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(article, Deborah Madison)
March marks the start of the transitional spring-like season, which is one reason why it’s the hardest seasons for cooks and recipe writers alike — excepting, of course, those who live in California, Austin, and other warm places where daffodils cover the ground and almond trees are maybe even past their blooms. [%image vegs float=left width=280 caption="The raw ingredients."] For the rest of us, there are the same low temperatures and piles of snow — or, if not snow-covered, everything is brown. There’s mud and virtually no sign of sprouting things to be seen anywhere except under a thick blanket of damp brown leaves. Thank heavens for my covered beds — at least there things are starting to grow instead of just staying the same size. Regardless of how closely early March resembles February and January, we do feel, do we not, that spring is coming? Yesterday I noticed a collective surge in spirit. Everyone I spoke to felt buoyed by the fact that although it was 25 degrees when they woke up, it was 40 by nine. But what to cook? First I have to comb through my freezer and make sure I use up tomato sauce, persimmon purée, cherries, and raspberries before it’s time to freeze more, even though summer seems ages away. It’s always a terrible feeling to find that you’re just adding to the stash instead of replacing it. But my basic approach to the final brown month is to make things that look and feel springy — even when they’re not. There’s great power in the visual — and that which lets you stay seasonal. [%image reference-image float=right width=300 caption="The perfect vegetable dish for right now."] For example, turnips, rutabagas, and broccoli stems might sound drab and discouraging. But take off their thick skins, cut them into thin matchsticks, blanch and toss them with a fresh herb, and you've got the most uplifting little dish you can imagine. The turnips stay white, the rutabagas are a delicate yellow, and once those skins are off the broccoli stems, they turn a translucent, glowing green. Trust me — you’ll be as surprised as if you discovered daffodils blooming through the snow banks. p(bio). Deborah Madison is the author of numerous award-winning cookbooks, including Local Flavors. She lives in New Mexico.