerlings and the watercress and thought: Warm salad. It’s no secret that my favorite way to cook fingerlings is brown-braising. But right then, I wanted instant gratification, and I looked at the little knobby potatoes and thought slicing them into coins and quick-roasting them would get me my hit. Sure enough, the little coins were golden on the outside, moist on the inside after 20 minutes at 450 degrees.

Grilled Lamb Loin Chops with Spring Spinach Salad

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by Joseph Erdos

lambchops.jpgThe flavors of the Mediterranean are an ideal match for preparing lamb. Rosemary and garlic are traditionally used in Greek and Italian cooking. I can't imagine not using them both when marinating meats, particularly lamb. It's great for either a leg of lamb for roasting or chops for grilling. The woody perfume of the rosemary permeates the meat, creating earthy flavor. Greek cuisine also utilizes lemons to add brightness to dishes. Here the lemon juice tenderizes the meat and brightens the flavor. Rosemary, garlic, and lemon are the triumvirate of Mediterranean cooking.

For grilling the lamb, I like loin chops, which look like little T-bones. Rib chops also work well for this recipe, but the loin chops offer more meaty flavor. For a healthy side, I pair the chops with a spinach salad that includes cherry tomatoes, salty Greek feta, and toasted pine nuts along with a simple vinaigrette. It's a great combination of flavors to pair with grilled lamb and it's perfect for a healthy lunch or dinner. With spring just around the corner, there's no better way to welcome it than with the bright flavors of the warm Mediterranean.

Asparagus Risotto

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by Amy Sherman

ImageOne day it's pouring rain and the next it's sunny and bright. Trees are already blooming with cherry blossoms, the delicate pink petals sometimes getting washed away in a sudden downpour. The hills all around the Bay Area are green and lush. And in the store you can find fresh strawberries, artichokes and asparagus.

I think one of the reasons I love the Spring so much is the tender delicious fruits and vegetables. After eating hardy root vegetables and cabbage, chard, potatoes and leeks, the vegetables of Spring are a welcome change of pace. They are a wonderful reminder of new life and fresh beginnings.

Asparagus is available much of the year but in the Spring it is at it's best. My favorite way to serve asparagus is in risotto. I make a broth from the stems and add the tips and the tender stems to the rice at the last moment so it stays tender-crisp. While Winter vegetables are wonderful cooked in soup or mashed somehow Spring vegetables seem too delicate to manhandle in that way.

Panna Cotta with Roast and Pickled Rhubarb

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by Joseph Erdos

rhubarbpannacotta.jpg Summer is fast approaching and more and more fruits and vegetables are coming in season. One of my favorite spring/summer crossover vegetables is rhubarb. I love it's tart flavor and bright pink color. It complements a variety of sweet and savory dishes. But it's most commonly known as pie fruit and is more often paired with strawberries than with any other fruit or vegetable. But I like it when it plays the leading role in a dish and not the supporting one.

In the summer on those especially hot days all I crave are cooling desserts that can be simply made ahead of time and chilled. One of my favorite chilled desserts is the Italian panna cotta, which is basically jellied cream. In this dessert the panna cotta serves as a perfect base for rhubarb, prepared in two different ways. One batch is roasted with sugar and then infused with cinnamon and sparkling wine. Another batch is pickled in a honey-sweet brine with a bit of grenadine for color and star anise for a touch of spice. The sweet, tart, savory, and crisp intermingle as the two rhubarbs meet on the plate.

Boysenberry, a California treasure

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by David Karp

From the L.A. Times

boysenberry.jpgTo the uninitiated, the boysenberry may look like a big, blowzy, underripe blackberry, but it is in fact a noble fruit, as distinct from a common blackberry as a thoroughbred is from a mule.

Large, dark purple, juicy and intense, it derives its unique flavor from its complex ancestry: sweetness and floral aroma from its raspberry grandmother, and a winy, feral tang from three native blackberry species.

It's a California classic, emblematic of the joys of growing up in the Southland before it succumbed completely to sprawl. And it's all the more precious, despite its near extinction in this state, because it evokes why people moved here in the first place.

But Boysens can still be found if you know where to look, although their season is brief — late May to early July — and they are so delicate that as a fresh fruit they can be enjoyed at their best only from farmers markets, farm stands and home gardens.

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