Spring

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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asparagusMDBurgers, hot dogs, potato salad, cole slaw and fresh fruit salads are Memorial Day classics. I look forward to those favorites but to keep them interesting, it's good to add something new and a little unexpected.

When I was growing up, asparagus was one of the fancy vegetables. Carrots, corn and broccoli were the everyday vegetables. Asparagus was saved for special occasions. These days asparagus is affordable, easy-to-prepare and versatile.

Right now asparagus is plentiful in farmers markets. Nutritious, delicious and loaded with healthy minerals, asparagus can be enjoyed raw or cooked, as a salad or a side dish to add zest to a backyard barbecue or afternoon lunch.

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mangobread.jpgThis may just be the perfect breakfast bread.

It's a tweaked version of Dorie Greenspan's (Baking: From My Home to Yours) dense, fruit studded mango bread. It's so good that it may even surpass my beloved Banana Bread with Toasted Coconut and Almonds. And that's saying something.

I first made it last winter when we had relatives visiting. It was polished off in two days, and there were only four of us. I have made it several times since, and it has consistently received stellar reviews. It's on my "go-to list" of recipes and will surely be on yours too once you try it.

What makes this mango bread so delicious? Creamy mango, chewy raisins, aromatic ginger, and crunchy cashews to start. It's a satisfyingly moist, highly textured, aromatic bread with just the right sweetness. The only hard part is stirring the batter which is stunningly thick. You think to yourself, this will never cook, but it does, perfectly, every time.

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asparagiWe bought our house in Umbria ten years ago this past summer.

A couple of months after the sale was completed the former owners, Bruno and Mayes, came over for lunch. And as the lunch lingered, as lunches in Umbria do, Bruno interrupted himself in mid-lecture on the glories of Roman pasta.

“Asparagi,” he said calmly. He got up from his chair, crossed over to the wall of our ancient wood-burning oven and snapped off a pencil-thin spear of wild asparagus that was hiding in and among the other grasses.

“It’s all over the place,” he said. “April is the time. You’ll see hundreds of contadini in the fields and by the side of the road, harvesting them. Here, taste.”

I bit off the end of the slender stalk and chewed on it a bit. It was raw, of course, and a little stringy but the taste fairly attacked me with its vibrancy. Wild asparagus is way wilder than tame asparagus.

“Just imagine,” I thought, “how it’ll make my pee smell.”

With that noble scientific quest in mind, I immediately began to search for more. I looked all around the forno, where Bruno found his and then up the hill toward the olive trees, but there were no more spears to be found.

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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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