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Seasonal Ingredients And How To Use Them

As local produce makes its way into stores and farmers markets, Here & Now resident chef Kathy Gunst wants to know: What’s in season?  She brings us ingredients and recipes from Arizona, Illinois, Washington, and her home state of Maine.

See more recipes and cooking segments with Kathy Gunst

Northeast: Radishes

French-Style Open-Faced Radish, Butter, Basil, And Sea Salt Sandwich

Recipe byKathy Gunst, Here & Now resident chef, southern Maine.

Kathy’s Note: This is the simplest of recipes and can easily be doubled or tripled. Fresh spring radishes, good sea salt, good butter and a crusty baguette make it special. Serve for breakfast with strong coffee, for lunch with a green salad, or as an hors d’oeuvre or first course.

Look for small, fresh radishes at farmer’s markets. I particularly like French breakfast radishes.


2-inch piece of crusty baguette or Italian bread

About 1 tablespoon butter, at room temperature

3 radishes, red, purple, and/or white

Dash finishing salt or coarse sea salt

1 tablespoon very thinly sliced fresh basil leaves, optional


Cut baguette in half lengthwise. Spread the top of the bread with butter. Arrange the radish slices, salt, and basil, if using, on top. Serves 1 to 2.

Northwest: Spot Prawns

Spot Prawns With Garlic, Chili, And Lemon

Recipe by Jess Thomson, Seattle, Washington.

Jess’s Note: If you’re really going to do it right, eating spot prawns should be done with an apron on. That way, you can snap the tails off the creatures right as they come off the grill, slurp the juices off their legs (and out of their heads, if you’re so inclined), peel the shells off before dredging the tender, sweet meat in any lemony butter that remains on the plate, then wipe your hands on your front with reckless abandon.

In a pinch, whole fresh shrimp are a good substitute, but nothing beats the sweetness of spot prawns from the Pacific Northwest.

Serves 2 to 4.


1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 teaspoon dried red chili flakes (or to taste)

1 medium lemon

1 pound fresh spot prawns


Preheat a gas or charcoal grill over medium-high heat (about 425 degrees F).

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. When the butter has melted completely, stir in the garlic and chili flakes. Zest the lemon and add that to the mixture, then slice what remains of the lemon into wedges and set aside.

Put the spot prawns in a large bowl and drizzle the butter mixture over the shellfish. Using your hands, scrape the leg side of the prawns against the bottom of the bowl, so each creature gathers up as much garlic as possible.

Grill the prawns for 1 minute per side, with the lid closed as much as possible, or until the prawns turn a deeper shade of pink and curl (you want them cooked, but just barely). Transfer the hot prawns to a platter, and serve piping hot, with the lemons for squeezing over them.

Southwest: Nopales (Cactus Pads)

Nopalitos Chopped Salad

Recipe by Jackie Alpers, Tucson, Arizona

Jackie’s Note: Nopalitos, which are the pads of the prickly pear cactus, are a little scary to eat at first. Based on the name alone I figured there was a pretty good chance that a stray pricker would poke me in the mouth. But that wasn’t the case.

The pads, also called nopals, come pre-trimmed and all of the needles are removed in advance. When I picked up a package at my local market I examined them closely before chopping them up, and declared them smooth. If you can’t find fresh nopals locally, don’t fret! Nopalitos, the diced and cooked version of nopals, are available in jars at most specialty markets and online.

Apparently, nopalitos are also incredibly good for you. They are lauded for their nutritional benefits, especially their ability to help control blood sugar.


1 cup chopped nopals, fresh or jarred; (rinse if jarred)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 cups finely chopped romaine

1 cup chopped tomatoes

1 cup chopped peeled cucumber

1/2 to 1 serrano chili, finely diced, optional

1 scallion, diced, about 2 tablespoons

1 thin slice of red onion, about 2 tablespoons

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon white vinegar

Juice of two medium-sized limes

1 teaspoon oregano, preferably Mexican

2 radishes, sliced

1 small avocado, peeled and chopped

1/4 cup crumbled Queso Cotija cheese, or substitute with feta


If you are using fresh nopales, Slice them into ¼ to ½ inch strips, then dice the strips into even-sized pieces.

Place the diced pads in a nonstick covered skillet over low heat with a sprig of cilantro and a pinch or two of salt. They will start to release a slimy substance, but don’t worry, it will absorb as the nopalitos cook. Stir the nopalitos to coat them with the liquid.

Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until all of the liquid is absorbed, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

Place all of the salad ingredients except for the radishes, avocado, and the cheese in a large bowl and toss gently with a rubber spatula to combine.  Divide onto serving plates and arrange the avocado and radishes around the edge and on top of the salads. Garnish with bit of crumbled cheese.

Serves 2 to 4.

Midwest: Rhubarb

Peggy Wolff’s Rhubarb Kuchen With Almond Meringue

Recipe adapted from German baker Eva Hess by Peggy Wolff, Glencoe, IL.


2/3 cup butter, softened

1 1/4 cups sugar, separated into ½ cup and ¾ cup

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 large eggs

3 large eggs, separated, at room temperature

¾ cup flour

4 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

1½ teaspoons baking powder

2 1/2 cups rhubarb, ends cut off, strings removed, cut into 1-1½ inch pieces (approximately 1 1/2 pounds)

1/3 cup almonds, ground*

Whipped cream, optional

*You can ground the almonds in a food processor or look for almond meal.



Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

To prepare the cake layer, combine the soft butter with ½ cup sugar and vanilla extract. Mix well.

Beat the 2 whole eggs and 3 egg yolks together with a whisk or electric beater in a medium bowl. Keep the other 3 egg whites in a bowl for later.

Add the beaten eggs to the butter mixture.

Sift the flour, starch, and baking powder into a small bowl. Stir dry ingredients into the beaten eggs and sugar.

Spoon the batter into a 10-inch diameter greased springform pan. Distribute the rhubarb pieces evenly on top, lightly pushing them into the batter. Bake in the oven until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan, about 25 minutes.


While the cake is baking, using a hand held beater or the whisk attachment to a standing mixer, whip the 3 egg whites with a pinch of salt or spritz of lemon until soft peaks form. Gradually add the ¾ cup of sugar and whip until the meringue holds stiff peaks.

Remove the meringue from the mixer and, using a soft spatula, fold in the ground almonds.

Remove the cake from the oven. Smooth the meringue/almond mix evenly over the cake. Put the pan back into the oven for another 20 minutes. Remove, and let it cool before turning it out onto a plate. If desired, serve with whipped cream.

Serves 6 to 8.


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