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Getting freekeh in a whole grain way, California salmon, fresh asparagus and more

Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

Dear readers:

Every Wednesday we bring you tips and ideas about how to cook at home, including my recommendations on using the best seasonal produce. After all, each fruit and every vegetable has a ripe time of year. Together with my colleagues, we work to give you an inside look at what's coming out of our test kitchen. We hope that will inspire the dishes you make in your kitchen. Then, on Saturdays, Jonathan Gold and the Food staff will share our report on the Southern California dining scene.

— Russ Parsons


THERE'S A NEW GRAIN ON THE BLOCK

How much more whole grain can we possibly eat? Yeah, they’re good for you and all that. But you know what? They’re really delicious too. My new favorite is a Middle Eastern wheat grain called freekeh (insert your own pun here; I had mine in the column). Think of an earthier farro or a chewier barley. What to do with it? One idea (recipe included) is to make a pilaf with browned onions and studded with almonds and raisins, then fold in cauliflower roasted with cumin. Some fresh herbs and a little yogurt on top, and there you go!

Rollin Banderob / Record Searchlight

ONE MORE YEAR FOR CALIFORNIA SALMON

The California salmon, once the backbone of our local fishery, has been having some hard times, and with the drought hanging on it's likely to be having some more. But this year, at least, it looks like we’ll have an adequate supply. That’s something to celebrate.

Los Angeles Times

WHAT'S FRESHEST? WHAT'S BEST? WHAT DO YOU DO WITH IT?

Asparagus is here! Asparagus is here! Yeah, I get a little excited at this time of year. The arrival of the first California asparagus (preferably the thumb-thick jumbos from Roscoe Zuckerman in Stockton) ranks with the first Dungeness crab on my calendar of food holidays. But there’s always a question: thick or thin? The answer is: It depends how you want to use it. And I’ve got suggestions for both.

While the first spears of asparagus are just arriving, markets are still stacked deep with wonderful citrus. This has been a bumper year. So what are you going to do with it all? The cliché says that when life hands you lemons, you make lemonade. But I’ve got a better suggestion: Here’s the best lemon curd ever (and you can use the same recipe to make grapefruit or lime curd too).

YOU'VE GOT QUESTIONS? NOELLE'S GOT VIDEOS

Sometimes it seems people today know more about food than they ever have but less about cooking. So whom do you turn to for tips? Test Kitchen Director Noelle Carter, of course. This week, for example, she has instructional videos on how to choose fresh fish (with a killer recipe from MB Post’s David LeFevre for wine-steamed sea bass with horseradish cream) and another on an incredibly easy way to make a quick mayonnaise with just an immersion blender.

CHOOSING THE BEST COOKBOOK

What was your favorite cookbook of 2014? The experts at the International Assn. of Culinary Professionals have made their first choices in their annual competition. It’s a tough year. In the baking category alone, you’ve got new books by pastry greats Dorie Greenspan, Rose Levy Beranbaum and Alice Medrich going head to head. Can’t wait to see how this one turns out.

Feedback?

We’d love hear from you. Email us at food@latimes.com


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