Spring

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.

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chokered.jpgWell, I am embarrassed to admit that I got overwhelmed in Whole Foods the other day. Here I am a Food Professional (whatever that is), and the sheer abundance of goodies in the store was just too much for me. Granted, it was a quick stop—I only had 10 minutes to troll the store, as I was on my way to a book signing at Andover Bookstore in Andover, MA. Since we don’t have a Whole Foods on the Island (nor a grocery store anywhere near the size and breadth of this kind), I try to stop in one of these stores when I’m off-Island, mostly to see what the produce selection is like, but sometimes to pick up a specialty ingredient.

So it’s a little frustrating to be in a store with zillions of different products and not much time to peruse them. But honestly, even if I had hours on my hands, or a store like this nearby for regular shopping, I’d still probably be a bit blinded and a tad frazzled by all the colors and sounds and choices and crowds. It’s just a personal preference for me these days—I like things simpler and quieter, and I don’t mind a few less choices.

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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.

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may2_recipe_pic.jpg We sell a lot of locally raised (organic) salmon at our store in Maine, it is reasonable in price and quite easy to feed a crowd. Most everyone is intimidated by how to cook it, marinate or not, and what kind of sauce. So over the years we have broken the process down to practicable steps that everyone can easily follow.

Grilling for the Holiday that launches Summer must be fun, a little easy, with a noteworthy end result. I prefer a fillet at the widest end near the head, I like the taste better and the fatty mouth feel, but there are others that Like the tail end fillet preferring the leanest, flavor and probably a few less calories.

Always leave the skin on when grilling, without the skin it would be a big mess and fall through the grates! 

Marinate the fish if you have time, try lemon juice and olive oil for a quick approach or orange juice and cracked coriander seed if you have a little more time but it isn’t imperative – and no longer than half an  hour or your fish will start cooking like a ceviche.

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favabeansYou probably know ricotta as the cheese that goes in lasagne or manicotti but ricotta is so much more. If you've ever had ricotta straight out of the container or tried freshly made ricotta, you know exactly what I mean. It's luscious, creamy and sweet all on its own. Ricotta is amazing simply spread on toast or served as a snack or appetizer. It can even be a dessert—I like it drizzled with honey.

I had a dish of ricotta as a starter to a wonderful lunch at Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria. Even after platters of salumi, plates of pasta and panini, I was most enamored with a simple dish of ricotta with fava beans, so much so that I decided to recreate the dish at home. It's so easy to do that it's practically effortless and there's almost no cooking involved except for blanching the fresh favas.

Here it is much like the original. A drizzle of olive oil, salt, and pepper is the only flavoring the ricotta needs. Creamy spring fava beans add a nice textural contrast. And fresh herbs add bursts of flavor with every spoonful. Serve it over toasted bread, such as crostini, for the best pairing.

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