Spring

pastagreens2.jpgA few weeks ago at the farmers' market I asked for a bunch of beets. The farmer grabbed a beautiful bunch: five crimson colored globes topped with remarkably long, red stalks and large, crisp leafy greens. I could practically taste them.

Then right in front of my eyes, before I could utter a word, he beheaded my beautiful beets and flung the greens into a dirty cardboard box with other sad, misfit vegetables.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

"What? You didn't want them did you?" he asked, incredulous.

Didn't want them?
! The beet greens are the best part.

It made me miss Carlos, the farmer from whom I bought beets all last year when we lived in LA. One Sunday when Carlos saw me coming, he ran from the table into the back of his van. He motioned me to follow him. When I reached the back of the van, he uncovered a big box full of fresh bunches of beet greens and flashed me a smile. "For me?" I asked. "For you, Miss."

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dandelionsFrom the LA Times

"But they're weeds."

My much better half is not, shall we say, "adventurous" when it comes to greens: A "real" salad is built around a wedge of iceberg or chopped romaine. Stewed collards are fine for New Year's Eve, and sautéed spinach can make an occasional appearance at the dinner table. But that's where the love ends. Forget arugula and radicchio, and don't even think about frisee.

So when I pitched dandelion greens for dinner the other night, well, you can probably understand the breathless shock.

Dandelions are an assertive green, just ask any gardener who's had to battle them on the front lawn or in cracks on the driveway. Unwanted, any greens are "weeds."

But have you ever bitten into a dandelion leaf? The flavor is tangy, even borderline bitter, with a definite texture. It's an assertiveness that can work wonders in the kitchen, provided you know how to handle it and pair the greens with complementary flavors.

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clamsparsley.jpgAt the Wednesday Santa Monica Farmers’ Market — two blocks from the Pacific Ocean — we’re finding one of the treasures of spring: green garlic, thick as a leek and two feet long.

With fresh green garlic, everything is edible except for the outermost skin. The farmer I buy them from swears that even the roots are edible. With some trepidation I nibble on a root strand and am pleasantly surprised that it has heat and an intense garlic flavor.

Next to the stand with the green garlic is Carlsbad Aqua Farm where we buy our fresh mussels, oysters, clams, and scallops. The idea was obvious to me: green garlic and clams.

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matzosalmonI love salmon. I probably eat entirely too much of it.

But what I love about salmon are the possibilities available to turn this simple fish into so many different amazing dishes. Salmon's blank canvas allows for everything from rich, heavy cream sauces to light and lemony bases to enhance its taste.

When I came across this recipe for Roasted Salmon with a Lemon-Herb Matzo Crust, I thought, how perfect for this time of year, matzo is everywhere. If you have never had matzo, it's time to pick out a box.

It's basically a giant unleavened cracker and is quite enjoyable when slathered with butter...yes, I eat it this way...it's supposed to replace bread...so why not.

Anyway, the crust on this fish is to die for, so full of flavor with the herbs, lemon and butter. I highly recommend this dish for any night of the week. It's high on the yum factor.

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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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