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Seasonal Eats: Winter Wrap-Up & Spring Preview

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Winter Root Vegetables (Heather Parlato/LAist)


Winter Root Vegetables (Heather Parlato/LAist)
When I went to the market this weekend, it was apparent everywhere that we're on the brink of spring. Strawberries, artichokes, and asparagus are starting to pop up here and there—not to mention the lovely early spring flower blooms. I was also impressed, though, at all the late fall root veggies and winter greens and brassicas that have supported us all winter, so I thought I'd do a winter-wrap up as a bit of a send-off to the season, and look forward at what we can expect in springtime.

If you're looking for a general guide to winter in southern California, the main foods that are consistently fresh are salad greens, brassicas, winter squash and citrus. A solid list of salad greens include head and leaf lettuces and spinach. The brassicas include leafy greens (swiss chard, collards, bok choy, mizuna and arugala), root vegetables (beets, turnips, rutabaga and radish), cabbages (green & red cabbage, kohlrabi and brussels sprouts), and flowers like broccoli and cauliflower. Finally, most of the citrus family is available all winter, including oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, lemons, and kumquats (limes are more of a summer fruit). Winter squash usually have to start growing in spring but have a long growing season and are harvested in fall and winter. The star of winter squash is butternut, but others available include acorn, spaghetti, delicata squashes, and jarrahdale pumpkin (a gray-green cinderella-style pumpkin).

There's more to seasonal eating than what is immediately available, though, and in fall there are some great fruits and vegetables that do really well with cool storage to keep all winter. Potatoes, carrots, and many of the fall squash have been picked by November, but are sold all winter at farmer's markets. Similarly, some varieties of apple and pear keep quite awhile after picking, which is why they're still at the market. Keep enjoying these past-season harvests from fall and winter as long as they're around, and pair their flavors with the early spring arrivals.

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Foods that cross over include many of the brassicas, citrus and kiwi fruit, which will keep going strong from winter to spring. Looking forward, the earliest spring flavors will be artichokes, asparagus, spring peas, and haas avocados. Moving into may, we'll see corn, cucumber, strawberries, apricots and plums. As we get ready to enjoy the new season, maybe take some time to pick some preservation projects to keep the citrus flavor going all year (we looked at some really good ones in the article about oranges, which can be applied to any other citrus fruit, or a mix of your favorites).

To give winter flavors a send-off, I thought about a variation on potato salad that includes many of the winter root vegetables, tubers and squash that make a colorful, flavorful alternative. I'm also keeping it healthy with a yogurt-based dressing.

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Winter Family Reunion Salad (Heather Parlato/LAist)
Winter Family Reunion Salad

2 red potatoes, chopped to 1/2" pieces

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2 purple potatoes, chopped to 1/2" pieces

4 golden beets, chopped to 1/2" pieces

1 small butternut squash, chopped to 1/2" pieces

4-6 carrots in assorted colors, sliced to 1/2" pieces

1 cup yogurt

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4 garlic cloves, minced

2 tsp dijon mustard

zest of 1 lemon

fresh herbs of your choice [chives, marjoram, thyme, sage, whole or cut leaves are fine]

salt & pepper to taste

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finishing salt or mixed citrus salt & pepper to serve

Set chopped vegetables in a vegetable steamer over 1 inch of water in a pot. Steam until just-tender, about 20 minutes.

Put yogurt, garlic, dijon, lemon zest, salt & pepper in the blender and blend up to mix all ingredients.

When veggies are finished steaming, run some cold water over them to prevent over-cooking, and then put in a bowl large enough to toss with the dressing. Pour dressing over the top, add most of your fresh herbs of choice and toss to coat.

To serve, either set out a large bowl dressed with remaining fresh herbs and finishing salt, or garnish in individual dishes in the same way.