Category Archives: Spring
BiRite Market opened up a location a short bike ride from my house, and I’ve made it an excuse to shop in smaller quantities and incorporate the exercise of going to the store as an excuse to make even fresher meals. These beautiful PEI mussels were filled to the edge of their shells with meat, the freshest I’ve seen in a long while and exceptionally tender.
When shopping for shellfish, always make sure your shells are not broken (throw the mussel out if it is!), that they close when you agitate them, are free of debris on the outside (scrub them with cold water), and that you toss any that don’t open after cooking (though a small crack open is perfectly fine!).
In case you have not cleaned or bought bivalves before, here’s what I do to clean them up and inspect them:
How to Clean Mussels and Clams
1) Bring them home immediately, and if you aren’t using them in the next hour, open up their bag and put them in the refrigerator so they can breathe, or set them on ice and leave them out, as they do in the store. Always buy them the same day you intend to cook them.
2) 30 minutes to 1 hour before cooking, place them in very cold fresh water and leave them unagitated for at least 10 minutes. They will relax, open up, and use the fresh water, thus rinsing out any sediment, sand, etc from the inside of their shells.
3) Before removing them from the water, inspect each mussel or clam for any missing chunks, major cracks, etc. If it has an imperfection, throw it out. If it does not close when you handle it, throw it out. Even when buying from a quality fishmonger, you’ll likely have 1-2 that get thrown out before cooking.
4) Next, if especially dirty, replace the cleaning water and recover in very cold water. Remove any “beards” or seaweed looking bits that are hanging out the side of the mussels shells. Do this with a quick jerking action down towards the thickest side of the mussel. It will take a little effort, especially if they are very fresh. Strain them and cook them within 20 minutes or so!
Mussels & Clams Pastis Recipe
1.5-2lb of mussels and clams
2 T olive oil
1 large shallot, chopped finely
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 C white wine
1 C Pernod or other anise liquor
2 T fresh parsley, roughly chopped
salt & pepper
In a large pan that will fit all of the mussels and clams, add the olive oil and heat to medium. Add the garlic and shallot, cooking until nearly translucent or beginning to be translucent, but not caramelized or browned. Add some salt, the white wine and pernod, and reduce slightly, raising heat immediately to high or medium high.
Add the mussels and/or clams and cover, cooking about 2 minutes before checking. Cover again if they are not all or mostly opened. When all are opened, remove lid and stir well, adding fresh cracked pepper. Remove the mussels and clams and set aside in a warm spot or in a heated bowl (or place into heated individual serving bowls). Change heat to high and reduce liquid by 1/2, then add the parsley and serve over the mussels and clams.
Serve with french fries or bread with butter.
Spring is a time of transition–Fava beans, along with calcots, ramps & fiddleheads, are some of my favorite in-between spring crops. The hearty fava’s season is a bit longer, and they’re more available across climates and geographies than some of the others, and they pair well with a variety of other foods, and can be really enjoyed both hot and cold.
Blood oranges have a late season this year, so I’m still enjoying them here in California. This is a really straight forward but delicious and loved dish, which serves 3-4 as a side.
Fava Bean & Blood Orange Salad Recipe
1-2lb fresh fava beans, whole
1 medium blood orange, peeled with a knife
1 tbsp (Spanish! buttery!) olive oil
Ricotta salata (or bits of fresh goat cheese, farmer’s cheese, sheep’s feta or shaved pecorino romano)
lots of salt & fresh cracked pepper
Pop the beans out of their pods, and bring water to boil. Boil the beans for about 1 minute, until the color has brightened a bit. Strain, and dunk immediately into a cold water or ice water bath. Once cooled, strain again and begin peeling the beans out of their membrane. You can do this part ahead, stopping at any junction and resuming later. Cut the blood orange into diced chunks. Toss all the ingredients together, topping with shaved ricotta salata (which I clearly managed to get in the photo…) or other cheese as mentioned above.
I’ve served this arugula salad with pistachios countless times over the last month. For a catering event I headed, for friends at dinner time, for family at dinnertime, for lunch with a friend, while visiting Calistoga, and others. It’s a hit 100% of the time and it’s very filling.
Arugula Salad with Pistachio Dust Recipe
8-10 cups baby or wild arugula
3 oz parmigiano reggiano, freshly grated
1/2 C raw hulled pistachios, ground in coffee grinder or mashed with mallette into dust, crumbs, and chunks
Juice of 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic, minced
fresh cracked pepper
Whisk the lemon juice with olive oil–use 2x more olive oil than lemon juice. Add garlic, salt, and pepper. Toss arugula in the dressing. Toss arugula in parmasean, then in pistachio. Serve!
I was craving some vegetables this morning and remembered I had a beautiful Wakefield cabbage in the fridge–I unpacked it from my CSA box from Eatwell Farms last Thursday and noticed how soft and supple its leaves were, and its unusual pear shape. I don’t think I’ve had this variety before–it’s a pale, bearess lime type of green with a pointed top. The green garlic and eggs in this recipe are also from Eatwell.
The bowl in the photos above is my favorite at the moment, for everything from a meal of strawberries & cashew cream to soup to salad and beyond. It’s from Art & Manufacture on Etsy, and she shipped super quickly!
Coconut Cabbage and Eggs Recipe with Green Garlic
3-4 large cabbage leaves (tender Wakefield if you can find it), sliced very thinly
1 stalk green garlic or 2 scallions or 1 spring onion, sliced thinly
1/4 C fresh English peas, shelled (I bought 5 lbs from Mariquita Farms recently!)
1/3 C coconut milk or Spicy Lemon Coconut Sauce
2 eggs, whisked
2 tsp olive oil
1 Tbsp parsley, chopped
Optional: 1/2 Jalapeno or other hot, small pepper chopped finely
Heat a pan to low heat and add 1-2 tsp olive oil. Add the green garlic (or scallion/spring onion) and cook until beginning to lose shape, a few minutes. Turn the heat to medium high and add the cabbage, stir, and add a generous pinch of sea salt. Cook 2-3 minutes until cabbage begins to wilt.
Add the coconut milk, peas, and the pepper if using, and cook until cabbage is totally wilted, about 4 minutes. It will still have texture. Reduce heat to medium and add the scrambled eggs.
Chop the almonds (mine were soaked and sprouted) while the eggs cook, stirring the egg and cabbage mixture occasionally. When eggs are cooked, it is finished. Top with parsley and lightly mix, and finally the almonds.
Paired with a quick asparagus appetizer, this Green Garlic Soup and Fennel-Barley Salad made a wonderful vegetarian 3-course meal. I made this for an old roommate who came to visit last night; were stuffed but happy and feeling good. Our fourth course was chocolate-covered honey cake with sliced mango.
Green Garlic Soup Recipe
~1lb green garlic, sliced roughly
2 T butter or olive oil
1/2 C dry sherry
1 large turnip, roasted or boiled
3-4 cups spinach
8 cups vegetable or chicken broth
salt & pepper
In a soup pan, warm the oil or butter over medium high heat. Add the green garlic, cooking until nearly tender and beginning to color. Add the sherry and cook 3-4 minutes until no brash smell remains. Add salt, and the broth, and bring to a simmer. Add the turnip and the spinach, cooking 1-2 minutes more. Puree in a high powered blender or by another method, being sure to go in batches if needed to avoid a mess. Adjust the seasoning, adding some sherry or wine vinegar if needed. Serve with delicious croutons and garlic chives on top.
Fennel Barley Salad Recipe (with roast radishes and flageolet beans)
1.5 C cooked pearled barley
1/2 head fennel, sliced very thinly
1 C flageolet beans, cooked, or other salad bean
9-12 stem on mix of easter egg radishes, french radishes, or petite turnips, roasted whole and sliced in half
3-4 C mixed tender salad greens
3-4 T Fennel Citrus Dijon Salad Dressing
2 T olive oil
On high heat, fry the cooked barley in olive oil until grains separate easily and everything is warm. Add the fennel for 1 minute, then turn the heat off and add the radish mixture and beans to the pan. Toss well. In a large bowl, dress the salad greens generously in dressing. Add the warm barley mixture and toss. Serve!
Fennel-Citrus Dijon Salad Dressing Recipe
1 T dijon
1/4 C fennel fronds
Juice of 1/2 large orange
Zest of 1/2 an orange
1 T honey
1 T olive or sunflower oil
2 T apple cider vinegar
Blend all ingredients very well. Stores for up to a week in the refrigerator.