Posts Tagged ‘Spring’


At the farmers market on Saturday, a vendor was selling fresh chamomile.  I had no idea what a person does with fresh chamomile, but it was a $1.50, smelled good, and looked pretty.  I figured at the very least, $1.50 was a small price to pay for something that would look cute on my windowsill for a few days.

I had some time though so I wanted to find something to do with it.  There are a handful of recipes floating around on the internets for chamomile.  Nothing really struck my fancy, so I searched for lavender recipes, thinking that the two would be somewhat interchangeable.

Since I also had a huge bag of strawberries, this recipe for strawberries with lavender syrup on Epicurious intrigued me.  I had to change it up to use things that I actually had in my fridge and because I wanted a cold, not warm, dessert.  I was really pleased with the finished product.  The chamomile adds this wonderfully sweet, floral taste to the syrup and it makes for a nice light, fresh spring dessert.  The original recipe recommends serving it with sour cream or creme fraiche, but I had greek yogurt on hand, which worked really well and made it much healthier.  It would probably be nice over vanilla ice cream as well.

Strawberries with Chamomile Syrup and Lemon Sugar


1/3 cup plus 1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons honey
20 fresh chamomile flowers
1-2 pints of fresh strawberries, hulled, sliced

Greek yogurt, creme fraiche, ice cream, or sour cream to serve.

Mash 1/3 cup sugar and lemon peel in small bowl to blend well. 

Bring 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup water, honey, and chamomile to boil in heavy small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves.  Reduce heat to medium and simmer until chamomile flavor is pronounced, about 3 minutes.  Let the syrup cool and strain.  Pour the syrup over the sliced strawberries.

I let the syrup sit for about an hour to macerate the berries a bit in it.  With one pint of strawberries, the mixture is quite syrupy so feel free to add more if you’d like a thicker sauce.

Scoop about a half cup or so of Greek yogurt (or whatever creamy thing you are using) into bowls and spoon a couple spoonfuls of strawberries and syrup over the yogurt.  Sprinkle a bit of lemon sugar on each bowl and serve.


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I’ve been curious about Nate Appleman of San Francisco’s A16 and SPQR ever since I saw him battle Michael Symon on Iron Chef.  Now that he just won a James Beard Award for Rising Star Chef, going to one of his restaurants is topping my list of things to do this summer.  In the meantime, however, this month’s Food and Wine magazine comes through with a couple of his recipes.

We got a huge bunch of asparagus in our farm share on Friday, so it seemed like a good opportunity to try his Smoky Glazed Asparagus recipe.  I never would have thought to marinade vegetables in a mayonnaise-based sauce before cooking them, but it works.  Most of the sauce cooks off as you grill them, so they don’t taste mayo-y at all, but rather, get this great creamy, charred taste to them.


The recipe comes in two versions, so if you want to make Sean Hannity cry, you can opt for the fancy mustard flavor.

Smoky Glazed Asparagus


1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tablespoon sweet smoked paprika 
1 teaspoon kosher salt  (The recipe called for 2 teaspoons, which was way too much.)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds  (I used 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin powder.)
1 pound thick asparagus, trimmed


Light a grill. In a shallow dish, whisk the mayonnaise with the oil, lemon juice, garlic, paprika, salt and cumin. Add the asparagus and toss; let stand for 30 minutes.


Grill the asparagus over moderately high heat, turning, until tender and blistered in spots, 6 minutes; serve.


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Lately, I’ve been obsessed with stinging nettles.  I only ate them once, on a pizza at Chez Panisse a year ago, but they were delicious.  I thought it would be fun to cook them, and since they are a spring vegetable, I’ve been on a quest to find some.

I went to Berkeley Bowl, the local produce mecca, to try to find some.  This place houses every fruit and vegetable known to man and yet they did not have nettles.  Sigh…  Determined not to leave without some weird produce, I bought a handful of ramps.  I’ve never cooked ramps, but they smelled like they’d taste good and in any event, they’d be better than the durian they were selling.


If you’ve never eaten ramps, they taste like a cross between a leek and garlic.  You can eat the entire thing – bulb, stalks, and greens.  They sound expensive (mine were $11.99/pound) but a little goes a very, very long way.  I only bought a quarter pound of them (about 25 stalks), and didn’t even use all of that for this recipe.  A quick google search reveals a bunch of different preparations for them, so if you can get your hands on some, buy them and cook them.  They are delicious, and from what I understand, only available in the spring.

To keep with the spring vegetable theme, I also bought some local asparagus.


I decided I would make a white pizza with these vegetables.  Food and Wine has a recipe for ramp pizza that was the inspiration, though my end result differed significantly.  I was really happy with how it turned out, it was absolutely delicious.

A word of warning, however.  Most of the recipes for ramps or asparagus on pizza involve chopping them up into little bits.  I wanted a pretty pizza, so I didn’t do that and left them whole.  Well, there’s a reason chefs recommend chopping them up and that is that asparagus and ramps are both very fibrous vegetables, making them difficult to just bite into.  So, if you leave them whole, this wouldn’t be the most elegant pizza to eat with your hands.  You really need a knife and fork to cut through the vegetables so that you don’t take a whole stalk off with one bite.  So, think about how you’ll be serving this before you decide how pretty you want it.

White Pizza with Ramps and Asparagus


Pizza dough – I used this recipe, which is a little on the chewy side.  You can use a different one if you prefer a thinner, crisper crust.

4-6 ounces fresh mozzerrella, shredded or torn up into small bits
2-3 Tablespoons grated parmesan
15 or so asparagus stalks, woody ends removed
15 or so ramps
2 Tablespoons pine nuts
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper


Preheat oven to 450.  If you want to preheat the cookie sheet or pizza stone as well, you can do that and you’ll probably have to reduce the cooking time by a couple minutes.  I’m not adept enough to transfer my assembled pizza to a hot pan quickly, so I don’t bother with that step, though I realize it probably results in a better crust.

In a pot of salted water, blanch the ramps for 30 seconds and then the asparagus for about 3 minutes.  Just remove the ramps with tongs and add the asparagus right in so you don’t have to heat up a second pot of water.  Toss both in a splash of olive oil and salt and pepper.

Roll out pizza dough to a rectangle so it fits a standard cookie sheet and lightly brush a tablespoon or so of olive oil on it.  Sprinkle the pizza with the mozzerrella.

Place the asparagus on the pizza, alternating the tips with the bottoms, across the entire length.  Then place the ramps between each stalk of asparagus, alternating the white bulbs with the green leafs, across the entire length.  You should be able to get about 15 or so of each vegetable all the way across.  Sprinke the entire pizza with the parmesan and pine nuts.  


Bake it in the oven at 450 for 10-12 minutes, until the asparagus is nicely roasted and the crust of the pizza is starting to brown.

Let it cool and cut it with a very sharp knife.


The end result was delicious.  While I’m still on the hunt for nettles (anyone in this area see them for sale anywhere?), I’m very happy that I discovered ramps.

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It’s strawberry season in California and I have been obsessed.  I feel the urge to buy local strawberries whenever I see them at farmer’s markets and produce stands.  I bought so many this week that I couldn’t keep up with eating them them before they went bad.  And, when I realized more strawberries would be coming my way in my Eatwell box this week, I knew I had to do something.

I had flagged this scone recipe from Confessions of a Tart in my blog reader recently, as it looked so easy and so delicious.   I made the batter the night before and it really just took a few minutes.  The next morning, I baked it and yum, yum.  I definitely recommend it to satisfy your strawberry baked good fix.  Or any fruit baked good fix, really.

Strawberry Scones

1 cup strawberries (or other fruit)
3 tablespoons sugar – I used vanilla sugar (threw a scraped out vanilla bean pod in a container of sugar, let it sit indefinitely)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, in cubes, slightly softened
2/3 cup half-and-half or cream or cold buttermilk

1 tablespoon sugar (again, I used vanilla sugar)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet or cover it in parchment.  Don’t skip this step.  I did and wound up with burnt strawberry bits encrusted on my sheet.

If using larger fruit, cut into bite-sized pieces.  At least quartered, more if needed.  Sprinkle fruit with 1/2 tablespoon sugar; set aside.  Be sure to make the pieces small, or they tend to fall out of the dough.  They’ll still be plenty prominent in your finished scones.

Combine remaining sugar with flour, baking powder and salt. Add butter, using a pastry cutter or your fingers to evenly mix the butter into flour.  Stir in fruit; then add cream/half-and-half/buttermilk all at once.  Gently stir dough until it holds together.

Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times to incorporate dry ingredients.  Be gentle so you don’t break up the berries and don’t overwork the dough.  Sprinkle dough with flour if it gets sticky. 

Pat the dough into a circle 3/4 inch thick.  If any berries peek out, push them into dough.  At this point, I wrapped it up in plastic wrap and stuck it in the fridge to bake in the morning.  Scone dough can sit for a couple days in the fridge since it doesn’t have any eggs in it.  But if you want to power through and bake it right away, no need to refridgerate.

Cut circle into 6-8 wedges, then transfer wedges to the cookie sheet, leaving at least 1/2 inch of space between them. Bake 15 minutes.

Sprinkle with sugar and bake 5-10 more minutes or until the tops are beginning to brown and spring back when you push them.  (The sprinkling of sugar over the top for the last few minutes of baking creates a simple, sparkly topping.


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Eatwell gave us a big bunch of mint on Friday, so between that and my successful cheesemaking experiement, I knew I had to try this spread.

It’s really good.  It’s fresh and light and tastes like spring.  And, even if you make your own ricotta, it’s still really easy.  I don’t think you’d want to make this with grocery store ricotta.  If you have a good cheese counter or a Whole Foods or some place that carries fresh ricotta, go with that if you don’t want to make your own.

The recipe comes from the April 2008 Gourmet.


1/2 garlic clove
1 1/2 cups whole-milk ricotta
1/4 cup finely chopped mint
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Flaky sea salt to taste


Finely mince the garlic clove and, using a fork, mash it with a tiny pinch of salt.  Mix all the ingredients together, adding additional salt if needed.

I ate it for lunch on fresh sourdough bread.  Yum.


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