Interim Salad with Apples, Red Onion and Goat Cheese: It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Cold Storage Fruits and Vegetables

Interim Salad with Apples, Red Onion and Goat Cheese: It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Cold Storage Fruits and Vegetables

Have you ever upgraded to a nicer version of something and then missed the old one a little bit? The new video games are impressive but I do occasionally miss the days when  Mario and Luigi were two-dimensional. My father recently got a Smartphone and remarked that it had ‘an awful lot of buttons compared to the old one.’

Most of the farmers markets in the US are about to be flooded with what most people consider the best vegetables of the year. It will start with pea shoots and some greens and then move into peas, asparagus, and artichokes. The corn and tomatoes will come in for the finale and stay for some time before local eaters go back to cold storage fruits and vegetables.

I’ve certainly eaten my fill of parsnips and potatoes this year and I was ready to splurge on some of the beautiful greenhouse greens at the market to tide me over until the spring veggies come out. In a way, I wanted to speed up the arrival of spring. I found amazing microgreens and fresh goat cheese from Lynnhaven, my favorite goat cheese producer in NY. But on the way out of the market, I started to notice the bins of onions and apples. They weren’t as pretty as the greens I had in hand but I couldn’t get myself to leave without some cold storage action.

Together, they make a ‘sort of spring’ salad that is fresh and light but with a little nod to the delicious fruits and vegetables of fall and winter. The apples and onion also add a more serious crunch that really holds up to the richness of the goat cheese.

I am very excited for the spring foods to come out but in the meantime, I plan to enjoy the comforting local foods of the past few months. I may even try to unlock the lost levels in the 4-4 fire world in Super Mario Brothers. Does anybody remember how to do that?


Interim Salad with Apples, Red Onion and Goat Cheese

Farmers Market Bill $12/4 Servings= $3/Serving

Mince small clove of garlic and place in mixing bowl

Add 2 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and a half a teaspoon of Dijon mustard

Whisk in a 3 tablespoons of good olive oil

Add a pinch each of salt and black pepper

Peel and slice a large red onion

Core and slice 2 tart apples (granny smith work well)

Place onion and apple in bowl with dressing and add 6 oz. of baby greens

Toss to coat well and plate

Check salad for seasoning again and adjust if necessary

Break apart 3 oz. of local, fresh goat cheese and spoon on top of salad

Easy Peasy (and Asparagusy)

Easy Peasy (and Easy Asparagusy)

$12 at Farmers Market/4 Servings = $3/serving

I remember hating peas when I was little. Canned peas are often bad
and every time I see a small child grimacing when a bowl of mushy peas
is put before him, I want to say “Yes child. Your reaction is
appropriate. The food in front of you does not taste very good.”

Fresh peas in season are another food all together.  Truth be told, I
usually eat them faster than I can shell them and no cooking actually
takes place (just a lot of putting shells in compost and peas in my
belly). But just as overcooked peas can be unpleasant, raw peas are
not for everyone either. It’s time to blanche. No, I don’t mean it’s
time to do a scene from A Streetcar Named Desire or The Golden Girls
(though both might be fun). I mean it’s time to boil the peas very
briefly and then shock them in cold water.

When I first started cooking, I remember reading Cooking for Dummies
and learning that chefs blanch and cold water shock vegetables all the
time and that while it doesn’t take much time or skill, it improves
the quality of veggie dishes immensely. Sweet, fresh peas take very
well to blanching as do fresh asparagus spears. Since both tend to
appear around the same time at the market every year, why not combine
them into what might be the freshest salad or side dish you’ve ever
had? Start to finish should be no more than 15 minutes.

You’re eating vegetables so fresh and lightly cooked that they may
have some serious crunch to them and that’s ok. This dish is spring.
It can’t be canned.

Salad of Blanched Peas and Asparagus

Bring a large saucepan of well-salted water to a boil

While water comes up to a boil, shell 2 pounds of peas

Break the tough ends off  a pound of asparagus spears  (it should
break naturally at the right place) and rinse

Cut asparagus into 1 inch pieces and put in bowl with peas

Fill a large bowl with ice water and set aside

When water comes to boil, add peas and asparagus

After 2 minutes (maybe 2 and a half for thicker asparagus), drain in a
colander and immediately plunge into ice water

Let veggies sit in ice water for 1 minute and then drain again

Toss veggies in bowl with around 6 tablespoons of the best olive oil
you can find and the juice of half a lemon

Taste and add salt and pepper if necessary

I add a few shavings of the trusty local pecorino that keeps for
around 4 months in the fridge but you could use Parmesan, a crumbly
blue, some leftover almonds, or nothing at all. See what you have
around and use it up. It will be good.


Winter Salad

I’ve read a lot of articles about how winter salads are every bit as good as those you find in the summer. I’m still not sure I will ever like anything more than a salad of in-season tomatoes, baby greens, and a few shavings of local pecorino. But there are great salads to be had in the winter, even here on the East Coast. Windfall farms, at Union Square is a fairly expensive but excellent vendor of various radishes and sprouts year round. Most recently, I noticed beautiful watermelon radishes and sliced them thinly along with some blanched kale. With a simple vinaigrette, this is the base of a wonderful winter salad. I also use their gorgeous sprouts when they have them for garnishes at fancy dinner parties. Some of their produce is simply stunning.

Blanching or parboiling are not difficult cooking techniques. I use these methods for everything from winter greens to thinly sliced parsnips. I wonder if we got in the habit of boiling a small pot of salted water as soon as we got home, if we wouldn’t realize that we can eat a lot more veggies than we realized. If you happen to be on the East Coast, buy some root vegetables (parsnips, carrots, celery root, etc), chop them into small pieces and put them into your boiling water. Taste it after a minute and see if it’s too firm for you. If it is, let it go another minute. This is not hard to do. Toss the blanched vegetables with olive oil and vinegar and see what happens. I know I’ve started to enjoy the crunchiness of winter vegetable salads. Those vegetables are delicious and very good for you. They are also cheap. If you can commit to eating mostly root vegetable salads for a few weeks, you can save some cash for those heirloom tomatoes which will be here in a few months. And yes, I am counting the days. : )