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Editor's Note: Natalia is the founder of MAZA Cooking Journal, a new cookbook for iPad. Download the journal for free from the iTunes store here. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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When you see the shadows of leaves on the pavement, you know spring is here. A friend told me once that people adjust faster and better to positive changes.

Since spring is not behind some corner anymore,let’s adjust quickly. Look up to the blooming trees, have a lunch break outdoors, let the first May sunshine strokes kiss your face and make you smile. Take a deep breath, relax, and think, "What’s for dinner?"

Taking a tour of the farmer's market, what’s in season for the spring? It's time to embrace the full spectrum of green,from pale leeks to the dark, almost black kale.

Before you sharpen the knives, look at your ingredients, touch them, smell them. Cooking is not only to provide nourishment, but to be creative and to awake your taste buds. Instead of talking about food, enjoy it. The first rule of cooking: Cook with love.

 Here are my choices for five seasonal dishes you should try to cook this month:

1. Spring Green Salad With Scallions & Radishes as fresh and green as it gets. 


Preparation time: 10 minutes, + 5 to clean lettuce

1 green leaf lettuce
2 scallions
3- 4 radishes
1 Kirby cucumber, peeled
For vinaigrette
1-tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
¾ tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt to taste

The secret of this salad is to cut all of the ingredients thinly. Transfer the finely cut lettuce to a salad bowl, add the sliced cucumbers and radishes, and finish it with chopped scallions. Just before serving add the vinaigrette, mix and serve immediately.

Note: An easy way to clean lettuce is to fill the kitchen sink with cold water. Please the individual lettuce leaves in the sink and leave them. After 5 minutes, all of the dirt and sand will stay on the bottom of the sink. If you need, you can wash the lettuce a second time with running water.

2. Grilled Eggplant with Tomato and Feta An every day recipe 

Have a taste of the exciting Mediterranean Trio. This Vegetarian addiction is a finely balanced combination of eggplant, tomatoes, and feta, all infused with fresh basil and extra virgin oil.

4 Servings

1 large eggplant
3 large tomatoes, to match the diameter of the eggplant
0.4 lbs Bulgarian feta, crumbled
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
juice of half lemon
2 garlic cloves
½ extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt 
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cut the eggplant crosswise to ½" thick rounds. Season lightly with salt and leave them for 30 minutes on a side until the water has come out of the eggplant.

Once ready, drizzle some olive oil on top of each slice and grill them on a lightly oiled grill rack for 2 -3 minutes each side.

Blend the basil leaves with 4 tablespoons olive oil, 2 garlic cloves, and 1 teaspoon salt in an emersion blender until smooth.

Cut the tomatoes crosswise to 1/4" thick rounds.

Lightly oil the baking pan. Arrange 4 eggplant rounds side by side. Spread 1/2 tablespoon of the basil-garlic mixture on top of each one, then generously sprinkle feta crumbs. Top each with tomato rings. Add another layer of eggplant, basil spread, feta and tomato rounds and top with the rest of the crumbled feta.

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Drizzle some olive oil on top of each stuck and bake for 15 minutes.

3. Roasted Branzini with Fresh Herbs and Leeks, Served With Aromatic Potatoes

I love how simply perfect this dish is. It’s one of my summer favorite “welcome to my home” dinners. Once you try the aromatic potatoes you will want to keep the recipe a secret. Hush-Hush.


Preparation time: 18 minutes, + 1 hour for refrigerating oil and 1 hour for marinating fish

1-cup olive oil
4 bay leaves
½-teaspoon freshly ground black peppercorns
6 sprigs fresh thyme  
4 springs fresh rosemary
3 medium garlic cloves, peeled and diced
2 medium-size Branzini, 1.25 lbs each
2 leaks
1-teaspoon sea salt
1-tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon

To prepare the marinade, warm the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat and add bay leaves, peppercorns, thyme, rosemary, and garlic. Let it cool to room temperature then refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Salt the fish inside out and put it in a large plastic zip bag, add marinade and turn to coat well. Marinate for 30 min at room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut the 2 leaks into ¼" rings and cover the bottom of the baker. Place the fish on top of them. Collect all the herbs from the marinade, make 2 bunches and place each one inside the fish.

Bake the fish for18 min. When done, fillet the branzini and pour freshly squeezed lemon juice together with collected juice from the baked fish. Salt and ground black pepper to taste. 

For the Aromatic potatoes 

Preparation time: 45 minutes

4 Yukon gold potatoes
1 bay leaf
½-teaspoon freshly ground black peppercorns
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
6 medium garlic cloves, not peeled
4 tablespoons olive oil
¼-cup white wine
Salt to taste

Cut the potatoes into 1.5" cubes. Place them in a baking pan and mix well with herbs, black pepper, garlic cloves, olive oil, and salt. Pour the wine evenly over and bake in an oven for 45 min at 350 F until soft inside and golden brown crisp on the outside.

4. Black Sea Bass Filet, over Mix Salad with Lemon Glaze

My inspiration for this treat was to combine the dressing for the salad and the dish in one. Meyer lemons are in season, don't miss out. 

Serves 4

4 Black Sea bass Filet
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Mix Salad: 
Frisée Lettuce 
Red Oak Leaves
Thinly cut Fennel bulb
Baby arugula
For the Lemon Glaze:

2 lemons
1-1/2 sugar

To make the lemon glaze, first squeeze the juice of the 2 lemons. Cut the lemons into small chunks. Place them in a sauté pan covered with water. When the water starts boiling, lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Once lemons are completely cooked and soft, get all the juice from the lemons using a potato ricer. Transfer the juice back to the sauté pan, add sugar, and simmer for one hour until liquid gets syrupy in texture.

Pat-dry the black sea bass filets and lightly season them with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Heat ½ tablespoon olive oil in a cast iron pan over high heat. Once the pan is very hot, add the two fillets, skin down, and press down with panini press, so fish doesn’t curl up. Cook for 2 minutes. Turn over and cook for another 2 min. Repeat the same for the rest of the fillets.

Pour 2 tablespoons of the lemon glaze on a flat serving plate. Tilt the plate to spread it evenly. Add one scoop of the mix salad and place the Black Sea Bass filet on top. Drizzle it with some extra virgin olive oil and lemon syrup.

5. Cauliflower & Kale Cream Soup With Pan-Roasted Pine Nuts Healthy and delicious, with elegant finish.


8 servings

1/2 cauliflower, broken into small florets
5 kale leaves, steamed trimmed
¼ sweet onion minced
1 tablespoon vegeta *
4 tablespoons sour cream
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ tablespoon black truffle butter
1 tablespoon pine nuts
Salt and freshly ground black peppercorn

*powder mix of spices and dried vegetables. Can be found in any Middle Eastern store.

In a large sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the sweet onion and cook until soft. Add the cauliflower florets. Mix well with the onion and the vegeta. Cook for 3 min, then add water just to cover the florets and let simmer until done, about 20 min. Transfer the mixture with all liquid to a blender and blend until smooth and creamy.

Add the kale to boiling salted water and cook it for 4 min. The salt in the water will preserve the  kale dark green color. Once done, transfer the kale to a food processor with ½ tablespoon black truffle butter and blend until smooth. If needed, add some of the kale hot water.

To serve the soup, pour the cauliflower mixture in individual bowls, top with a spoon of the kale purée, and top with pan-roasted pine nuts.