Barbie Butz is an independent columnist for The Atascadero News and Paso Robles Press; you can email her at barbiewb@hotmail.com.

According to my calendar, it’s 24 days until spring begins, so be on the look-out for the “transitions.” All over north county, I’ve seen a few flowering trees in bloom, and here and there, the daffodils are opening up.

In the garden in front of the Montessori School, on Monterey Road in Atascadero, there is a huge display of “bulb” plants preparing for their performance. Last year it was beautiful to behold, and I think this year will be even more spectacular since I see even more plants. The flowers are a beautiful visual bouquet for our community.

Fortunately, there is a stop sign at the intersection of Graves Creek and Monterey, which forces people to stop and look both ways, so they can’t miss the flowers. There are daffodils, tulips, and iris. Don’t miss the show!

Last week John and I had some errands in Paso Robles, and since I knew we’d be there around lunchtime, I packed a simple lunch for us. We found a place to park on Pine Street, across from SLO Sweets, and sat at a picnic table in the City Park. It was wonderful to be out in the fresh air on a beautiful day. We ate, laughed, people- watched, and just had what felt like a “normal day.” The restaurants around the park all seemed to be doing good business, and we plan to “eat out” on our next trip.

Many visitors were doing “take-out” and eating in the park. We are blessed here in north county with beautiful parks in Paso Robles, Templeton, Atascadero, and Santa Margarita— all are inviting locations. Remember to support our small businesses and help the owners to stay open!

Getting through this together, Atascadero

Today’s recipe for Striped Bass or other firm white fish is simple and delicious. It calls for butter, but you can substitute it by using 1⁄4 cup olive oil instead. You can use one large piece of fish or individual portion-size fillets.

Striped Bass (or any fish you like) with Butter Verde
Ingredients:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 lemon, ends trimmed, thinly sliced
2 pounds skin-on center-cut striped bass or other firm white fish fillet
3⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
A small handful of fresh Italian parsley leaves (a little bit of stem is fine), minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
2 tablespoons drained brined capers
1 garlic clove, minced

Directions:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the surface of a baking dish large enough to hold the fish, and use your fingers to spread it to coat the bottom. Arrange the lemon slices in a single layer, overlapping them slightly, in the dish. These will be the bed for the fish. Place the fish, flesh side up, on top of the lemon slices. Drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil on top of the fish and sprinkle with 1⁄2 teaspoon of the salt. Place in the oven and roast the fish until it is opaque and the blade of a paring knife feels hot after inserting it into the center of the fish, 10 to 25 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. Start checking at the 10-minute mark). While the fish is roasting, put the butter into a small skillet or pot set over medium heat. Once it melts, turn off the heat and stir in the parsley, chives, capers, garlic, and the remaining 1⁄4 teaspoon salt. Spoon the butter mixture over the cooked fish. Serve lemon slices with the fish as they are entirely edible.

Fish Salad
Leftover fish can be turned into a delicious salad. Remove any fish skin and flake the fish in a large bowl. For each serving, add a chopped hard-boiled egg, a little minced onion, and 1⁄2 stalk finely diced celery. Bind the ingredients with however much mayonnaise you like and season with prepared white horseradish, salt and pepper. Serve on toasted English muffins or any kind of toast or crackers.

Pop a couple of small, individual plastic containers of this salad into a picnic cooler, along with a box of crackers, some forks, napkins and 2 wine glasses with a bottle of your favorite white wine and take a ride to one of our parks. Don’t forget something chocolate for dessert!

Enjoy the weather. Look for daffodils.

Cheers!