Spring

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.

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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.)

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fishfiddleheads.jpg One cooking feat that has eluded me until now is searing fish with extra crispy skin. I've finally managed to do it after much experimentation and lamentation. After eating so many fish dishes with crispy skin in restaurants, some so crispy that it seemed I was eating a potato chip, I've wanted to try cooking it myself. The technique I use here is a lot like the one used on roasting chicken, where you smear it with butter before setting it in the oven to ensure a crispy brown skin. Here I smear the salmon skin with butter and sear it skin-side down. The result is not only crispy but also a lovely brown—it's just delicious.

For a unique springtime pairing, I adore fiddlehead ferns, which can only be found in early spring. You won't necessarily find them at the market since their harvested in the wild, but more likely at the farmers' market. But it just so happens that I did find mine at my local supermarket to my surprise. They were so beautiful that I couldn't resist buying a bagful. They look quite funny, because they're actually unfurled fern leaves. Don't worry, they are edible. Some say they taste like a cross between asparagus and artichoke, but I think they taste even better—of fresh spring.

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scalloprisotto.jpgIt isn't hard to be inspired when your store's refrigerator is bursting with boxes of carefully bunched asparagus all lined up in neat rows. My first reaction is to pair the asparagus with the fresh diver's scallops that have arrived this morning, but I have my whole working day ahead to fine tune exactly what I am going to create for dinner with these two extraordinary ingredients. Something fairly quick and something that causes silence at the table. What is quicker than an risotto and what is faster that pan sear scallops? Ah, dinner in 40 minutes, now I am getting hungry!

I defrost a quart of chicken stock that seems to reproduce in my freezer and chop off the woody asparagus end and simmer the two together to give my risotto a more intense asparagus flavor so I can add the other end of the asparagus later on in the rice cooking process without running the risk of overcooking and losing that bright Spring green. In a two quart pot melt 2 tablespoons of butter and the same amount of olive oil, to this heated fat add 3/4 of a cup of finely chopped onions – I use yellow spanish onion but a red onion would really be beautiful in the finished risotto.

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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.

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