Saturday, April 30, 2011

Springtime Strawberry Spinach Salad

I am amazed at just how abundant the flowers, fruit and other produce are here in southern California, at a time when I am used to just barely seeing the first crocuses blossom back home in New England. I just arrived at the end of March/beginning of April and from the very first week, there's been lots to see and taste.

We recently visited The Flower Fields, which are 50 acres of ranunculus flowers that only bloom from late March to early May each year. They are in full bloom right now - and quite the springtime sight to see.
(Me in front of the fields that seem to go on forever)
(An artsy closeup of the ranunculus)

In addition to the ranunculus, they also have a huge greenhouse full of beautiful orchids.

If you are ever in Carlsbad, CA during springtime, the Flower Fields are a must see! It's $10 per person to get in, but you can usually find a 2-for-1 coupon with a little Google magic. It's amazing to walk around the row upon row of flowers, ranging from white to orange to pink to purple to blue. In one section, they even have the flowers planted in a pattern that mimics the American flag. I couldn't get a good shot of it from the angle I was at, but I assure you it was very cool.

Just across the way from the Flower Fields are acres of strawberries, which are also in bloom. Every strawberry I have had so far in California has been incredibly sweet and juicy and perfect. Yes, we grow strawberries back home, too, but even when they're at their best in June, I'm not sure they're quite this good!

Of course, strawberries are good for all kinds of desserts - shortcake, trifle, homemade ice cream, etc. But we also really like them as a side dish in this strawberry spinach salad. It's so simple, I can hardly call it a recipe, but it's so good - it has to be shared!

Strawberry Spinach Salad
5-6 cups baby spinach, rinsed and dried
1 cup sliced strawberries
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup sweet poppy seed dressing

Mix spinach, strawberries and almonds together in a large bowl. Pour dressing over top and toss to coat. Serve immediately.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Roasted Golden Beets with Sauteed Garlic Beet Greens

Yes, it took me a while, but I finally have a recipe to share! Things have been busy here. Work, house-hunting, beach walking - you know, that sort of thing. I made it to the farmer's market, too, and found these beautiful golden beets.

I never knew there was any beet other than the traditional red beet, so I was intrigued by these. The woman working the farm stand told me they would taste a little milder than a regular beet and best of all, they wouldn't stain your hands (and everything else) when you cut into them. They came with the greens still attached, too, which was a bonus. I decided to use everything in this yummy roasted beet with garlic beet greens side dish.

I agree that the golden beets were a little milder than red beets, but there was still that distinct "earthy" flavor, so I bet this recipe would work well with the red variety, too. (As a side note, I served this with a white salmon - it was a great pairing!)

Roasted Golden Beats with Sauteed Garlic Beet Greens
(Serves 2)

One bunch of golden beets
2 tsp. olive oil, divided
1 tsp. sea salt, divided
1/2 tsp. freshly ground mixed peppercorns (or plain ol' pepper)
2 cloves garlic, minced

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cut the tops off the beets, saving the greens for later. Wash the beets thorougly, then blot with a paper towel. Place beets in a small, oven-safe dish. Toss with 1 tsp. olive oil, 1/2 tsp. sea salt and 1/2 tsp. freshly ground peppercorns until evenly coated.
Cover with foil and bake at 400 for about 45 minutes or until fork-tender.
While the beets are roasting, wash beet greens thoroughly. Remove thick stems, saving just the leafy greens. Tear into 2-3" pieces.
When the beets come out of the oven, remove the foil and set them aside.
Heat remaining 1 tsp. olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add minced garlic and saute just until fragrant. Add beet greens and cook, stirring occasionally, until greens are wilted (about 5-7 minutes).
Cut roasted beets into sections and add to wilted greens just before serving.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Upsides & Downsides...

Let me start by saying I am thrilled to be living in sunny California! Since we've been here, every day has been in the high 60s/low 70s, sunny and dry. My understanding is that's pretty much what you get in Southern California - save for the odd cold, hot or rainy day, which doesn't come too often. I am quite happy with that!! And very happy to be missing the wacky spring weather they are having back home in New England (snow one day, then 50 degrees the next, then hail the following - yikes!).

I am also tickled pink with the location of our temporary housing. When I first learned we would be relocating here, I said to my husband "I just want to live in a place by the beach for at least a month. It can be a teeny little apartment - as long as I can walk to the beach!" Well, I got my beach wish. Here's the view from the balcony off the bedroom:
We're about a 2 minute walk (if that) to the ocean. It is fabulous! We're enjoying sunsets like this almost every night:
I am incredibly grateful to have this opportunity and feel totally blessed.

That said, as the title of the post implies, there are a few minor downsides to this living arrangement. First of all, this is a furnished apartment and all of our stuff is in storage, so I hardly have anything of my own. (Fortunately, a box of clothes we shipped to ourselves finally showed up so I can stop recycling the same 3 shirts.) But beyond basic personal effects, we're making due with what's here. In the kitchen, that means no baking pans, no scale to make bread, no mixer, etc. -- only the bare-bones basics. I have 1 measuring cup -- 1!! -- a couple of pots and a casserole dish. (Yes, I know there are people with much, much less out there, so I'm not complaining about my life condition - just giving you an idea of what I'm working with.)

And let me just give you a tour of my state-of-the art kitchen (circa 1972):

The top one there is a microwave, so I'm told. It apparently doesn't work anymore, but I'm fascinated by the options on it - saute, broil, etc. Who knew you could do that with a microwave? As for the oven - I guess it works, but I honestly haven't tried it yet given my limited utensils and pans. 

On the brighter side of things, we do have a little patio in the back with a grill. So that's probably what I'll be mastering soon. Grilling is not my forte, but there's never a better time to learn, it seems!

There's also a little farmer's market in town later this week that I can't wait to check out. I've seen roadside stands selling strawberries -- that's right, in April!!! (For you non-New Englanders, strawberries are usually a June/July thing for us - hence my elation at seeing them 2 months earlier.) So I want to try some of those out and see what else there is to throw together in my sweet little kitchen by the sea.