The Crunch of Spring
Many of you have been asking what's on offer at local farm market these days. Due to the extremely cold weather earlier this month, local farmers are dealing with spring crop delays and potential backlash from budding summer crops.
As daunting as the news may sound, there's still plenty to choose from in these early weeks of the new season, as I discovered this Sunday at Freshfarm Market at Dupont Circle.
Below, a sampler of current produce highlights, which, of course, is subject to Mother Nature.
P.S.: You'll want to get your hands on the updated farm market lists in today's Food section:
These were the belles of this week's ball, laying in their glorious pale orange wonder, at the Next Step Produce stand operated by Heinz Thomet.
Although sweet enough to crunch on their own, I resisted some degree of temptation and threw together this heavenly mix of flavors, as suggested by Alice Waters in her "Chez Panisse Vegetables."
I'm a member of the uncooked carrot club (can't stand them cooked), so this recipe was of interest. Even better, this is one you can play with -- I might substitute the red wine vinegar, for example, with milder rice wine or a champagne vinegar. Rather than a lemon, I used a sweeter Meyer lemon, and considered a hint of ground coriander, particularly since its leaves were being used as garnish.
Spicy Carrot Salad
From "Chez Panisse Vegetables" by Alice Waters
2 pounds carrots
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
3/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
Cut carrots into julienne strips, or coarsely grate, depending on texture preference.
In a small bowl, mash garlic clove with salt and mix it with vinegar, lemon juice and cayenne. Whisk in olive oil Taste for seasoning add more acid, salt or pepper if needed. Toss with carrots, add chopped cilantro and serve.
Also up for grabs at market:
Spiffy-looking chard, which is a wonderful spinach alternative, quickly sauteed or roasted, mixed with garlic and white beans.
Leeks....which are highly underestimated in this country. In Europe, they're braised in wine and thrown into soups... then there's the wild leeks of Appalachian woodlands, aka ramps, which are celebrated every year at this time in Richwood, W. Va.
I've never cooked with ramps, which are notoriously stinky with strong oniony-garlicky notes, but I've been told they are best cooked simply in a hot pan with butter and/or oil, and marry beautifully with morels. If you've got a ramps recipe, by all means, share in the comments area.
Tender-leaf Russian kale, which sautÃ©s in fewer than five minutes. The simpler the preparation the better. Oil and salt is all you need. You can even eat it raw.
Garlic scallions, aka green garlic: These are immature garlic plants in their pre-bulb state. They offer a milder flavor than bulbed garlic yet like my beloved garlic scapes (the flowering shoot of the plant, due in June), they are incredibly versatile and fun to cook with.
Check out this recipe for roasted lemon and garlic scallion pesto from the blog at Clagett Farm, in Upper Marlboro, Md. I can't wait to try this one.
A few more juicy green garlic nuggets surfaced from other books: Green garlic and leek risotto (Deborah Madison's "Local Flavors") -- doesn't that sound luscious? I may have to whip this up before the week is over (stay tuned for that report).... and, from Alice Walker's book, green garlic with potatoes as a soup or a ravioli filling. Since I'm learning how to make ravioli on Friday (yes, I will be detailing my pasta dispatch next week), this flavor combination is sparking all kinds of dinner ideas.
And lastly, some of my favorite, trusty sources for inspiration on cooking with spring's early arrivals:
"Chez Panisse Vegetables" by Alice Waters
"Local Flavors" by Deborah Madison
"Organic Cook's Bible" by Jeff Cox
"A Well-Seasoned Appetite" by Molly O'Neill
"Farmer John's Cookbook: The Real Dirt on Vegetables" by Farmer John Peterson
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