Spring-Can-Hang-You-Up Food

Reston, Va.: What spring bridge recipes do you recommend to brighten up this blah weather? Vegetarian or fish, but willing to adapt as needed.

I've been struggling with the stubborn weather too, Reston. The tulips have announced their arrival in my back yard and the birds are having a good old time belting arias, but I hear you, the air of late has been damp and raw, the evenings have been downright chilly and the skies have been moody to say the least. The first stanza of T.S. Eliot's famous poem, "The Waste Land, " comes to mind:

April is the cruellest month, breeding

Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing

Memory and desire, stirring

Dull roots with spring rain.

And then of course, there's the moody Ella Fitzgerald tune, "Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most," (from her 1961 album "Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie!" ) in which she laments the season:

Spring this year has got me feeling like a horse that never left the post....

...Doctors once prescribed a tonic,
Sulfur and molasses was the dose;
Didn't help a bit
My condition must be chronic...

Me too, Ella. Me too.

Other than the fabulous-sounding sulfur and molasses combo, what would make a formidable spring tonic and get us out of our funk? Would a green garlic (garlic scallions) and leek risotto do the trick? This is stick-to-your-ribs eating but with the promise of warmer days.

Or perhaps a daffodil-colored omelet, made with locally-laid eggs, and flecked with early spring herbs such as tarragon or chervil, would lift the spirits. Speaking of yellow, I'm a firm believer in eating foods that are reminders of the sun, which is why I've got a pineapple ripening on the table (Thai-style pineapple salad, anyone?) and a few Ataulfo mangos in my midst.

For others, the color of emerald green is the ticket out of seasonal blah country. Think Asparagus, artichokes, lettuces (yes! what about a Caesar salad!) and tender baby kale. All the edible chlorophyll may have you doing a jig in no time.

And speaking of dancing, turn on some music while you cook. Who knows, a little "funky chicken" while chopping onions could turn that frown upside down. Here's a funky-licious play list I put together last year.

Today's Eco-Bite: For more on the Monsanto milk controversy mentioned in last week's blog space, check out
this article in the current "green issue" of Vanity Fair. The piece is written by the Pulitzer prize-winning investigative team that is Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele.

By Kim ODonnel |  April 10, 2008; 9:39 AM ET Spring Discoveries
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Ataulfo mangos? Have you found a good source? I've been searching and searching, and have only found a few sorry specimens. Will you divulge your source?

Posted by: Eggplant | April 10, 2008 11:20 AM

I think something lemony would be good -- bright colors, bright tastes. And somehow I think of lemon as a "cool" flavor in temperature - it has a light, coolish flavor that seems to celebrate spring, or can make a grey day seem more spring-like.

In general, I'd think lighter foods with fresh herb flavors would be good. To me, a garlic flavor or something creamy is a bit heavier or richer than what I want in spring. Counterintuitive, huh, since spring brings on those lovely garlics and onions and all that. But if what you want is stick-to-your ribs as Kim describes, to deal with the cold and damp and grey, then that would work.

Just my 2 cents.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 10, 2008 2:34 PM

The Post put out a really nice recipe last year for a shrimp-mango stir fry. Here's a rough approximation. I think you can still find it in the archives.

Toss a pound of lg. shrimp with a bit of red pepper, salt, and tumeric. Heat a large pan over high heat, add a bit of vegetable oil and cook in a single layer. [I tend to do the flipping with the pan handle.] Once the shrimp are cooked, toss with a diced mango and a bunch of shredded basil.

I like to serve this one over rice flavored with a bit of orange juice, some diced red bell pepper, and a bit of zest. It's a colorful, tasty, and (I would think) relatively healthy meal.


Posted by: Fairlington Blade | April 10, 2008 3:36 PM

Kim, thank you so much for the link to the Vanity Fair article...there's so much more here than I ever knew! As someone who works with farmers, the seed issue terrifies me. There is some concern that by 2020, there will not be any soybean seed other than organic supplies in the US that are not owned by Monsanto (and, probably the organic seed will also be the only non-GMO soybean seed). It's truely terrifying that one company can do so much to unfairly restrict the whole country's food supply!

Posted by: OrganicGal | April 10, 2008 7:03 PM

Blah weather? A month ago I moved to Lafayette, La, and for me it's been summer ever since. But before I left Illinois, where is doesn't look as if spring will ever arrive, I made a meal of grilled chicken, corn on the cob, baked beans, cole slaw, and watermelon for dessert. I didn't even realize I had done it until after it was done--one thing just seemed to go unthinkingly with the next--but I realized I had made the quintessential summer meal on a cold wintery day. Try it, you'll like it.

Posted by: Dave | April 12, 2008 3:36 PM

I've been eating lots of roasted asparagus with roasted lemons--I just spray the asparagus with cooking spray, toss with salt and pepper and lemon zest, then cut the lemon and put it on the baking sheet in a hot oven (~400). When the asparagus is done (~10-15 minutes) I squeeze the lemons over it also--somehow the cooking mellows them a little. Warm but springy!

Posted by: marianne | April 14, 2008 11:28 AM

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