neworleansrings.jpg There's something about rounds of sliced onions coated with crisp, crunchy goodness and dusted with salt that I just can't resist.

My first remembrance of onion rings is a box of frozen Mrs. Paul's that I would dump out on one of my mom's cookie sheets and bake as an after-school snack to share with friends who would come over after a long day of high school classes.

Over the years I've become much more selective with the onion rings I eat. I never, never eat the kind from the freezer case at the grocery store. And I never order them at a restaurant unless I know for sure they are made in-house.

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foxglovesElegant…purely elegant is the word that comes to mind when I think of foxgloves and delphiniums. Very similar in appearance and growth habit, these two garden goodies are excellent additions the spring tableau and fantastic in arrangements.

Digitalis purpurea is the Latin name for foxgloves. The genus Digitalis gathers its name from the ease of which one’s fingers, or digits, can be capped by the floral bells cascading down their stalks. In literary lore, a fox could slip its paws into the bells and use them as gloves - thus the common name. I bet Beatrix Potter had something to do with that. Pinks, creams, lavenders, lilacs, yellows, peaches, and speckled mixes of them all abound in the foxglove color range.

As for other uses besides gorgeous garden elements, the Digitalis genus is used in cardiology to create several types of heart medicine and even some neurological medicines. Quite amazing considering the whole plant, roots, leaves, seeds, and stems are toxic! The pharmaceutical positives are extracted from the leaves…somewhat akin to using snake venom for medicine or a flu vaccination. Don’t worry about the toxicity…just don’t eat them!

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From the L.A. Times

asparagus.jpgI'm wary of people who dig too deep for food metaphors, particularly when they involve religion, but if ever there were a case for a perfect pairing of produce and season, it would be asparagus and Easter.

I love brightly colored eggs and bunny rabbits as much as the next guy. But if you want a concrete example of rebirth and the potential for new beginnings, just walk an asparagus field in early spring. What a few weeks before had been acres of brown raw dirt is now studded with hundreds of bright green asparagus spears poking through. In a month or so, the harvest finished, it will be a waist-high forest of ferns.

This is one metaphor that never fails to make me hungry. Over the last couple of weeks I've eaten asparagus for dinner at least three times. That may not seem like a lot, but when I say "eaten asparagus for dinner," that's just what I mean: My dinner was asparagus. OK, maybe some bread, too. And a glass of wine (though asparagus can be a tough match, Navarro Gewürztraminer is perfect).

The first night, I boiled it and dressed it with just a little very fruity olive oil, lemon juice and a generous sprinkling of crunchy sea salt. The next time, I steamed it and served it with a brown butter sauce and minced herbs.

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cheeses.jpgThe weather can't seem to decide what it wants to do, in turn making it hard to decide what to eat: something comforting and cheesy or something fresher and green? I decided the only solution was to combine the two.

One of the great American dishes has got to be macaroni and cheese. Gooey, cheesy and rich with a slight crunch on the top it is pure goodness in a casserole dish. The one problem I have with macaroni and cheese is the guilt. It's soooo rich, it's not the healthiest dish in the world.

One way to make a dish healthier is to cut back on the rich ingredients, like the milk, butter and cheese. Well, that's no fun! I'd rather add in some heathy but tasty stuff as a compromise that really doesn't feel like a compromise at all. My healthy additions are some peas and artichoke hearts, both tasty Spring arrivals. They both go particularly well with gruyere cheese. And gruyere is a perfect cheese for macaroni and cheese.

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redpepperdip"Back again?" (no smile)

That's the response I got from the cashier when I returned to my local market for the third time in three days.

"Wow, you must really love peppers." (eye roll)

That's what she said when I gently placed my nine red bell peppers on the conveyor belt. That's after having bought six the previous day and three before that, all with the same cashier. Does she ever go home?

I took umbrage neither to her eye rolling nor to her indelicate handling of my pristine peppers. If she doesn't realize the mind-blazing deal of red bell peppers 3 for $1, then I can't help her. I also won't be sharing my garlicky roasted red pepper and almond dip with her. So, there.

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