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Mother’s Day

Creamy Polenta with Spring Greens and Shiitakes

Creamy Polenta with Spring Greens and Shiitakes

Oh man. A whirlwind of travel mayhems transported me to my mom’s garden this past weekend.

I was out in San Diego last week for work (consider me sunshine-swooned), and my layover flight home ended up terminated due to poor weather. My choices were: 1) Struggle to keep my eyes open till 4a.m. at the airport and achieve automatic world-class traveler status; or 2) Switch my flight destination from Philly to Baltimore and persuade my mom to come pick me up, just before the strike of midnight. Family for the win. I chose to forgo the world-class traveler award as soon as my mom gave me the go-ahead. That accolade can wait, especially in circumstances where a spring garden awaits. Oh, and let’s not forget that a ton more places are waiting for me to visit, too.

Spring greens

Naturally as soon as my jet lag wore off, I was outside inspecting the garden, and cooking up lunch with my findings. It happened to serve as a good thank you to my mom, and a pre-Mother’s Day gift. That deserves an accolade in itself, right? Just kidding.

Creamy Polenta with Spring Greens and Shiitakes

I dream of days where I have my own garden. Or even just a yard. But for now, my mom’s will likely have to do until I migrate away from Philly. Luckily, it holds its own with an uplifting plethora of baby greens and herbs, all of which gave inspiration to this meal.

At their youngest, kale and collards simply can’t be beat. And now is the time to find them.

Spring greens

It’s been said life hardens you, and apparently this goes for greens too. You see, babies are inherently soft-skinned and sweet in nature. Apply this to greens, and you get leaves that are far more tender than when they grow older, and generally less bitter, too. (And since this seems to apply to humans as well, I’m keeping a “big kid” status forever.)

The soft and sweet characteristics make early spring greens perfect for raw preparations and for quick 2-minute sautes in recipes like this. From kale to spinach to swiss chard, any green that might be sprouting up in your garden or making its way to your local farmer’s market will work here. If available, go for a mix. That may just mean throwing in a few red lettuce leaves, too, and turning your mushrooms a strange shade of magenta. Es la vida.

Creamy Polenta with Spring Greens and Shiitakes

Pile those greens and mushrooms on top of St. Andres cheese, already working to melt its way into creamy polenta, and you’ve got a spring meal that’s memorable, to say the least.

My best description for St. Andres is “a more heavenly version of butter”. However, if for some reason you can’t find it, opt for a soft cheese, one that’s ideally slightly stronger in flavor than brie. If baby greens aren’t at your disposal, feel free to use the big guys. Just add a few extra minutes to your saute time. Then tell those big babies to stop growing up so fast!

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Avocado Radish Toasts

Avocado Radish Toasts

You know spring has arrived when there are 7 different street festivals swarming the streets of your one city, all within one Saturday. When your local park is carpeted in pink pedals of the cherry trees after several days of showers. When you look down and notice you’ve gotten a bit of a sunburn after just 2 hours of tennis. When the first farmer’s markets kick off. And when, there, you stumble upon beautiful bunches of radishes.

Spring radishes

The weather is here. The flowers are here. And my favorite – the first smell of fresh-cut grass, a perfume I walked by literally an hour ago, has arrived and bestowed me with this evening’s biggest smile.

Radishes sliced

There are few vegetables I find more stunning than radishes. And they feel rather novel too. Rarely do I eat a radish outside of springtime.

When they are in season though, and just picked from the ground – still young, small, not fully matured – little else can beat how refreshing that crispness of theirs brings to the table. A spring rain rooted radish, yes please.

Sliced radishes

Along with all those seasonal festivals I mentioned earlier comes the arrival of countless picnic-themed holidays, on their way shortly. Next up is Mother’s Day, soon after followed by Memorial Day, and so on, and so on, and so on.

How to prepare for those occasions? Have a radish-inspired recipe you can count on. One that literally takes barely any effort at all to pull together.

Toasted Baguette

When you have quality ingredients, you only need a few ingredients to make a dish that’s memorable.

Fresh radishes. Ripe avocados. Crusty bread. Good olive oil. Coarse salt.

All favorited ingredients of my repertoire.

Avocado Radish Toasts

Pull them all together, and you create this, a recipe perfect for any picnic, potluck, or simple outdoor, light-lunch occasion. (Don’t get me wrong, you can certainly enjoy this indoors as well. But in my dreams, I’m eating outside for all 3 meals of the day.)

Avocado and lime

Sorry (but not sorry) for the photo overload. Like short and sweet recipes that can be easily fantastic when quality ingredients are involved, beautiful photos always come easier with ingredients that inherently shine.

Avocado Radish Toasts

Fun fact – most of the spice (and flavor) of a radish lays in its skin. Early season ones should be pretty tame, but later on, if you can’t handle the heat, you can always give them a zebra-striped peel.

Avocado Radish Toast

A little bit of that heat though, and the corresponding crispness, goes great with creamy avocados, so make sure to hang on to some of it. Enjoy guys!

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