Market fresh vegetables

IMPROVISE: Explore your local market. (Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times)

Waste not, want not

Other themes for spring:

Fruit crisp: Cut together a half-cup of flour with a quarter-cup each of sugar and butter just until crumbly. Put fruit that's been sweetened as for the crostata (see recipe) in a baking dish and distribute the crumbs over the top. Bake at 400 degrees until browned and crisp and the fruit is bubbling. You can toss lemon or orange zest into the topping. Or add up to a quarter-cup of chopped nuts. A dash of cinnamon or a few drops of vanilla extract complements most fruits.

Fruit salad: Make a simple sugar syrup (boil about one-third cup sugar with 1 cup of water until dissolved) and flavor it with citrus zest, spices, even jasmine tea. Once it has cooled, cut up fruit, put it in a bowl and pour just enough of the syrup over the top to moisten and flavor the fruit.

Vegetable risotto: Clean and chop the vegetables (about 2 cups). Simmer with 5 or 6 cups of water or light chicken broth. Sauté onions and garlic, add the rice (2 cups for six people) and toast it briefly. Bathe with a little wine and then ladle in the hot stock, one-half to three-fourths cup at a time. Finish with grated cheese.

Vegetable and grain salad: Cook vegetables until tender-crisp and then fold them into cooked quinoa or barley. Go heavy on the herbs and finish with olive oil and lemon juice. This makes a terrific hot-weather main course.

Roasted vegetables: Cut vegetables into pieces, toss them with olive oil, garlic and herbs, and then roast them at 400 degrees until they're tender and beginning to caramelize. It's amazing how flexible this technique is.

-- Russ Parsons