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March 2016

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Spring Fling

March 30, 2016

When at their peak, vegetables need only a few ingredients to make them tasty. Pairing vegetables and herbs that grow at the same time can help guide you in the kitchen. Olive oil, herbs, garlic and/or onion, salt and pepper, sometimes it’s just this rustic.

When I stroll through the market I’m looking for freshness, then color (eating a variety of colorful foods is not only pretty but provides needed nutrients and vitamins) and finally what appeals to my family.

The bunches of herbs that sit in front of the vegetables at market stands, naturally complement one another. Ever see basil in January? Not likely. It’s in its full glory in the summer when vine-ripened tomatoes are at their peak, a natural pairing. Dill, parsley and chives, herbs that are thriving now, are beautifully suited with roasted beets, sugar snap peas and asparagus to name just a few.

Here are a few dishes I’ve made so far with my Thursday market purchases. No need for a formal recipe, you got this!  If you’re unsure about quantity then start with a little and add as you see fit. Just remember, you can always add ingredients to a recipe but not take them away.

Sesame Shaved Snap Peas and Asparagus

Cut sugar snap peas on a diagonal and thinly cut or slice on a mandolin asparagus. Add to a bowl. About two cups.

Shaved Asparagus

Combine 4 teaspoons of peanut oil, 4 teaspoons rice wine vinegar, one teaspoon sesame oil and one teaspoon of mirin, salt and pepper to taste and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds. My family devoured it, claiming it one of their favorite ways to eat these vegetables.  Don’t have these ingredients, no problem. A simple olive oil and vinegar combination would be delicious too.

snappeas2

I made a salad of all the fresh vegetables and hard-boiled eggs from the farmers market for lunch. Added some chicken and drizzled my spring buttermilk coulis, so good!

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I enjoy listening to podcasts when at home. One of my favorites is Evan Kleiman. She is the host of Good Food on KCRW.  I learn something new every time, it’s a delight. On a recent episode, a chef describe how he took the root ends of green garlic, put them in a pan, covered with water and simmered for 2-3 hours to make a stock. Brilliant! I did just that and added the green stems as well. This is so good!

Green Garlic roots and tops

You do need to clean the root end as it has a lot of dirt but the results are worth it. This stock is excellent in risotto, soup and you can freeze it too.

For a quick dinner, I sautéed green garlic, spring onions and leek (1-2 each depending on size) added about one cup of this stock, then some white wine. Reduced this by half, toss in a pat of butter then add it to cooked pasta, roasted broccoli and grilled chicken. Throw in a handful of parmesan cheese and some fresh herbs, drizzled with olive oil, it was awesome.

I made asparagus pesto (link below) and it’s wonderful. I added about a tablespoon more olive oil and a teaspoon of lemon juice, other than that I followed the directions. I toasted bread then brushed on the pesto topped it with hard-boiled eggs and baby arugula. Drizzled with olive oil and Maldon Sea Salt tasty!

I would use this pesto in egg salad, top off omelets or tossed with pasta.

Asparagus pesto with hard boiled eggs and baby arugula

Here are more Spring Fling ideas…

  1. Always a favorite entertaining recipe Asparagus and Gruyere Tart and so easy!
  2. Broccoli and Cheese, such a classic combination. This will be on rotation in your house Grilled Cheese with Roasted Broccoli .
  3. This Farro with Spring Vegetables calls for english peas which haven’t made an appearance at the market yet. I’d replace with sugar snap peas.
  4.  I love pesto in all forms so why not try Asparagus Pesto  its wonderful with eggs on toast.
  5. Great tips and techniques for cooking spring vegetables here How To Put Spring On A Plate.
  6. I haven’t made this but it combines two of my favorites this time of year  Green Garlic Soup  .

Later today, I’ll turn the remaining loaf of bread I bought last week into croutons and bread crumbs as I’ll buy a fresh one tomorrow. For dinner I’ll try to use up all the greens I still have by making a salad and sauté some spinach in-yes, you guessed it-green garlic and spring onions. Happy Cooking!

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Home Lifestyle

Hop to it!

March 26, 2016

California has come alive! Farmers Markets are bursting with vibrant flowers and vegetables in all their glory. I had only a short time to peruse the aisles this week but as you can see, I still managed to gather quite a few items. A total of 32 from bread and milk to lettuce and asparagus.

Glorious day at the market! #farmersmarket

What’s new to the market and what’s on its way out? You may see a few butternut squash here and there, but they are pretty much on their way out, cauliflower, brussels sprouts and citrus are dwindling as well. I think we have officially made the transition to spring this week. Strawberries were back. They made an appearance three weeks ago then disappeared. Why? The rain caused mold and that crop was tossed.

Asparagus looks and tastes spectacular. Spring onions, green garlic and leeks still line the colorful market stalls. They are maturing and becoming more flavorful as the weeks go by. According to a few farmers, green garlic and spring onions have approximately 2 more weeks before they are gone until next spring-so snatch them up. I will have a few new ways to use these alliums in a post this weekend.

Green Garlic

Green Garlic

Spring greens are plentiful. Baby arugula, so small and tender, delicate and spicy; I ate it by the handful. A variety of mustard greens with just the right kick. Spinach, baby kale, hefty heads of lettuce and variegated radicchio are abundant.

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As I strolled down one aisle, I spotted a new kid in town. Big wooden crates of Full Belly Farm sugar snap peas were a delight to see. Crunchy and sweet, they are nature’s candy. My Family’s favorite way to enjoy them are raw, eaten right from the fridge We also like them sautéed in a bit of olive oil for just a few minutes, then add some chopped mint and a squeeze of lemon.

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Home Lifestyle Recipes

Spring Buttermilk Coulis

March 17, 2016

Looking for a sauce to drizzle on just about anything? This Spring Buttermilk Coulis is just that. Don’t let the word “coulis” scare you from making this. Coulis (koo-lee) is just a fancy word for “a sauce made with puréed vegetables or fruit and used as a base or garnish”. This coulis is at the heart of spring cooking and it’s simple to make.  Many of the ingredients are readily available at farmers markets this time of year.

Ever heard of green garlic? What started out as farmers thinning their rows of garlic to allow the bulbs to fully mature, has turned into a wildly popular and sought after ingredient. When very young, green garlic looks similar to green onions. As the weeks pass, they grow bigger and start to look like young leeks, eventually turning into heads of garlic. This photo shows both green garlic (the bottom two) and spring onions, available in red and white, purchased from Full Belly Farm at the Thursday Marin Farmers’ Market one week apart. As you can see, both have doubled in size.

Spring Onions and Green Garlic-Gather Weekly

Green garlic makes a cameo appearance for a few weeks from late winter to early spring. Unlike the papery skinned onions and garlic bulbs you see at the grocery store, green garlic has a short shelf life. Since they haven’t matured the flavor is much more mild and can be used raw without being overpowering.

My go-to use of these marvelous alliums is this; slice green garlic, spring onions, and leeks. Sauté in olive oil on low heat so that the vegetables soften without taking on any color. With this mixture on hand, I can add it to many dishes to enhance flavor. A few of my favorite ways to use it is to add to omelets, soups and when puréed, spread on a sandwich.

We drizzled this Spring Buttermilk Coulis (well, I slathered it) over wild salmon. Delicious! The coulis can also be used as a dip for vegetables, as salad dressing (a hit with my family) or with chicken.

 

Spring Buttermilk Coulis

 

Spring Buttermilk Coulis

Spring Buttermilk Coulis

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup each, dill, fennel fronds (the frilly green tops from a fennel bulb, looks like dill*), Italian parsley and chives chopped
  • 1/4 cup sliced green garlic (as these grow larger in their season you may want to use less for they will become more pronounced in flavor)
  • 1/2 cup sliced spring onions
  • PLEASE NOTE: stainless steel "dry" measuring cups were used for the quantities of all ingredients above (herbs, garlic and onions)
  • 1 tablespoon meyer lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (I used slightly more than this but start here, you can always add more if you like)
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • *i had a bulb of fennel. I never know what to do with the fronds so I added them. They are optional

Instructions

  1. Put all ingredients in a blender (I used a vitamin) and blend until smooth
http://gatherweekly.com/spring-buttermilk-coulis/

That pretty garnish? Rosemary blossoms from my backyard. I see them everywhere right now at parks in parking lots and shopping centers around town. They make a charming garnish in a gin and tonic too!

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Home Lifestyle

The Upside of a Downpour

March 11, 2016

Braving the Thursday Marin Farmers Market on a rainy day has its advantages. Parking is a snap. And light crowds gives you the opportunity to talk to the vendors. Farmers can guide you in ways to select, prepare and store their produce better than anyone. And when it is slow, the farmers have more time to answer questions-and tell you about what they’re excited about.

Ever heard of the frilly red mustard green, Ruby Streaks? It’s exciting!

Toss in pasta dishes or add to salads for a peppery bite. This Ruby Streaks salsa verde sounds perfect with grilled chicken. For a weekend brunch I’m having, I plan to make this Ruby Streaks Tart .

 

It’s important to support farmers, rain or shine. They rise while it is still dark, pack their trucks and drive great distances to deliver fresh produce to us. By avoiding distribution channels and multiple handlers,we receive produce at its peak of freshness – the opposite of what you can buy at the store. Did you know that, on average, it takes 5 days for produce to arrive at grocery stores after being harvested? As much as 40% of nutrients are lost during this period.

Gorgeous red, pink and yellow beets from Full Belly Farm. Gather Weekly

And then I did it again…

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GATHER WEEKLY HAS SPRUNG!

March 10, 2016

Spring has sprung in the Bay Area and after a winter of gestation, so has my Gather Weekly blog!

Last Thursday, shoppers at the Marin Farmers Market were greeted with an abundance of seasonal offerings including strawberries, green garlic, spring onions and asparagus.

Rows of goodness. Market report: asparagus, strawberries, potatoes, green garlic, spring onions, Siberian kale, broccoli.....just a few seasonal items that were new or looked exceptionally good this week

It was glorious to see tables overflowing with potatoes, leeks, kale, greens of all kinds, citrus and even a few winter holdouts such as butternut squash. Everything was so beautiful and fresh, I couldn’t resist-which would explain why I came home with 21 items. Yikes!

Last weeks market hull #farmersmarket #knowyourfarmerknowyourfood #eatlocal #strausmilk

 From left to right, here’s what I grabbed. Siberian kale, celery, broccoli, milk and 1/2 & 1/2, yellow beets, red beets, spring onions, green garlic, watermelon radish, carrots, cauliflower, strawberries, pork, brown rice, spinach, chives, italian parsley, asparagus, pullman (loaf of bread) and little gem lettuce. I bought so much that I couldn’t find my butter from Straus Family Creamery eventually discovering it under all the produce in my basket!

Since Thursday, I’ve been cooking like a madwoman and have managed to make quite a dent in this haul. With the root vegetables, I made my favorite Roasted Carrot Soup & root vegetable carpaccio. This simple dish highlights the earthy flavors that I find many root vegetables to have. I simply shaved each vegetable (yellow and red beets, watermelon radish and carrots) with a mandolin.

KODAK SMART LENS Camera

  I have a very fancy mandolin, but I find myself reaching for this Progressive Mandolin  it’s easy to use and compact.

Drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, vinegar (I used Moscatell, a sweet white wine vinegar to off-set the earthy flavor but champagne would work too) and a dash of Maldon sea salt. I didn’t use pepper as the watermelon radish was peppery enough. A sprinkling of chives finished off the dish.

Of course, the strawberries and bread were finished off in no time. The other produce has been used in salads, both roasted and steamed. I have a few more days to use up my purchases, always a challenge on the weeks when I’ve bought more that I should have. I see a cauliflower dish in my near future! Maybe this delicious Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower ?

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