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In the kitchen: Nettles and coffeecake recipes

In the kitchen: Nettles and coffeecake recipes
Fresh nettles at the Santa Monica Farmers Market. (Amy Scattergood / Los Angeles Times)

We may still be waiting for the brunt of El Niño to hit Southern California, but we can thank the colder, slightly wetter weather we have been experiencing for some great finds at the farmers market. Our latest muse? Stinging nettles. We share recipes, as well as tips for how to tame that sting before using.

And what is it about colder weather that makes us crave warm, comforting dishes? Food editor Amy Scattergood is a fan of the creamy polenta with mushrooms that Bruce Kalman serves up at Union in Pasadena. Lucky for us, she was able to secure the recipe.

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Finally, you can't have too many coffeecake recipes, which is why we share six of our most popular from our recipe database. And because we can all use some dinner inspiration on a busy weeknight, we share eight quick and easy fish and shellfish recipes, along with four of our favorite citrus salad recipes.

What to do with nettles

If you're unfamiliar with stinging nettles, they may sound intimidating. Startlingly green and invitingly pretty, nettles can sting — hence the plastic bags and tongs some farmers include near the baskets — and were often pulled as unwanted weeds before chefs started putting them on their menus. As long as the weather stays cold and damp, you should be able to find nettles in the market. Check out these recipes for inspiration.

Making Union's polenta

Creamy polenta with wild mushrooms from Union restaurant in Pasadena was photographed at the Los Angeles Times Photo Studio on Jan. 14, 2016.
Creamy polenta with wild mushrooms from Union restaurant in Pasadena was photographed at the Los Angeles Times Photo Studio on Jan. 14, 2016. (Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times)

Perhaps you've had the polenta at Union Restaurant in Pasadena. At first glance, this dish may come across as much more rustic and simple than some of the other dishes to be found on the menu, but it's a cult favorite of the locals, according to Food editor Amy Scattergood. Even if you can't make it to the restaurant, you can now re-create the dish at home.

Great coffeecake

<a href="http://recipes.latimes.com/recipe-rosies-pecan-coffeecake/">Old-fashioned and delicious.</a>
Old-fashioned and delicious. (Los Angeles Times)

Some mornings, you just want to dig into a thick slice of coffeecake. Whether topped with a crumbly streusel or studded with chocolate chips, layered with crumbled bacon and sautéed tart apple, or simply flavored with a hint of cinnamon and the gentle tang of buttermilk or sour cream, coffeecake is a no-fuss way to start the day. Grab a slice and go, or savor it in the quiet of an early morning as you nurse a strong cup of coffee. Check out six of our most popular coffeecake recipes.

8 quick and easy fish and shellfish recipes

<a href="http://recipes.latimes.com/recipe-seared-scallops-with-ponzu-ginger-and-chives/" target="_blank">Recipe: Seared scallops with ponzu, ginger and chives</a>
Recipe: Seared scallops with ponzu, ginger and chives (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)

There are times when you may be in the mood for seafood, but want to keep things simple, particularly on a busy weeknight. We understand. We scoured the recipe database for simple fish and shellfish recipes. And don't worry, just because dinner is ready in minutes doesn't mean you're sacrificing flavor.

Keep it light and simple with 4 citrus salad recipes

<a href="http://recipes.latimes.com/recipe-augusts-charred-broccoli-salad/" target="_blank">Recipe: August's charred broccoli salad</a>
Recipe: August's charred broccoli salad (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

How do you make a basic salad less boring? Dress it up with bright, fresh citrus in season right now. Slices of sweet tangerines, rich pink grapefruit or segments of vibrant blood orange can add just the right tang to a salad, not to mention added texture and color. Oh, and these salads are perfect for Meatless Monday as well. Check out the recipes, as well as a handy video tip demonstrating how to "supreme" your citrus the easy way.

Love cooking as much as I do? Follow me @noellecarter

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