Recipes at Sound Food

The sweet rewards of a chilly spring

It’s been hard to find much to like about this spring’s frigid weather. But one taste of Karen Selvar’s asparagus, or of the kale and other braising greens that are so abundant at the Farmers’ Market this month will show you the sweet side of all this cold weather. Some vegetables react to cold weather by producing sugar, or by converting starch to sugar. Broccoli, radishes, kale, chard, leeks and Brussels sprouts are some of the crops that sweeten up after they’re nipped by frost. And arugula and lettuce are always sweetest in the cool early months.

So I’ve been digging up some new recipes to make the most of this sweet spring harvest. Sprightly spring salads are what I crave after a long winter of supermarket greens. And there’s nothing that highlights all those sparkling flavors better than a freshly made dressing. A drizzle of the very best olive oil over just-picked salad greens from the Farmers’ Market can be simply sublime. When you want to add a little more pizzazz, there are several easy, springy options. The proportions for classic vinaigrette are three to four parts oil to one part vinegar plus salt and pepper to taste. Experiment with different combinations of oils and vinegars. From there you can add herbs, shallots or garlic.

Chives snipped from the garden can be whisked into a simple chive vinaigrette. Those same chives can become part of the famous Green Goddess dressing, which you can make at home. There’s a classic version that uses mayo and sour cream, or Alice Waters’ version which relies on herbs and avocado for taste and richness – you’ll find both recipes here. If you like your dressing cheesy, try this recipe using a creamy blue-cheese such as Rogue Creamery's Oregonzola , which is available at T&C.

Any simple vinaigrette is great drizzled over asparagus (hot or chilled). Roasting makes the most of this spring’s sweet stalks; just snap off the woody stems before tossing the spears in olive oil and salt, and roast them in a 400 degree oven for 8 – 10 minutes, depending on how thick they are, until lightly browned and done to your liking.

Here's a fun salad from Epicurious that combines two of my favorite spring greens:
Dandelion and Sorrel Salad with Paprika Stars
Gourmet | April 1993

Can be prepared in 45 minutes or less.
Yield: Serves 8
For the stars
4 slices of homemade-style white bread
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/8 teaspoon paprika

For the dressing
1 tablespoon raspberry vinegar
2 teaspoons water
1/4 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

5 cups lightly packed small tender dandelion greens, rinsed and spun dry
3 cups lightly packed sorrel leaves, rinsed and spun dry
Make the stars:

Cut out as many stars as possible from the bread with a small star-shaped cutter, in a skillet cook them in the oil over moderately low heat, turning them, until they are golden, and in a small bowl toss them with paprika and salt and pepper to taste.

Make the dressing:

In a large bowl whisk together the vinegar, the water, the sugar, and salt and pepper to taste, add the oil in a stream, whisking, and whisk the dressing until it is emulsified.

Add the dandelion greens, the sorrel leaves, and the stars to the bowl and toss the salad well.

Happy spring eating!

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