Cooking Fresh

cooking freshWhat a long, strange trip it’s been since frost hit local fields last October. Locavores are weary of gnawing stored roots, but just when it seemed we should give up and move to Berkeley (where you can eat local asparagus on Valentine’s Day), chives leap up and proclaim the return of fresh foods.

Like those you-been-gone-too-long lovers’ airport embraces, I eat dandelion salad with garlic shoots every day in April. I hear these foods are blood-cleansing tonics, much needed after winter’s dietary doldrums, but my only motivation is the delight of masticating something green again.

Never mind the champagne flutes you raised on December 31st—the new food year starts right now, and I’m full of resolutions. I solemnly swear to cook every night, pack a lunch every morning, and throw dinner parties every weekend. I’ll visit farms, join the raw-milk club, conquer pie crust, hunt mushrooms, cultivate sourdough starter, make peace with eggplant, establish a beehive on my roof and freeze peas and peaches in my basement. Really. No matter that I vowed to do all this last year, and the year before. Like the chives that inspire me, hope springs eternal.

WHAT’S IN SEASON, WHAT’S LOCAL

PRODUCE
Asparagus
Bok Choi & Tat Soi
Cherries
Green Garlic
Garlic Scapes
Herbs
Lettuce
Arugula
Spinach
Mushrooms (farmed and wild)
Peas
Radishes
Rhubarb
Scallions
Squash Blossoms
Strawberries

MEAT AND SEAFOOD
American Eel
Blackfish
Black Sea Bass
Blowfish
Blue Crab
Bluefish
Butterfish
Chicken
Clams
Conch
Oysters & Mussels
Eggs
Milk & Cheese
Dogfish
Flounder
Fluke
Herring & Herring Roe (Shad & Shad Roe)
Lobster
Mackerel
Mako Shark
Monkfish
Perch
Porgies
Striped Bass
Sea Robin
Sea Scallop
Skate
Squid
Swordfish
Tilefish
Tuna
Weakfish
Whitebait

SPRING CEVICHE

by Jacques Gautier, Palo Santo, Park Slope

Ceviche can be made with many types of fish (we always start with a whole fresh fish, which must be cleaned) or clams or oysters (one of my favorites is with live bay scallops). If using shellfish, remember that shucked they will weigh much less.

1 lb. fish or shellfish, cut into bite-size pieces
Juice of 4 limes
2 t. (or to taste) salt
1 t. extra-virgin olive oil
1⁄2 red onion, chopped fine
1⁄4 bunch cilantro, leaves only
1 fresh chile, seeded and sliced (for a mild-hot ceviche use a Jalapeño, for a hotter version use a Scotch Bonnet)
1 sweet potato, boiled until tender, sliced
2 purple potatoes, boiled until tender, sliced
1⁄2 c. fish stock or fresh coconut water (optional)

Toss all ingredients. For a fresh, raw-tasting ceviche, serve imme- diately. For a more thoroughly cured ceviche, marinate for eight hours; the acid in the lime juice will “cook” the fish.

The marinade (or Leche de Tigre) can be strained off and served in a glass on the side. Spike with Pisco or dry white wine to make a briny cocktail.

WIDE RIBBON PASTA WITH PEAS, LEMON & RICOTTA

By Marion Emmanuelle, Ici, Fort Greene

1⁄2 c. fresh shelled peas
1⁄2 lb. wide ribbon pasta Juice of half a lemon
2 T. olive oil
1⁄4 c. sliced mint leaves Sea salt and black pepper 1⁄2 lb. fresh ricotta Grated Parmesan cheese

Blanch the peas in boiling water for one minute.
Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente; drain. Toss with lemon juice, oil, cooked peas, mint, salt and pepper. Add the ricotta and mix gently. Serve topped with Parmesan.
Serves 2

PAN SEARED COD WITH SUCCOTASH

by Chef Josh Grinker, Stone Park Café, Park Slope

1/4 lb. fingerling or new potatoes, sliced 1⁄4” thick
1⁄2 lb. bacon, chopped
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/3 c. minced fennel bulb, fronds reserved for garnish
1 t. fresh thyme leaves
6 stalks pencil asparagus
1 c. fresh corn kernels
1/3 c. half and half
1/4 c. fava beans, shelled, blanched and peeled
1 T. chopped parsley
Salt and pepper
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 T. vegetable oil
6 (6-oz.) cod fillets

Preheat oven to 400°.

Simmer potatoes 8 to 10 minutes, or until cooked. Drain. Cook bacon over medium heat until cooked through. Remove bacon, pour off all but one tablespoon bacon grease, add onions and cook until just softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add fennel, thyme and corn; cover and cook 2 minutes. Add potatoes and asparagus and warm through. Add half and half and cook until reduced by half; add parsley and fava beans, season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice.

Heat oil in medium ovenproof skillet. Pat fillets dry, and season well with salt. Place in hot oil, skin side down, and cook until golden, about 4 minutes. Turn fish and transfer to oven until cooked through, about 8 minutes per inch of thickness. Serve fish atop warm succotash. Serves 6.

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Rachel Wharton is the former deputy editor of Edible Brooklyn and Edible Manhattan. She won a 2010 James Beard food journalism award, holds a master’s degree in Food Studies from New York University, and has more than 15 years of experience as a writer, editor and reporter. A North Carolina native and a former features food reporter for the New York Daily News, she edited the Edible Brooklyn cookbook and was the co-author of both Handheld Pies and DiPalo's Guide to the Essential Foods of Italy. Her work also appears in publications such as The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Saveur.