Cilantro, mint, sage, spring onions, strawberries. The harvest begins!  Yesterday made a carrot, apple, ginger, mint salad with a yogurt, honey, lemon juice dressing. Roasted red pepper dip by blending cream cheese, cilantro and a touch of cayenne to give it even more of an edge. Strawberries are big and bountiful – the challenge is to get to them before the slugs and birds. Spring onions – fatter and more substantial than a scallion – are already forming scapes. I wonder if they can be eaten like garlic scapes?  Yesterday’s harvest was sliced thin and cooked in a skillet until they were crunchy bits – perfect to toss on top of the chicken cooked in a soy-ginger marinade with a preserved lemon thrown in for good measure.  A few leaves of sage as garnish for this crazy flavor combo.  After weeks of no inspiration, I am excited by cooking again.

In another few weeks we will be picking up our first CSA box of organic vegetables of the season. Always an adventure to open the box.  In the first weeks there will be plenty of greens – beautiful young lettuce, basil, garlic scapes, (pesto!) arugula and much tastier strawberries than ours. Then strange things like fennel and other vegetables I have to look up recipes for.  I have a weakness for cookbooks but in the end, use only three or so regularly.  Deborah Madison’s vegetarian cookbooks are fantastic – full of inspiring recipes using wacky veg.  A new favorite is Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express. Rather than being in recipe format, the book is broken down by season with simple paragraphs giving suggested meals. Most of the ingredients are already in your cupboard and fridge but with Bittman’s guidance everything becomes more interesting. With just a few sentences of inspiration you can throw together simple meals, a catalyst for the kitchen.  That can of beans? Turn it into a burger that even your fussy kid will eat.  For something different try Japanese egg crepes or Peanut Soup. Yum.

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