Spring

mixedgreens.jpgBags of organic arugula at the store always tempt me. "Buy me!" they say, "Eat salad for a week, it'll be great!" Of course after three or four days the bag is half full and the contents start to look rather wilted and sad. Then comes regret. Why did I buy that bag in the first place? Recently I found the solution to the problem of wilting greens, a problem that I'm guessing may also be yours. 

It turns out arugula is quite wonderful when lightly sauteed in olive oil. It's somewhat bitter and earthy but in a good way. It's even better if you mix it with some other greens. I use a bit of frozen spinach which is mild but silky and some fresh escarole which has a lovely spring flavor and juiciness when it's cooked. The mixture of flavors and textures creates a compelling dish that isn't just a terrific side dish, but begs to be layered in a grilled cheese sandwich. With or without ham or bacon, this is good stuff!

Read more ...

strawberries.jpgWhen my in-laws from Rhode Island were visiting recently, I mentioned that our strawberry season was coming to a close.

My mother-in-law said, "You mean it's starting, right?

"Nope," I said. "California's strawberry season usually starts in January and ends in June."

"But I don't understand. That's when our strawberry season is just starting," she said. 

Exactly.

California is the advanced-gifted child in the classroom of strawberry production. The United States produces about 2 billion pounds of strawberries every year, 90% of which are grown here. Thanks to our temperate climate, we're able to produce strawberries in the wintertime and ship them across the country. That's why people in Massachusetts can buy fresh strawberries at the Stop & Shop in frigid February.

Read more ...

ramplinguineIt's that time of the year: ramp season! These wild leeks, as they are known, are starting to become available at the farmers' markets. Just last Friday on my visit to the the Union Square Greenmarket, Berried Treasures was selling bags upon bags full of ramps. I'm sure they were all bought up by restaurants that day. But I myself bought a few bunches as I usually do and immediately started thinking of all the recipe possibilities.

Even with all the options, my go-to dish for ramps is always pasta. I love the flavor of the bulbs when they caramelize from sautéing and the greens turn slightly sweet after they have wilted. Tossed with pasta it's as simple and satisfying as it gets. You barely need anything else to make the dish shine because the ramps do all the shining.

For this recipe I like a little heat in the form of chile flakes and a bit of crunch from breadcrumbs. Some lemon juice adds a nice tang and crumbled Parmesan adds touches of saltiness throughout. Try this dish for a lovely spring dinner—add a glass of white wine and you're all set.

Read more ...

casemangoesA week without a trip to the farmers' market is like a week without the sun: it makes me grumpy. I can’t remember the last time I bought produce in a regular grocery store. Sure, I go to the supermarket for eggs, milk, and cereal, but fruits and vegetables come from the farmers. So, what I did other day, shocked me. I tell myself it a was just a transgression.

I was at Costco stocking up on bottled water, protein powder, and toilet paper (why two people need 36 rolls of Northern toilet tissue, I’ll never know). On my way to the protein powder, I passed pineapples, tall, fragrant, ripe pineapples each topped with a crown fit for a king. They had no brown spots, no fuzzy fur on the bottoms—they were perfect. Better yet, they were only $2.99 each. I couldn’t believe it! I put two in my carriage and buried them under the toilet paper.

Not 20 feet later on my way to the water, I passed a mountain of mangoes, whose green and yellow skins were taut and unblemished. Having just paid $1.75 each for some (which weren’t even good), I stopped to check the price -- $8 for a whole case! I debated whether or not to buy them. What would we do with a whole case of mangoes? Would they be sweet? What if they all ripened at the same time?

Read more ...

peas-toastIt was one of those days.  I had run all over town doing errands when suddenly it was 5 o’clock and I remembered that the fridge was uncharacteristically empty.  I got home, ran up the stairs, ran into the kitchen slightly panicked (the Mom must be fed) and saw that the Farmers Market Fairy had come.  Really. That’s what Linda calls herself.  And in that moment I could have kissed her.  

For years I had to be in the studio at KCRW every Wednesday morning for interviews so that meant I missed the Santa Monica market every week.  Until Linda came into my life and started shopping for me.  Now she’s my biggest luxury.  Sitting on my counter were fresh strawberries, kumquats, spigariello, spinach, green garlic, CHERRIES!, Roan Mills bread and peas.  Shelled peas, no less.  

Read more ...