Spring

honey-glazed-roasted-rhubarb-018-1Bemidji’s Natural Choice Farmers Market opened for the season yesterday. I was there with my market bag, filling it with fresh butter lettuce, baby turnips, green onions and beautiful rosy red radishes. Oh, and I can’t forget the homemade bread.

I spotted long, slender stalks of rhubarb, too. I didn’t need to buy that, though. A friend supplied me with several pounds of beautiful rhubarb, one of my favorite vegetables of spring.

Vegetable, you ask? Yes. As Kim Ode, author of the recently published cookbook, “Rhubarb Renaissance,” explained in a class she taught at Byerly’s in St. Louis Park last week, since we are accustomed to using rhubarb in desserts sweetened with sugar, we think of it as a fruit. In fact, it is a vegetable that was first used for medicinal purposes centuries ago.

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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.

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affrettoA couple of weekends ago at the Little Italy Mercato, as I was peacefully sorting through ears of sweet corn, I heard a woman scream, "Oh, my God! I can't believe it!"

Curious, I followed the voice, and noticed a woman a few tables ahead with her arms waving wildly in the air. She was talking rapidly and loudly and began jumping as if she were standing on hot coals.

"Oh, my God! I haven't seen that since I lived in Italy," she exclaimed.

What? What hadn't she seen since she lived in Italy? Gargantuan globe artichokes? We have those in San Diego. Mint green Vespas? Got 'em. A hot Italian guy? We have many of them, especially at Sogno di Vino and Bencotto in Little Italy. You're welcome, ladies.

Turns out what thrilled her was finding agretti, a springtime Mediterranean succulent, or water-retaining plant. With its verdant color and feathery texture, agretti looks like a cross between fennel fronds, rosemary, and grass.

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ramp.jpgEvery year with the arrival of spring comes the short-lived season of ramps. From about April to May ramps are available in farmers' markets in the Northeast. Here people go crazy over ramps. Sometimes I wonder why they're loved so much. Last year I cooked and pickled ramps for the first time and grew very fond of them. Ramps are unique in that they're harvested from the wild. If you know where to find them or know of a forager who can find them for you, then you're very lucky to get them for free. But the rest of us have to buy them at the market.

This past Saturday I visited the Union Square Greenmarket and was excited to find ramps still available at one of the market's best stands. Mountain Sweet Berry Farm is know for their stellar ramps. You can't miss them, they have a very large ideas board on display that includes recipes for ramps from local chefs. So if you're ever in the city this month, stop by the market and look for the long line of customers and the board of famous scribbled recipes. Not only will you grab a bunch of these unusual edibles, but you might pick up a few new cooking ideas. Read more about ramps and see the board in this great article at Leite's Culinaria.

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greens-kaleWe had a moment the other night, a unique event in the long history of the Tucker-Eikenberry alliance.

We had kale for dinner – just kale. That was dinner. It was an odd night, which could be said about a lot of nights these days. Our social engagement was a 5:00 to 7:00 kind of thing and we found ourselves back at the apartment around 7:30, our night done, with neither of us a thought in our head as to what to do next.

We didn’t want to go out again – although I heroically offered run up to the Peace Food Café on Amsterdam, Jill’s home away from home, for some take-out. “No,” she said. I’ll make some kale from Alison’s recipe.

“You’ll make?” I thought. This whole thing of Jill’s cooking is very new. There’s lots of territorial shit going down right now in the kitchen.

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