#BehindTheGram

My friend Sarah and I have something we like to call #behindthegram.

behind the gram

It’s when you just posted this beautiful picture of your breakfast or wine tasting or sunset or whatever on Instagram – but then there’s the real story that no one can see. The kind of messy, pre-filtered scene that got cut out when you cropped it into a square or adjusted the contrast. It’s standing on chairs or tables to get the shot. It’s balancing cutting boards on armrests or side tables or dog toys (yep… dog toys).

behind the gram

Or maybe you didn’t eat that gorgeous stack of pancakes for breakfast at all. Maybe you really just grabbed a banana on the way out the door. Maybe those pancakes were from a brunch two weeks ago and you just thought they would be really great to post today.

behind the gram

That all being said, I’m gonna let you all #behindthegram a little today.

Back in February, I wrote about taking stock. I wrote about figuring out what was important to me and living my own truths. I wrote about coming up with my emergency plan in case everything I had always counted on got turned upside down.

And thank god I did.

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#behindthegram, my marriage ended. The man who asked me to be his for the rest of his life decided there wasn’t room for me anymore. We walked into marriage counseling one Tuesday afternoon with an amazing date afternoon adventure planned for afterward, but instead we walked out broken and divided.

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I still don’t know if I’m in the right place to be publicly writing about it. I just filed paperwork last week. I haven’t completely wrapped my head around the fact that his family is technically no longer my family. I am still angry and sad and shocked and all of the emotions that you’d expect from someone who’s husband told her he just doesn’t love her anymore.

behind the gram

But about a month ago, I decided to stop hiding. I decided that if someone asked me how he was, I wasn’t going to shrug and smile and protect him anymore. I was going to answer the question and I was going to do it with dignity. I have no regrets. I laid my heart out alongside his for the world to see, and I trusted that it would be safely kept forever. I poured every ounce of love and protection I had into keeping that relationship sacred and alive and growing. I can honestly say I loved with all of my being.

behind the gram

I probably scared off the first few people who asked me about him after I’d decided to be honest. The mechanic who asked about him switching restaurants especially. I wasn’t prepared. I was angry. I was angry that he got to disappear and I had to break all the news. I was angry that even after he left me, as it had typically been in our relationship, I was the one who had to put in the effort to make things right.

behind the gram

But by the third or fourth time, I had my graceful line down. “Him & I are no longer together.” I had a condensed elevator-pitch version of “why” that satisfied the small talk acquaintances. The inner circle saw my tears and heard my venom and put out the flames with their hugs and love. And with every time, the ache of telling it became a little bit less and a little bit less.

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I look back on memories. I look back on the stories I have written into that chapter in my mind. I’m no longer sure what was real and what wasn’t. But I am confident that I made the right decisions in these past few months to end something that was so broken it became abusive and cruel. I am confident in my choice that him and I should no longer be married.

I am mostly confident that I am going to be great on my own. I am confident and proud that I am strong enough to support a love like that one I once stood up for, and I hope one day to be able to fully hand over my heart to another.

behind the gram

It’s going to take a long time to fully heal. It’s taken me a few months to even be able to start pulling apart his world from my world and really figuring out what is mine to continue on with. It’s taken every ounce of grace and poise I could muster to face certain people and keep the composure that I want to be known for. It’s taken sunglasses to hide the tears and concealer to hide the puffy eyes. It’s taken months for me to want to bake again or write again or pick up my camera again. It’s taken a lot of angry texts to friends. It’s taken a lot of nights of whiskey and it’s taken a lot of nights falling asleep with the lights on – alone.

I know I’ve let a lot of things fall by the wayside. But I’m trying my hardest to be patient with myself. I’m try to remind myself that when I’m ready, the pieces will be able to be put back together. There will be enough glue in my world to get it all back into one piece.

behind the gram

That new version of the whole me may have visible cracks. It may be a little more fragile and wobbly. People may be able to see that I’m standing on a chair to get the right angle or that I’m balancing a cutting board on a dog toy for the best light. Clearly behind the perfectly edited photograph, there’s a bit of a messy story.

But it turns out I’m resourceful. And down the line you look at those #behindthegram posts and laugh. Eventually they get edited and cropped, and the picture turns out to be just what you wanted it to be.

Thanks for listening and loving. Now let’s get back to the yummy part of all of this…

xoxo

Baby Artichokes with Horseradish Yogurt Dipping Sauce

I was in college the first time I ever tried artichokes.

I was visiting my new roommate’s family the summer before we moved in to the sorority house together. Her family was the sweetest. They watched while I ate the full artichoke leaves and tried to sneakily spit them out in my napkin as I wondered why in the world anyone would eat these weird shaped vegetables.

The Key of Kels Makes Roasted Artichokes with Horseradish Yogurt Sauce

After a few tough, stringy, inedible bites, one of those sweet family members showed me how you really eat artichokes. You know, the scraping the meat off the leaves method.

So much more enjoyable that way.

The Key of Kels Makes Roasted Artichokes with Horseradish Yogurt Sauce

The Key of Kels Makes Roasted Artichokes with Horseradish Yogurt Sauce

I am not one to shy away from a food that takes a lot of effort to eat. I grew up in Maryland picking crabs. I think there is something about eating artichokes one leaf at a time, one tiny nibble of meat at a time, that reminds me of eating crabs in my backyard as a kid. So much work, so little reward. But doesn’t that just make the food taste sweeter?

The Key of Kels Makes Roasted Artichokes with Horseradish Yogurt Sauce

At the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market, artichokes come in all shapes and sizes. They’re purple or they’re green. They’re a teeny tiny fistful or they’re as big as your head. And if the farmers let them grow a little past their peak, they turn into this wild, mesmerizing purple sea enemone flower.

The Key of Kels Makes Roasted Artichokes with Horseradish Yogurt Sauce

In my house I simply boil them with plenty of salt until the heart is tender. Once they’re cooked, I’ll stand over the counter ripping off hot leaves and scraping every little bite of meat I can get at with my teeth.

The next night I’ll get home from a late night at work and snack on them cold, straight out of the fridge, dipped in whatever aioli we happen to have leftover from the week.

The Key of Kels Makes Roasted Artichokes with Horseradish Yogurt Sauce

The Key of Kels Makes Roasted Artichokes with Horseradish Yogurt Sauce

Or on a quiet afternoon, I’ll sear them up crispy on a cast-iron to eat them warm and crunchy, dipped in a minty, lemony, horseradish yogurt sauce. I’ll eat four or five whole artichokes before I realize that it’s not the most well-balanced lunch…
The Key of Kels Makes Roasted Artichokes with Horseradish Yogurt Sauce

The Key of Kels Makes Roasted Artichokes with Horseradish Yogurt Sauce

I’m a sucker for a creamy horseradish. And with the lemony kick and mint straight from the garden, this sauce tastes good enough to dip things in, spread over fish, or maybe even eat with a spoon. I mean, it’s just like eating savory yogurt… right?

xoxo

The Key of Kels Makes Roasted Artichokes with Horseradish Yogurt Sauce

Baby Artichokes with Horseradish Yogurt Sauce

Horseradish Yogurt Sauce:
1/2 cup yogurt
2 tbsp horseradish sauce
Juice and zest of half a lemon
3 mint leaves (and/or cilantro)
Salt & Pepper to taste

Artichokes:
Prune the inedible parts of the artichokes. Cut off the prickly tip. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to boil. Turn to simmer and then boil the baby artichokes for about 15 minutes, or until a cake taster easily goes through the heart. You can eat them just like this – dipped in melted butter is delicious. I like to save them in the fridge to have whenever I have the artichoke craving. Whenever that hits, cut the choke in half length-wise. Get a cast iron pan screaming hot (this is my favorite husband expression), and then add a few tablespoons of olive oil. As soon as the oil is hot, put the choke cut side down on the skillet to sear. When they are deep brown and crispy, take them off and dip the leaves in the yogurt sauce.

Kumquat Margaritas – Happy Cinco de Mayo!

The Key of Kels Makes Kumquat MargaritasBack to the Kumquat tree…

I mean, it’s only appropriate. Cinco de Mayo. The day of the year when it is not only necessary to eat tacos (or make your own fish tacos, hehe), but its also important to drink a Mexican-inspired beverage or two. And since I’m more of a tequila girl (have you tried my Pink Peppercorn Paloma?) than a Cerveza girl, I came up with another twist on a traditional Margarita to get you through this most joyous, tipsy holiday.

The Key of Kels Makes Kumquat Margarita

The Key of Kels Makes Kumquat Margarita

I have all of those Kumquats growing in my front yard. So many sweet, tart kumquats. And I had  a bottle of tequila, so….

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Salud, amigos!

xoxo

Kumquat Margaritas

1 pint of kumquats (about 20), deseeded
2 tbsp sugar
juice of half a lime
2 ounces tequila (I used Dobel)
1/2 ounce orange liqueur (I used Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur)
1 tbsp egg white (optional – but it makes it so frothy and fun!)
1 kumquat cut laterally (for garnish)
salt (for the rim)

For the kumquat puree: In a food processor, puree the deseeded kumquats with 2 tbsp of sugar. Once smooth, strain through a fine mesh sieve. Extra puree can be kept refrigerated in an airtight container for up to a week.
For the Margarita: Cut a slit in the kumquat round garnish and wet the rim of a glass with it. Dip the rim in salt. In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, mix 2 ounces of kumquat puree with lime juice, tequila, orange liqueur and egg white. Shake until cold and frothy. Strain the shaken drink over fresh ice in your salted glass/mason jar. Use the kumquat round as a garish. Salud!

 

Tilapia Tacos with Cucumber & Radish Salsa

Living in LA makes one prone to taco cravings.

There are taco trucks in every corner of the town. There are street tacos in grocery stores. There are tacos on the menus at even the really fancy restaurants.

Tacos are engrained in the Los Angeles food culture. They come in traditional styles from every nook and cranny of Mexico. They come in Korean flavors if that’s what you’re looking for.

Tacos in LA ain’t no joke.

The Key of Kels Makes Tilapia Tacos with Cucumber Radish Salsa

The Key of Kels Makes Tilapia Tacos with Cucumber Radish Salsa

The Key of Kels Makes Tilapia Tacos with Cucumber Radish Salsa

The taco craving hits me often, but the trucks are typically a after-the-sun-goes-down type affair. That might be why I’ve started keeping a 100 pack of tiny tortillas in my fridge at all times. And why I’ve started getting creative with putting anything that’s in my fridge into a shell.

Why be boring with your tacos? Shrimp, lamb, crab, black beans, even scrambled eggs. If you’re craving a taco, look in your fridge and put your own damn spin on a taco. Make it yours.

The Key of Kels Makes Tilapia Tacos with Cucumber Radish Salsa

The Key of Kels Makes Tilapia Tacos with Cucumber Radish Salsa

The Key of Kels Makes Tilapia Tacos with Cucumber Radish Salsa

The Key of Kels Makes Tilapia Tacos with Cucumber Radish Salsa

Most importantly, scarf them down like you were standing in a gas station parking lot under the street lights, surrounded by people who had just spilled out of the bars. People who have just gotten off of working the late shift (usually us). People who are just scraping together the few dollars for a meal. And people who know so little Spanish that they panic and just order three chicken tacos.

The Key of Kels Makes Tilapia Tacos with Cucumber Radish Salsa

The Key of Kels Makes Tilapia Tacos with Cucumber Radish Salsa

The Key of Kels Makes Tilapia Tacos with Cucumber Radish Salsa

The tacos I crave at home are different from the meaty, porky, fatty tacos I love from the late night trucks. At home, I usually go for something lighter, something with more crunchy, fresh, seasonal ingredients. I’ll sauté up some shrimp or sear some fish I’ve rubbed with cayenne, cumin, and whatever other spices I’ve found in the cabinet. This time I had a bit of leftover tilapia. Light, mild, flaky fish that’s easy to season and cook up in a cast iron pan.

Hit with a sweet and tangy splash of orange juice in the pan, topped with crunchy, earthy and somewhat peppery radishes and cucumbers, and seasoned with mint and cilantro.

The Key of Kels Makes Tilapia Tacos with Cucumber Radish Salsa

The Key of Kels Makes Tilapia Tacos with Cucumber Radish Salsa

The Key of Kels Makes Tilapia Tacos with Cucumber Radish Salsa

The way I see it – homemade or eaten out in the Los Angeles wild – the more late night tiny tacos, the better.

xoxo

kels

Tilapia Tacos with Cucumber & Radish Salsa

Tilapia (or other white fish) filet
Cumin, coriander, cayenne, salt, cinnamon
Olive Oil
Orange Juice
Cucumber
Radish
Mint & Cilantro
2 cloves garlic
Lime Juice
Tortilla Shells

For the salsa: Thinly slice radishes and cucumbers into consistent sized pieces. I used a mandolin to slice them thin, then cut them up into a salsa all together with my knife. Add a small handful of chopped mint and cilantro, minced garlic, and the juice from half of a lime. Season with salt and pepper.

For the fish: Generously season the fish with salt, coriander and cumin, and then with a dash of cinnamon and cayenne pepper. Heat a cast iron pan over medium heat until hot, then add olive oil. When the oil gets shiny and hot, gently add the fish to the pan, laying it starting closest to you to avoid splattering. Cook for about 5 minutes on one side, until well seared and crispy. Then use a fish spatula to flip. Add a splash of orange juice to the pan to get up all of the stuck-on bits and create a bit of a sauce. Cook an additional 4-5 minutes or until cooked through and flaky. Pull apart fish into pieces with a fork.

For the tacos: If you have a gas stove, turn on a burner and heat tortillas directly on the flames – usually about 30 seconds on each side, or just until they start to char and smoke (not burn!). Pile your tortilla high with pieces of fish, then top with salsa, another squeeze of lime, and your favorite hot sauce. Eat them off of a paper plate out in the street for the full effect.

Spring Snap Pea Salad with Burrata, Prosciutto & Mint

As children, you learn of peas’ reputation early on. They’re mushy. They’re a weird pale shade of green. They’re what the adults try to feed the children to torture them. Do not eat them. Peas are the enemy.

The Key of Kels Makes Snap Pea Salad with Jamon Burrata and Mint

The Key of Kels Makes Snap Pea Salad with Jamon Burrata and Mint

When peas were on the dinner table, I remember my sister putting up a fight. Even I, the one who loved fruits and vegetables, would often push them back and forth on my plate. Adults got creative, adding butter, cheese, bacon – even pasta – to fool us. But while I would sometimes be careless enough to let a few of those slippery little things past my lips, I would never admit it at the school lunch table. Peas were the worst.

Now that I’m an adult and I’m on the west coast, I imagine that children here in California can’t feel the same way about peas. I imagine they’ve never had the frozen kind – defrosted before served. I imagine the only reason to have a bag of frozen peas in your freezer out here is to numb the occasional bump or bruise.

And then, back into the freezer they go.

The Key of Kels Makes Snap Pea Salad with Jamon Burrata and Mint

The Key of Kels Makes Snap Pea Salad with Jamon Burrata and Mint

The Key of Kels Makes Snap Pea Salad with Jamon Burrata and Mint

Now that I’m an adult, we wait for pea season like it’s a mini pea Christmas. We snatch up the first tendrils that appear at the market weeks before the actual pods, alerting us that it’s almost time. We add tendrils to salads. We sauté them with garlic. We throw them in with faro and call it lunch.

A few weeks after the joy of the cute and curly tendrils has worn off, the first English peas start to pop up. We taste our way through each stand at the market, wading through all the early season starchiness to find that perfect sweet pod.

The Key of Kels Makes Snap Pea Salad with Jamon Burrata and Mint

The Key of Kels Makes Snap Pea Salad with Jamon Burrata and Mint

And then one week, without warning, the tendrils start to disappear and the pea pods at every stand are crunchy and sweet. You buy a bag and crunch your way through as you shop for eggs, strawberries, flowers, and squash. And then you realize just before heading to your car that you might need another bag for lunch tomorrow.

The Key of Kels Makes Snap Pea Salad with Jamon Burrata and Mint

The Key of Kels Makes Snap Pea Salad with Jamon Burrata and Mint

The Key of Kels Makes Snap Pea Salad with Jamon Burrata and Mint

The Key of Kels Makes Snap Pea Salad with Jamon Burrata and Mint

While they’re delicious sautéed in butter and topped with a little bit of cheese or thrown in a carbonara with ham, egg and spaghetti – my favorite way to eat snap peas is with their original crunch still intact. For a simple lunch, side dish, or pre-dinner salad, I take the easy way out. No real recipe required, just good ingredients thrown together on a plate and enjoyed for their crunch, saltiness, and creaminess. All of it coming together for that perfect springtime bite.

The Key of Kels Makes Snap Pea Salad with Jamon Burrata and Mint

The Key of Kels Makes Snap Pea Salad with Jamon Burrata and Mint

The Key of Kels Makes Snap Pea Salad with Jamon Burrata and Mint

The Key of Kels Makes Snap Pea Salad with Jamon Burrata and Mint

I’m hoping the childhood pea rumors that were going around the elementary school playgrounds in the 80s are well over at this point. And if not, make this salad. (Force) Feed it to a young person. Maybe blindfold them if necessary. But I guarantee their idea of peas will change forever.

The Key of Kels Makes Snap Pea Salad with Jamon Burrata and Mint

The Key of Kels Makes Snap Pea Salad with Jamon Burrata and Mint

Eat your peas while they’re here. Or else you’ll be waiting until next pea season.

xoxo

Snap Pea Salad With Burrata, Prosciutto & Mint

English Snap Peas – whole, sliced, and shucked
Pea Tendrils

Prosciutto – thinly sliced
Burrata
Mint
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Finishing Salt & Pepper

This is more of a “No Recipe” recipe. You can use damon iberico instead of prosciutto, arugula instead of tendrils, grate a hard cheese instead of burrata, substitute basil for mint – make it your own!

For my salad, I prepared the peas by breaking off the stem and pulling the stringy vein that runs down the pea’s “spine”. Then I kept the prettiest ones whole, sliced some at an extreme bias, and shelled some of the more bruised ones. Then I layered in pea tendrils, torn pieces of prosciutto, and tiny mint leaves. For the burrata, I like mine to be all one consistency, so I broke up the ouster Mozzarella layer and mixed it in with the creamy inside. It just makes it easier to break apart and eat, in my opinion. Top your salad with a scoop of burrata, and then finish off with a drizzle of a fancy EVOO and salt and pepper. I use Jacobsen’s sea salt because it gives everything a salty crunch. Devour in the breeze by a sunny window.

Dark Chocolate Kumquat Scones

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It’s a rainy weekend here in Santa Monica – and that’s not a phrase I get to say too often.

But it is. Rainy. It’s a dreary, kind of chilly, misting rain. Sometimes actually full drops of rain. In California, any sort of water falling from the sky means that you absolutely stay inside and hibernate. It is required rainy day behavior.

We don’t get much of a chance to do that around here. Especially on weekends. California weekends are made for outdoor activities. For hiking, brunching, biking, beaching… Weekends around here were quite literally created for basking in the yellow sunshine under a gorgeous blue California sky.

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Not this weekend.

This rainy weekend is for cuddling under the covers until well past the time you should get up. It’s for getting up to take the dog out, and then immediately curling up on the couch under a blanket as soon as you take your raincoat back off. It’s for napping and for sweatpants and for warm, melty, chocolatey scones.

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Yep. Warm. Melty. Chocolate. Scones. Rainy day weekends may be especially made for those.

You see, I have this kumquat tree just outside my bedroom window. Every year it blossoms with these bright orange little sweet tart fruits. These little bombs of sunshine – of sour, and then a little sweet. And every year our upstairs neighbors can be found picking them by the handful. Any time of day. Breakfast time – picking kumquats. Wafts of are dinner starting to drift down through our open windows – they’re out there picking kumquats. Sometimes I could be stumbling home from a late night at work and run into them – you guessed it – picking kumquats.

I’ve always been so curious. What do they do with all that sour fruit?

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Now, I’ve had kumquats before. Typically eaten fresh. Just a quick bite that puckers your lips enough to make you scrunch up your nose real tight, and then you go back in for that second nibble to finish it off. But the neighbors couldn’t just be eating fresh kumquats by the handful at all hours of the day, could they?

They’re delicious and all, but one or two and I’m pretty much done. To top it off, every recipe I could find made them unbelievably sweet. Candied kumquats. Kumquat jam. I was determined to think outside the box. I’d make a salsa or a chutney or something savory and exciting with them!

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But the rain. The rain just gave me a perfect excuse to turn on the oven. To roll out of bed around noon and whip up some scones to sprinkle with dark, gooey chocolate and bright, sweet-tart citrus. The rain just begged for the luscious, puckering kumquats with chocolate to brighten up it’s grey mood.

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I’m generally not a huge advocate of chocolate in the morning. I prefer my breakfasts more savory than sweet. And before all of the kumquats dissapear into the apartment above us, I am still determined to find something tart and savory to do with those little orange explosions.

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Until then, I’m going to be eating these scones for breakfast & dessert. With a fried egg or with ice cream. Because until the California sun comes out again, I’ll be enjoying every moment of this chocolatey, sleepy, couch hibernation mode.

xoxo


 

Dark Chocolate Kumquat Scones

adapted from Joy The Baker

3 cups (360 g) all-purpose flour
1.25 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoon salt (i love salt. cut back to 1 tsp if you’d like!)
1/3 cup (66 g) + 3 tbsp granulated sugar, divided
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
1.5 cups heavy cream (plus more for brushing)
1 pint kumquats, thinly sliced
.5 cup chopped dark chocolate
turbinado sugar for topping

Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Toss sliced kumquats with 3 tbsp granulated sugar and spread in a single layer on the lined baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until sugars start to caramelize and skins start to pucker up. Let cool completely.

While fruit is cooling, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a medium bowl. Set aside.

In a liquid measuring cup, mix together vanilla extract and 1.5 cups cream. Drizzle the cream mixture into the dry ingredients and stir until combined. Mixture will still be a bit crumbly and not all fully mixed together. Add the cooled kumquats and dark chocolate pieces, and continue to mix. You want your dough to be shaggy, not moist.

Turn out your the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. (This is where it really comes together!) Gently gather and knead the dough until well combined, and then form into a square. Cut the square into four pieces, then into eight even triangles.

Using a pastry brush, brush each scone with heavy cream and sprinkle generously with turbinado sugar.

Place at least 1-inch apart on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through.

Remove from the oven and serve warm.

Save wrapped with plastic wrap at room temperature for 2-3 days. Heat up in the oven at 350 for 5-10 minutes and serve for breakfast with scrambled eggs. Reheat and serve for dessert topped with vanilla ice-cream or barely sweetened whipped cream. Or just break off a piece and snuggle up with your pooch on the couch and listen to the rain fall. Yum.

April: Spring Has Sprung

Spring may have officially started in March, but April is the month where it feels like it’s really stuck.

It’s the month when you know for sure that it’s not winter anymore.

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I should be more sensitive to those of you who don’t live in endless-summer-SoCal. Maybe to some of you, April feels like less consistent winter. (I sort of know. I lived in Ithaca, NY for a year) Maybe you’ll still see a flake of snow now and then. But deep down, you can tell the sun is staying up a little bit later. You can feel the wind losing it’s bite.

Even in Upstate New York, there are hints of green here and there telling you to just hold on a few more weeks and it will be shorts season again.

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One of the big reasons we love Southern California is the insanely long growing season. We are lucky enough to have a farmers’ market that is stocked with some kind of fruits and veggies every single week all year long. Even in the depths of winter, there are bright citrus fruits, hearty root vegetables, and enough greens to juice for days.

But there is still something special about springtime at the market. When strawberries reappear, plump and deep red. When artichokes poke out and asparagus stalks are banded together into bunches. Lilacs perfume the air and rainbows of spring pea flowers fill buckets.

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There are still days when the ocean wind whips through the streets and farmers have to take down their tents. There are days when you are bundled up in a sweater and a winter jacket. But you sample juicy strawberries. You pull apart a English pea to see if it is sweet enough yet. You pull off a pea tendril to determine how thick it is, how woody it might taste. You grab a jug of freshly squeezed tangerine juice and you make do.

Because spring is here. It is most definitely here.

xoxo