Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, March 4, 2016

Spring is in the air ...

Kay's Cooking Corner

Kay Bona

I am getting so anxious for spring! I have cleaned my patio and garage, dumped out all unusable dirt from my pots, and now I am just waiting for the flowers to hit the nurseries!

Even though we had a mild winter, I am ready for the azaleas and tulips. Some buttercups and forsythia have already started their beautiful, showy blooms and that has made me even more excited.

Easter is almost here – another one of my favorite times, and the month of April. April is one of my very favorite months. I was born in April, my daughter, April, was born in April, and the month of April says “fresh and new” to me.

Also in April, it rains a lot (hopefully) and in May we have lovely flowers blooming everywhere as a result. Another sign of Spring: In April, trying to get into Home Depot or Lowe’s parking lots takes patience and strategy; everyone is there buying flowers, building products, and lawn products. Actually, that has already started. Everyone is anxious for spring!

Another favorite happening of spring is the start-up of farmer’s markets. They are so much fun to just walk around and see what is out there. Usually there is something new; some kind of hybrid vegetable I have never seen before. Like Kalettes, which was in natural food stores this past fall.

Kalettes is a cross between Brussel sprouts and kale, and it looks like a small head of purple kale. It was mainly found at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. I never tried it but I heard that it tasted sweet and nutty.

Then there is Broccoflower, a cauliflower with a pale green tint. This was first grown in Holland and brought to the U.S. by the family farm of Tanimura and Antle in California. It has been around a while, but not found in the markets very often.

Another vegetable you might find more often this spring is Rainbow Carrots. The U.S.D.A’s Agricultural Research Service in Madison, Wisconsin developed the highly pigmented carrots, in a rainbow of purple, red, and yellow. But purple and yellow carrots have been around more than 1,000 years, according to the World Carrot Museum.

In their quest to create a carrot with more beta-carotene, USDA scientists didn’t just add extra orange; they also injected other pigments including red lycopene, yellow xanthophylls and purple anthocyanins. These compounds guard against heart disease, help the eyes, and act as antioxidants.

Another fairly new vegetable, but one I have seen in the markets, is Broccolini, which is a broccoli crossed with Chinese broccoli. This cross was first hybridized in 1993 in Yokohama, Japan. Originally called “apabroc,” it wasn’t until 1998 that it began selling under the name broccolini. It looks just like broccoli, but has longer stalks and smaller florets. Its taste is subtly sweet with a bit of pepper.

Limequat. I haven’t seen this one yet, but it is out there, and I’ve heard it is a pretty interesting little fruit. A cross between a lime and a kumquat, the limequat takes out some of the harsh acidity of the citrus fruit and replaces it with a soft, sweet skin – though some still find the tang a bit too much.

What about the white asparagus that is in the markets these days – have you tried it yet? I haven’t, but I’m thinking I might real soon. White asparagus comes from the process of etiolation, which is the deprivation of light. Dirt is kept mounded around the emerging stalk, depriving it of light. The plant cannot produce chlorophyll without light, thus there is no green color to the stalks.

White asparagus is considered to be slightly milder in flavor and a bit more tender, than green asparagus. All varieties and colors may be used interchangeably in recipes. In fact, I think I might try it in this recipe – springtime one!

Springtime Risotto

3 cups peeled, seeded, diced butternut squash

2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1/4 cup diced onion

1 cup dry Arborio rice

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 cup diced, fresh Asparagus tips

2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

1 Tbsp. chopped fresh sage

2 tsp. unsalted butter

1/2 cup shredded Fontina Cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray baking pan with non-stick spray, and layer the squash in a single layer. Salt and pepper, then roast until tender, about 20 minutes. Remove and set aside. Pour broth into a saucepan; bring to a boil, reduce heat, and then keep on a slow simmer while preparing risotto. Sauté pancetta in a large sauté pan over medium heat until crisp. Add onion; sauté. Stir in rice; sauté 1–2 minutes, coating rice well. Reduce heat to simmer, and add wine. Simmer, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until liquid is absorbed, about 2 minutes. Stir in 1/2-cup broth and simmer until liquid is completely absorbed. Continue adding broth in 1/2-cup additions, stirring constantly and adding more broth only after last addition is absorbed. Taste rice after cooking about 15 minutes; continue cooking until rice is firm but not chalky in the center. Stir in squash, asparagus, parsley, sage, and butter; season with salt, pepper, and cheese. Cook about 5 minutes longer, or until asparagus is tender. Remove from heat. Serve warm.

Kay Bona is a staff writer for the Hamilton County Herald and an award-winning columnist and photographer. Contact her at kay@dailydata.com.