Spring

quinoasaladAh, Spring! We are enjoying a warm spell right now and the fresh produce reflects the change of seasons with earthy root vegetables giving way to tender bright greens. I am so happy to have sunshine and bright green asparagus to eat!

I recently discovered how delicious asparagus is when served raw, in salads. The trick is to shave it thinly with the sharpest vegetable peeler you have, then dress it with oil, lemon and salt so it wilts, just slightly. Asparagus is like the poster child for Spring.

I had eaten quinoa, but never tried cooking it until just recently when I received some samples of it--red, white and black--from Roland Food. Reading about quinoa I discovered while it has the texture of grain, it's actually a fruit. It's also gluten-free. It is very bitter unless thoroughly soaked and rinsed. Fortunately quinoa from Roland Food is already soaked saving me the bother.

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babychokesI've always been a big Globe artichoke kind of girl. That was until a couple of years ago when I tried baby artichokes. Now, I have learned to divide my love between them both.

Baby artichokes are fully mature artichokes, as their rich, earthy flavor attests to, but they're picked from the lower part of the plant, where they simply don't develop as much. As a result, the artichoke's characteristic fuzzy choke isn't all that fuzzy and can be eaten.

In fact, other than a few tough outer loves, the entire artichoke is edible. So baby artichokes have all the flavor of their larger counterparts but without all the work. That's why they're ideal for a mid-week meal.

Select baby artichokes that are heavy for their size and have tight, firm, green or purple tinged leaves. White or brown streaks indicate frost bite or wind-burn; they are still edible, just unattractive. Do not, however, buy them if they're spongy or appear overly dry, brittle, or pitted. Baby artichokes can be refrigerated for up to 4-5 days, though the sooner you use them the better they'll taste.

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linguineEvery Friday night I like to do pasta night. I love pasta dishes because they're quick to make and so satisfying to eat. And they don't at all need to be complicated. Sometimes all you need are a few pantry staples like canned tomatoes, capers, or olives to make a delicious sauce that doesn't take hours to cook. That's the true appeal of pasta.

Oftentimes when I don't feel like eating meat I'll whip together a vegetarian-style pasta or I'll make a quick Carbonara. Other times I'll make pasta with fish, adding seared cubes of fish to finish cooking in the sauce—you'd be surprised how wonderful fish is with tomato sauce. This recipe for pasta with swordfish is one of my favorites.

The best part about this recipe is that you use one pan (not including the pasta pot). Start by making the lemon and parsley crumb topping. Then wipe out the pan and sear the fish. And finally make the sauce and cook the pasta. Once it's all done, add the fish back to the pan along with the pasta to let the flavors mingle. Serve the pasta sprinkled with the crumbs instead of grated Parmesan, since cheese on fish is frowned upon by Italians (and I happen to agree with that assessment). Enjoy this dish for dinner any night—it's also great for Lent.

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favabeans.jpgFinally, the wait is over! Fava beans are in season. They appeared for the first time last Sunday, and I couldn't be happier. I know how hard the wait has been on you too, but you can rest easy now. Well don't rest too easily. Fava beans have a depressingly short season--usually just 4-5 weeks in April-May.

Fava (FAH vah) beans, like artichokes, asparagus, and English peas are a hallmark of spring time produce. These meaty, chewy legumes are exceptionally flavorful; they're similar in taste to edamame and have the firm texture of lima/butter beans. In general, the larger the pod, the better the bean. So when you see them, buy them, even if they're $3.00-4.00/pound. You won't be disappointed.

And don't worry about what to call them. According to Wiki and Cook's Thesaurus, you're correct if you say Vicia faba, broad bean, butter bean, faba bean, English bean, field bean, horse bean, tic bean, or Winsdor bean. I'm not making this up. I think someone actually wrote a dissertation entitled "The Many Appellations of the Bean, Fava."

So call 'em whatever you want, just don't miss them. And follow these instructions for shelling. They take a little effort because you have to shell them twice, but trust me, they're worth it.

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roastedasparagusSide dishes are the key to making every meal a hit. They are essentially the glue that holds dinner 
together. Roasted asparagus is by far Spring's quintessential veggie and this mustard-dill vinaigrette 
just takes it up a notch! Now, having said that, asparagus can be the quintessential enemy of wine.



This vegetable is a member of the lily family and contains the sulfurous amino acid known as 
methionine. This chemical compound is the culprit that causes the notorious "asparagus-pee" effect 
known to many who can smell it, not everyone can. Lucky them.

When methionine is coupled with asparagus' already green and grassy flavors, it can make wine 
taste dank, metallic, thin and even bitter. Overall, it's not good.

The only way to work against this collision of taste buds is to prepare the asparagus a certain way or 
drink the right wine varietal with this wonderful Spring vegetable.



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