Glimpsing Spring

Ideas and book reviews by Kristina Sepetys

Harbingers of spring are beginning to appear on farmstands and at local markets: bright red strawberries, tender ruffled greens, slender asparagus stalks, purple-tinged artichokes, aromatic herbs, young, flavorful garlic, and baby onions.

East Bay cities together host more than two dozen farmers’ markets, where you can find some of the freshest spring produce, not long off the vine or from the earth. Shopping at the markets brings the chance to chat with farmers about growing food and to sample different fruits and vegetables. Find a full list of local markets online or at the back of every issue of Edible East Bay.

At Knoll Farms in Brentwood, Rick and Kristie Knoll are harvesting spicy arugula, pea and fava greens, mixed chicories, chards and lettuces, cardoons and artichokes, horseradish root, and a mix of herbs. But of especial note, they’ve got what many describe as “the green garlic,” a tender, versatile, ephemeral, young garlic, harvested before the bulb is fully formed. Chop some green garlic with a little mint, parsley, or other herbs from your garden and serve it atop a round of Acme bread with Cowgirl Creamery’s Fromage Blanc or a local goat cheese. Add a bit of prosciutto if inclined. You’ll be hooked! And by the way, green garlic is turning up in CSA boxes and on menus all over town. Berkeley’s Local Butcher Shop is featuring it in various combinations on to-go sandwiches this week, like in this mix of roast beef, smoked beets, green garlic, Greek yogurt dressing, parsley, pistachios, romaine, aioli, and red onions, all on an Acme sweet deli roll.

Get to know another seasonal growing hero, Dirty Girl Produce, at the Tuesday farmers’ market in Berkeley. Bring home some strawberries, red and chioggia beets, or red Russian or lacinato kale to cook up using recipes in the new cookbooks described below. Or go out to eat at local restaurants featuring Dirty Girl Produce, like Gioia Pizzeria, Haven, or Penrose. According to Melissa Swanson, owner of Benchmark Pizzeria in Kensington, “Nearly all our produce comes from local farms like Riverdog, Full Belly Farm, and Dirty Girl Produce.” Benchmark uses that produce to delicious effect. Try it in their Housemade Sausage and Dandelion Greens pizza with spring onions, tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, and parmesan cheese.

If you’re inspired to put shovel to soil and grow your own, East Bay Nursery and Berkeley Horticultural Nursery have lists of seasonal planting tips on their websites and a variety of seeds and plant starts for sale. This week, Annie’s Annuals in Richmond features the invincible Richmond’s Pride purple tree collard and delicately spicy Ruby Streaks mustard greens. Flowerland in Albany is setting out tender young plant starts. Blue Egg Farm, the only Orinda-based farm at the Orinda Farmers’ Market, sells starts and produce, herbs and eggs at the Saturday market and also by delivery.

And don’t forget to check out Jessica Prentice’s wonderful column, Seven Stars of Spring
in the most recent issue of the magazine, with suggestions for using cardoons, lovage, nasturtiums, and other springtime delights!



Sweeter off the Vine: Fruit Desserts for Every Season
by Yossy Arefi
(Ten Speed Press, 2016)

Food writer, photographer, and creator of the award-winning blog Apt. 2B Baking Co., Yossy Arefi writes a regular column for Food52. Her cookbook assembles recipes for pies, cakes, tarts, ice cream, preserves, and other sweet treats to celebrate the fruits of each season. Inspired by Arefi’s Iranian heritage, her recipes showcase seasonal fruits enhanced with flavors like rose and orange flower water, bittersweet chocolate and cacao nibs, and whole-grain flours like rye and spelt. Beautiful from-the-garden recipes like Lemon Verbena Olive Oil Cake, Rhubarb and Rose Galettes, Pistachio Pound Cake with Strawberries in Lavender Sugar, and Fresh Mint Ice Cream with Cacao Nibs are just a few you’ll want to try. The gorgeous photography in the cookbook is a confection unto itself!



The Broad Fork: Recipes for the Wide World of Vegetables and Fruits
by Hugh Acheson
(Clarkson Potter, 2015)

From Georgia-based chef, restaurateur, and James Beard Award winner Hugh Acheson, 200 recipes, organized by season, designed to make the most of your farmers’ market bounty. Perhaps being Canadian-born makes Acheson appreciate the wonder of spring after a season of deprivation. He writes, “Spring means ramps, morels, and English peas —things that just taste so good to a thawing world and eager palates.” Explore the market offerings through his simple dishes made special, like Savory Asparagus Custard; Fava Bean Salad with Mint, Garlic, Arugula, and Salami; Grits with Speck and Caramelized Fennel; and Spring Onion Risotto. This is a cookbook bursting with subtle, creative dishes that, in the words of Acheson, “help you bring vegetables to the center of your plate.”