Saturday, May 26, 2007

Thank you, strawberries

This morning I had one of those wonderful post-coffee sleep-deprived few hours where everything was right in the world. Last night I was at a show until after two, which was a wonderful experience full of people I know and love and people I know now who are we went home with much elation, fell asleep, and I woke up to a cat's head-butting at 9 a.m., too hot to doze - so in spite of myself, I had an early greenmarket day. I was still bleary-eyed when I dropped off my compost scraps, but after an iced-coffee at Joe's, nearly did a double-take when I saw little green cartons filled with small round red...cherry tomatoes? No! Early season strawberries had arrived. And eight dollars later, a quart of them were mine.

How can one person deserve so much joy? I'm just lucky, I guess.

Thank you, greenmarket:
1 quart strawberries (half of them are gone at 5 p.m.)
1 lb. sugar snap peas
1 lb. asparagus
2 bags spinach
1 bunch red kale
3 zucchini
8 Winesap apples
Total spent: $37

No photo today. It was a whirlwind morning. Plus, you people know what strawberries look like.

Beyond berries (raspberries were also an option, though I passed them up), the other exciting new development today is sugar snap peas, which are also the season's first. I am excited to stir-fry these...and serve them just blanched in lunches as an alternative to carrot sticks, which have been keeping me going all winter, I'll admit, but it's time for a change.

I'm not sure what I want to do with the asparagus (other than eat it as soon as I can), but I'd like to try a new recipe. But I like it so much just sauteed that it's hard to commit to recipes when it comes time to make dinner. I'll keep you posted.

In non-greenmarket vegetable news, avocadoes: still delicious!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Everything's cuter in spring

After dropping off my week's worth of fruit and vegetable waste with the compost lady, I was immediately plunged into a newly bountiful greenmarket experience. Tables were piled with asparagus - sold loose or in bunches - as well as rhubarb, tender-leafed spring spinach, and sweet-looking baby lettuces. And more vendors I recognize from last year have returned.

The predominant color is still green, and there isn't much variety (except for the potted herbs and extraordinary-looking flowers); one stand had some greenhouse-grown organic tomatoes which looked lovely, but at $5/lb. I decided to hold off. Neverrtheless, I picked up a lot of staples and a few exotics that I'm excited about this week. (Excuse the dark photo - my photo assistant had an appointment this morning and so couldn't help.)

May vegetables are better than May flowers:
2 lbs. asparagus
2 bags spinach
1 bunch red Russian kale
5 Winesap apples
2 zucchini
1/4 lb. mixed baby lettuces
1 lb. baby golden fingerling potatoes
1 bunch ramps
1 basket fiddleheads
Total spent: $36

I have absolutely no idea what to do with the fiddleheads, but I'm looking forward to them. I've eaten them once before that I can remember, years ago at an upscale Portland restaurant named after them, and don't remember being impressed. But they're so seasonal and considered so special that I imagine there has to be a way to make them wonderful.

Though I'd love to make ramps risotto for a third week in a row, I am going to force myself to be more creative. I've read about asparagus/ramp soup, which sounds lovely - I'm hoping to find a recipe. (Though this recipe for soup made with just the ramps does sound nice.) And this time, I've ensured I'll have enough of the thicker asparagus spears to use for that pan-roasted asparagus recipe from Cook's Illustrated - and I'll sautee the thinner spears.

The greens I'll used as usual - steamed or sauteed, added to every meal possible...though perhaps someday I can wheedle someone into getting me a Vita-Mix blender as a gift, and then I can add them raw to green smoothies in the morning! A girl's got to have a dream.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Update: dinner!

While I had planned to make the pan-roasted asparagus recipe from Cook's Illustrated with the bunch I picked up at the greenmarket, my discovery that there were lots of tiny spears changed my mind. Instead, I divided the asparagus spears into three separate piles based on size, and sauteed them in a bit of olive oil - first the thick pile, then the medium pile a minute later, then the tinies a minute later. They turned out perfect! This (blurry) photo is of the three cute asparagus piles - I just liked the way they looked against my new red cutting board (it's the kind with grippers on the back so it doesn't slide while you're cutting):

I also took a photo of the delicious second incarnation of risotto with ramps - though it turned out a bit odd in the kitchen lighting. The only thing that could have made this dinner more perfect is fresh fruit for dessert...


I dragged myself to USG this morning before 10, despite the hay fever that has made me not want to get out of bed EVER...and, luckily, I was duly rewarded by asparagus's spring debut at the market. No longer will I have to envy the asparagus meals I've seen pictured on so many other sites for a month now (or spend $8/lb. at Whole Foods) - tonight, I can grill my own!

Otherwise, a quite lovely morning. Lots of greens in addition to the aforementioned asparagus, more ramps - things are picking up. Though I have to admit, I would really love some local fresh fruit; the only option I found today was rhubarb, which requires more sugar to prepare than I'm currently allowing myself. How will I make it to the start of cherry season?

Last week's photos were lost because I kept forgetting to post them, and last night I had to take the camera to the record store to photograph Mountain Goats - and to free up room for the live shots, I was forced to delete the cute ramps/garlic chives tableau I had captured. Luckily, I wrote down the recipe for risotto with ramps that I concocted last week. It's going to be dinner again tonight.

The Greenening:
1 bunch ramps
1 lb. asparagus
1 lb. spinach
1 bunch green chard
1 bunch kale
2 small yellow onions
2 heads garlic
8 Winesap apples
Total spent: $24

Risotto with Ramps
3/4 c Arborio rice
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 bunch ramps, chopped (you should have about 1/3 c stem pieces, 1 c leaf pieces)
3 c vegetable stock
1/2 c Parmigiano-Reggiano (or more to taste)
freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste

I didn't write down any directions, but basically just sautee the stem pieces of the ramps in the olive oil until soft, add the rice and leaf pieces, stir until rice is translucent and fragrant, then follow normal procedure for risotto. One shortcut I learned is that it's easy enough to heat your stock, cup by cup, in a Pyrex in the microwave before you add it each time, rather than keeping it constantly simmering on the stove and dirtying another saucepan. After your risotto is done (you should use up all 3 cups of stock for sure), turn off the heat and stir in the cheese, salt, and pepper. Serve with more spring vegetables, preferably grilled asparagus!!