Beckoning Spring + Rainbow Chard Crepes!

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A few weeks ago, we drove up couple hours north of San Francisco to check out some new places, early-Spring scenery and eat some oysters. We came back inspired, relaxed, and rejuvenated, already drawing up the schedule for a summer visit.

We went all the way north up to Cazadero and drove our way back south, visiting Tomales Bay, Inverness, Pierce Point (hello Elks!), Point Reyes, Bolinas and Stinson Beach, taking in the beautiful pastures, crisp air and grazing cows, as Northern California showed itself off preparing for an early Spring.

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Pretties from the Inverness, Point Reyes Station and Bolinas areas

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Baked Chilean Sea Bass with Orange Butter Sauce

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You can’t let February pass by without making something with blood oranges! Although this recipe can be made with any type of orange, or a combination of oranges, the blood orange makes it truly gorgeous: contrasting well in color and flavor with a meaty mild, white fish, such as cod, sole or sea bass.

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Farm fresh blood oranges in all their glory.

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Raw Mango and Avocado Salad

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I almost didn’t write this post. I was planning to just cop out and post a few pictures on Instagram about this truly simple yet delicious salad and be done with it (terribly long week!), but there is so much to be said about the star ingredients of this salad – I decided to properly introduce them to ya’ll.

This salad features the seasonal Raw Mango (technically it’s “Unripe Mango”, although it sounds far less glamorous), known as “Kairi” in India and is on the farm stands a lot longer than its more celebrated incarnation, the Mango (riper, sweet version). Sure, the Mango is eaten many different ways (mostly as dessert) but the Raw (Unripe) Mango is extremely versatile and used in a lot of savory preparations in India. More on the subject to come your way on this blog, as we make our way through summer.

In North America, Raw Mangoes are available in regular grocery stores periodically in the spring and summer. I picked some up at the Indian grocery store few weeks ago to snack on (cut into thin wedges, with some salt and red chilli powder sprinkled on top), and figured that their tartness would pair really well with the richness of avocados! When picking these, be sure to choose Mangoes that are slightly pale green and softer to the touch (the harder ones can be bitter sometimes).

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Leftover Antipasti Pasta (Spaghetti Puttanesca)

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Few years ago I stumbled upon the French concept of “Fromage Fort”. It literally means “strong cheese” and is basically when leftover odds and ends of cheese boards go to wine-scented cheese heaven, all dressed up for the next party as a convenient dip/spread. What a delightful and economical way to use expensive and delicious leftover cheeses and annoying 1/8th and 1/16th cups of white wines! If only all leftovers could be transformed this way.

A few weekends ago I put together my very first cheese board for a party and it was super fun! If I ate cheese (and I could eat cheese), I’d probably make a light dinner of it once a week with a big salad. But a cheese board is more about the arrangement and less about actually eating it, at least for me!

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Spreads (Artichoke-Lemon, Piquillo Pepper), Crackers (Plain, Rosemary, Sourdough with Asiago), Cheeses (Aged Gouda, Ricotta Salata, Triple Creme Brie), Fig Jam, Gigante Beans, Roasted Garlic

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Roasted Butternut Squash and Orange Salad

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I missed most of Fall last year. Between training for a half marathon I didn’t end up completing, to getting 2 wisdom teeth pulled out (also see: uncompleted half marathon), to traveling for almost 8 weeks – it was a crazy few months there. I didn’t get to roast as many types of squash as I normally would. So when I was back to my home base around Christmas time, I was eager to get to it. But then things like a terrible viral throat infection and a move got in the way, and that pretty much brings us up to now.

Now, when most people are all squashed out. But not me!

When I was visiting Sri Lanka this past November, I had this really smooth, creamy Mixed Squash Soup which had the most wonderful citrus notes and fragrance (here’s an article where I went on and on about it), and I figured winter/fall time squashes and oranges do go together really well! But in our minds, they don’t coexist because of the seasons in which they are most popular. Enter February: the month where the squashes slowly start changing their outfits from brown to yellow and orange to green, and in come the Blood Oranges (just for a few weeks, sadly), ready to mingle with their sweet juices and ruby red flesh.

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Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

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Few years ago, I used to watch Top Chef and Top Chef Masters on Bravo TV very religiously. I may or may not have bought several Top Chef Masters episodes on Amazon Instant Video. One of the finalists was Rick Bayless, an American chef who has mastered Mexican Cooking. Something about his mild demeanor, warmth and the fact that he went to Mexico as a young man and ended up living there for several years, enchanted by authentic Mexican cooking, just stayed with me. He ended up winning the Top Chef Masters title that season because he stayed true to his humble, warm self and made some delicious Mexican food. I can’t wait to eat at his restaurant, Frontera Grill, the next time I’m in Chicago!

Since then I’ve been following his recipes, and their simplicity and deliciousness can’t be beat. One of the most underrated salsas out there, “salsa verde”, is usually the “medium” in the trio of “mild, medium and hot” salsas in typical Mexican restaurants. Most of the times its watered down, pale and dull. This “medium” salsa recipe below by Rick Bayless is the highest calling of the humble tomatillo, and literally takes 15 minutes to whip up! Perfect for sprucing up a bowl of cooked quinoa, roasted vegetables, scrambled eggs or the tip of your tortilla chip, this Tomatillo Salsa will always be at the ready.

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