Spring! It’s coming along, as are the cole crops, strawberries and spring onions.
The season is beginning; time to start cooking seasonal.
OK, it’s hard to tell if the green onions at the store are truly spring onions, unless you get them at the Emporia Farmer’s Market, which is back in the Merchant Street lot, Seventh Avenue, each Saturday at 8 a.m.hint, hint.
The days are longer; the hens are laying: Let’s get cooking!
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Most cheddar cheeses start out white, until someone adds an annatto to make them orange. White cheddar is an easy find at Vault Meat and Cheese, 527 Commercial St. Hint, hint — shop local! Sure, you could use orange cheddar, but it won’t be as pretty.
Spring Onion Cheese dip
5 - 6 spring onions
2 Tablespoons butter
Freshly ground pepper
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 cup white cheddar cheese, divided
1/4 cup beer (ale or lager)
Heat a small iron skillet over medium-high heat and melt the butter. Wash, trim and slice the onions on the diagonal, whites and greens.
Saute the onions in the butter until soft, about five minutes, seasoning with pepper to taste. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Put the cream cheese in a mixing bowl, add 3/4-cup of the grated cheese and the cooked onions. Stir to mix, then pour this mixture back into the iron skillet. An oven-proof baking dish will work, too.
Top the mixture with the remaining grated cheese, a few more twists of pepper and bake it in the oven about 20 minutes, until bubbly-hot and browned around the edges.
Serve with sturdy crackers or toasted slices of baguette. If you make too much, try it on a baked potato or steamed broccoli. Yum!
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This recipe has roots in Brazilian cuisine, which has roots in Portugal and Africa, and is a good one for those who aren’t sure if they like collard greens or grits. Or both. You can substitute kale and polenta, just watch the liquids. Spinach will make it juicy, if you are tempted to try that.
I like a standard kielbasa, but you can try any sausage you like — beef or chicken, smoked or baked. Just remember if you choose a fatty sausage to drain off the fat.
Sausage and Collard Grits
1 cup quick or regular grits (not instant)
2 Tablespoons cooking oil
6 ounces kielbasa sausage
7 cups chicken stock
4 ounces (about a cup chopped) collard greens, stemmed and thinly sliced crosswise
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 spring onions, thinly sliced
Slice the kielbasa into 1-inch chunks; cutting on the diagonal is fancy, but you can do discs. Also stem the collard greens and chiffonade.
Say what? It’s easy: layer the leaves on top of each other in a stack. Roll the stack up like a cigar. Slice across the cigar on the diagonal at quarter-inch intervals. You end up with long, narrow strips of collard goodness that cook quickly and look like green ribbons in your dish.
Heat oil in a large skillet and add sausages; cook, turning occasionally, until browned and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside. Toss the collards into the hot skillet and saute it briefly — about 3-4 minutes. Set aside.
Bring chicken stock to a boil in a 6-qt. pot over high heat. Whisk in the grits, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, whisking often, until tender. Quick grits will take about five minutes; regular grits, about 40 minutes. If you don’t cook the grits properly you will earn why they are called what they are called.
Stir in reserved sausages and collards and cook, stirring occasionally, until everything is warmed up. Place eggs in a medium bowl with a splash of water (or milk); whisk until smooth. Slowly stir the eggs into the pot and season with salt and pepper to taste. If the grits are still gritty, keep cooking over medium heat until they are not.
Garnish hot bowls of your Sausage and Collard Grits with the spring onions and a side of hot sauce (by which I of course mean Tabasco). A loaf of hot bread won’t hurt, either.
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Spring means Strawberries. Lent means more seafood in the stores. Tacos mean happy people. So, this recipe will perk up your early spring table like nobody’s business. Think it’s weird? Trust me, lime, strawberries, shrimp … it’s fantastic. Add a margarita and you have your first porch party of the year.
Strawberry and Shrimp Tacos
8 ounces fresh strawberries, hulled and chopped
1/2 red onion, diced
2 jalapeños, seeded and diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Juice of 1 lime
Pinch of salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
Juice of 2 limes
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 Tablespoon sauce from a can of chipotles in adobo
1 teaspoon freshly grated lime zest
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 (4-inch) corn tortillas (your choice)
1 cup shredded cabbage
4 ounces queso fresco, crumbled
1 lime, cut into wedges
Make the salsa first so the flavors have time to come together. In a bowl, combine the strawberries, red onion, jalapeño peppers, and cilantro and toss. Alert: I’ve had some pretty hot red onions recently, so give them a taste and reduce the quantity if you need too. Same goes for the peppers — they may be too mild right now.
Add the lime juice, salt, and pepper and toss to coat. Cover and put in the fridge until ready to serve.
Place the shrimp in something you can seal — a dish with a lid or a zip-close bag. In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, garlic, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, adobo sauce, lime zest, salt, and pepper. Pour over the top of the shrimp and toss to coat. Marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Warm in the tortillas in the oven or fry in the pan. The small “street taco” size is very popular right now, but I still like my six-inchers, and I only need one of them to make a taco, instead of the fashionable two. It’s your choice!
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Once the oil is hot, remove the shrimp from the marinade and saute in the skillet until pink and opaque, about three minutes. Don’t overcook and don’t reuse the marinade for other things.
Transfer the shrimp to a serving dish and arrange with the warm tortillas, salsa, cabbage, and crumbled queso fresco for topping. Garnish with a lime wedge (and margarita) on the side.