I don't care what the calendar says. Although we have to wait until the equinox, March 21st, to officially say that spring has started, I think that we are free to feel as if it has started already given the beautiful weather we have been having here on Lake Lugano. High temperatures have been in the high 50s and low 60s, the sun has been shining for the most part, and there's definitely something in the air that screams "spring's here, wake up people!"
I noticed this —actually I noticed the opposite of it— happening in September, when summer was quickly giving way to the fall. I remember noticing how locals embraced the last days of warm weather, the end-of-summer parties, the celebrations. And now that winter is pretty much over, I see them celebrating again, which puts me in a great mood. I knew I missed the alternating of the seasons when I lived in Florida, but I hadn't realized how much. It dawned on me the other day when I saw how much everyone in town was enjoying sitting outside the cafe', sipping coffee and drinks, unbuttoning their jackets as they soaked up the sunlight. So I followed suit. I unbuttoned my coat and sat with a couple of old men and played cards with them while they told me how they could feel the beginning of spring in their bones.
Don't get me wrong, the trees still look like it's winter and there's no flowers blooming around. But there is further proof that the new season is upon us and said proof can be found at the market. No matter if it's a farmers' market or a grocery store, you can tell —mostly by the price— what's fresh and in season. Asparagus, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, artichokes, cauliflower, spinach, fennel, leeks. Stuff that not only is good for you, but is also delicious. Except for artichokes, which I loathe, but are still good for you.
So here's a little collection of recipes that showcase spring's bounty. Some of them are from a long time ago, so please excuse the poor photo quality.
MOCK CREAM OF CAULIFLOWER: Let's start with a recipe that is incredibly good for you. First of all because, as the title suggests, it doesn't really have cream in it, so it's light and easy to digest. Second, it's extremely good for you. When you put together cauliflower and turmeric you give yourself a very powerful anti-cancer boost and we all know that's always a plus. The third thing that makes this a very-good-for-you recipe is that is extremely low in fat, so if you are on a diet or you're still trying to fight off some of that holiday weight (I know I am) this is a great way to feel satisfied without eating unnecessary calories. A win-win situation, right?
"ITALIAN FLAG" MAHI MAHI: There's nothing truly Italian about this mahi recipe, but if you look at the result the dish has the colors of the Italian flag, hence the name. The green on the bottom is a spicy broccoli puree which goes well with the fish, but is also very good on its own. When I was growing up I wasn't a big fan of broccoli, mostly because of their consistency. I now like them, but at first I would only eat them if they were pureed. What a pain in the ass, I know. The truth is, I still prefer them pureed, although I might be the only person over the age of 12 to admit it.
BRUSSEL SPROUTS WITH PECANS: I know it sounds crazy, but believe me when I say that this recipe is more than just worth trying. It's freaking delicious —and this comes from someone who a couple of years ago would have never put the words 'brussel sprouts' and 'delicious' in the same paragraph, let alone in the same sentence. And if bitterness is what you are worried about, don't be. This dish is not bitter at all. I promise.SPRING VEGETABLES SAVORY PIE: This is one of those go-to recipes when you have a ridiculous amount of vegetables dangerously getting old in your fridge. You know you can't eat all of them in one setting, but it also kills you to think that —at the rate you are going— you'll be throwing half of them in the garbage within a couple of days. Solution? Make a savory pie. Buy a refrigerated pie crust, throw in some good quality cheese and a couple of eggs and use up those veggies. This particular one was made with green peas and asparagus, but when it comes to savory pies, the sky is the limit.
ROASTED CAULIFLOWER PASTA BAKE: More cauliflower coming your way! What can I say? After a life long of hatred against the poor vegetable I now adore it and can't get enough of it. I even like steamed cauliflower, for crying out loud. So imagine how much I like when you take it and mix it with cheese and bechamel sauce and pasta and put it in the oven until hot and bubbly...
ORECCHIETTE WITH BROCCOLI: ...and speaking about another pasta recipe that I love and enjoy no matter how many times I eat it, here's the queen recipe for the spring. Orecchiette pasta with broccoli. As you will read in the original post, this isn't my recipe. It's my best friend's father's recipe —and now that she lives on her own it has become her signature dish as well— so I'm just borrowing it. Enjoy, everyone, it doesn't get any more Italian and spring-like than this!