May 2011

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play with your food A New Crop An ode to (early) spring vegetables By Michael and Jean Muckian T o many a cook, May means the fi rst vegetables of spring, and we’re looking forward to this year’s crop of nettles. Yes, these are the same stinging nettles you may brush against when walking through fi elds and forests, the plant’s tiny sharp hairs injecting chemical compounds and raising red rashes on your skin. But nettles are also a food source, offering an excellent dose of vitamins A and C, as well as iron, calcium, potassium and manganese. Th ey taste a lot like spinach when seared and served in soup or with pasta. Th ere aren’t many fresh vegetables avail- able in early spring, but the ones that are in season are delectable and nutritious. You may have to register with a community supported agriculture (CSA) program or stop by the Dane County Farmers’ Market to fi nd most of them, but the unique fl avors and crisp textures make the effort worth- while. Here are some of our favorites: Asparagus, the most familiar of the early arrivers, is one of the few vegetables cur- rently available in the grocery store. Young asparagus is delectable when harvested before its buds open and can be sautéed, grilled and added to any number of dishes. It’s an excellent source of multiple vitamins and nutrients, including chromium, which enhances the transport of glucose from the bloodstream into cells. Burdock is another prickly weed from which we generally steer clear—and its detachable burrs are credited for inspiring the invention of Velcro. But burdock root has long been considered a staple food, especially in Asia. It can be sliced and deep fried into burdock chips, served in salad or eaten much like any other root vegetable. Ramps, a form of wild leek, blend the fl avors of onions and garlic togeth- er for a delightfully pungent result. Th e stringy vegetable can be used to fl avor egg dishes, salads, casseroles or any dish calling for scallions or leeks. Scapes are the curly green tops that grow out of garlic bulbs and can be used in ev- erything from salads to pesto. As might be expected, they have a mild garlic aroma and, like ramps, seem to disappear just as you start to fi nd new uses for them. Th e season for early spring vegetables is short, so buy them when you see them. And if you do choose to make a nettles dish, remember to wear gloves when you clean the leaves. As fl avorful and good for you as nettles are, they still can sting. 70 BRAVA Magazine May 2011 Top of the Cellar Special occasions mean special wines. If you’re celebrating this month, here are six top choices from California wineries. Chappellet 2008 Pritchard Hill Cabernet Sauvignon ($135) is the best this Napa Valley winery offers. A classic Bordeaux blend with a palate of berry, cedar and anise combine for a singular, dynamic personality. Chappallet 2008 Signature Cabernet Sauvignon ($48), this winery’s lower-priced fl agship bottle, is laced with citrus and spice giving way to a fi rm mouthful of ripe fruit. Sea Smoke 2008 Ten Pinot Noir ($80) exemplifi es why Santa Barbara County has become home to California’s best Pinots. Aromas of black plums, lavender, cocoa and rosewater lead to a wine with a long, velvety fi nish. Sea Smoke Southing Pinot Noir ($52) offers armoas of clove, blueberry, cola and pineapple open to a balanced structure that leaves us wanting more. Paraduxx 2007 Napa Valley Red ($53) blends a unique variety of grapes into a delightful wine with dark cherry-raspberry fl avors. Duckhorn 2008 Napa Valley Merlot ($52) brings to mind spice, plum and red cur- rant emerging alongside notes of molasses and nougat for a well-balanced fi nish.

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