Market fresh: It’s springtime at the farmers market
By Sara Pitzer
For The Salisbury Post
This has been a glorious spring for those of us who love the cool weather crops ó spinach, baby cabbage, early radishes, baby turnips, young cauliflower. What’s such a delight is that our continuing cool weather is producing an abundance of this produce over a long time. Once you’ve enjoyed the vegetables in their simplest form, it’s fun to move on to some interesting variations.
My personal discovery this spring has been chopped salad. I don’t know how I’ve cooked for so long or read so many cookbooks without knowing about it. I guess I still wouldn’t, if I hadn’t had dinner at the Hyatt in downtown Atlanta recently. I ordered just an appetizer and, intrigued by the “chopped,” a salad as well. Believe me, it was an expensive salad, but it was beautiful and astonishingly good. Chopped salad is not at all like our tossed salads or the Italian mixed salads (which are about the same thing).
You could make a chopped salad with no lettuce at all, just a variety of whatever vegetables are in season. Everything should be chopped quite fine, a step you could do in the food processor if you were careful not to overdo, but I like the variety of sizes and shapes that comes with using a cutting board and a big, sharp knife.
The other nice thing about this salad is that as long as you don’t put dressing on it, it will keep well in the refrigerator, and you can add new chopped ingredients to it as they come along. Add the dressing when you’re ready to serve a portion.
Here are the farmers’ market vegetables I’ve used so far:
Baby turnips (peeled)
Iceberg lettuce (in small amounts)
The dressing should be a simple oil and vinegar, with salt and pepper to taste. To add light garlic flavor, soak a peeled clove in the oil for 20 or 30 minutes. And you can vary the vinegars you use for ongoing interest. My personal favorite oil is a fruity olive oil from Sicily. (Incidentally, when you buy good olive oil, choose a brand that has the date of the crop ó not the bottling date ó in the label. The oil shouldn’t be more than two years old.) For vinegars, I like balsamic, raspberry, English-style malt and unfiltered cider. Not all together, of course!
Sprinkle a small amount of dressing over the chopped vegetables, toss, taste for seasoning and then spoon onto individual serving plates ó nice big ones, to frame your glistening vegetable masterpiece.
A few chopped olives or capers sprinkled on top make a nice flavor addition.
Spinach or Swiss Chard Patties
Here’s a way to use leftover cooked spinach or chard, or you can start from scratch, in which case just steam the greens lightly, drain, save the liquid for soup, and chop coarsely.
To hold the greens together, use good quality dry bread crumbs. Whole wheat gives the biggest flavor charge.
1 C. cooked spinach or chard
1 C. dry bread crumbs
1/4 C. chopped onion, lightly sauteed
1/4 C. sliced mushrooms, lightly sauteed (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients thoroughly. You may need to use a few more bread crumbs or a little of the cooking liquid, depending on the size of the egg and how well you drained the spinach or chard. You want to end up with a mixture that can be handled to shape into patties. This will be easier to do if you refrigerate the mixture for half an hour or longer before forming the patties. Smaller patties are easiest to handle.
To cook, skim a griddle or shallow skillet with oil and bring to medium-high heat before putting on the patties. Cook until nicely
browned, then turn to brown the other side. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Makes 6-8 patties depending on size.
Variations: A little cottage cheese or ricotta adds a nice flavor. And in Peru, I had these made with coarse cracker crumbs rather than bread. It’s a good combination, but crackers don’t have the nutritional punch of whole wheat bread.
Whipped Cream Slaw
This is a recipe my Grandmother Pennington used to make for special occasions. We called it “ice cream cabbage.” It’s a divine recipe for showing off young, tender cabbage. I’ve seen recipes suggesting one of the frozen whipped toppings as a substitute for real whipped cream, but I wouldn’t do that even to tough old cabbage. Also, some people prefer white vinegar to cider vinegar, but to me, it’s just astringent, with no flavor of its own to contribute. Adjust the balance between sugar and vinegar to your taste.
1 small head young cabbage, finely shredded
1/3 C. sugar
2-3 T. cider vinegar
Salt to taste (no pepper)
1 half-pint whipping cream
Let the cabbage stand for about 30 minutes to drain off some of the moisture, then mix in the sugar, vinegar and salt. At serving time, no sooner, whip the cream and fold it gently into the cabbage. Serve right away. Makes about 6 servings, depending on the size of the cabbage.
Note: If you find you have more whipped cream than you need, spoon it in mounds onto a parchment lined baking sheet and freeze. Store the frozen mounds in a plastic bag or freezer box. They can be thawed to use on fruit or cocoa, a serving at a time.
Visit Sara at www.planetpitzer.com.
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