Finally after a long, long winter, fresh local vegetables are starting to be plentiful around these parts. Mostly what we’re seeing is Greens, Greens, and more Greens, though spring roots like radishes and salad turnips are being harvested too. I tried to align what’s available with the recipes I picked from Kitchen Lioness Andrea’s lineup for Cottage Cooking Club this month. The recipes we cook from British chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s cookbook, River Cottage Veg celebrate vegetables, sometimes in familiar ways, and often with an unfamiliar twist, which has been fun.
I chose two recipes this month. The first was New Potato Salad “Tartare”. I love potato salad, especially ones made in the French style with a vinaigrette. My signature salad is a Dijon potato salad (which I’m shocked to find I’ve never blogged about), but I’m always up for trying a new version. The flavorings in the salad were inspired by tartar sauce, without the mayo. What a refreshing twist! Chopped cornichons, capers, and fresh herbs (dill, chives, and parsley) are added to potatoes along with a simple vinaigrette. Quartered “soft” hard-boiled eggs add the final touch. I was even able to use chives and parsley from my back door herb garden!
The only thing I’d change about this is the cooking method for the potatoes. Whenever I boil potatoes for potato salad, I’m unhappy. The potatoes always seem water-logged. I have much better luck with steaming them. I followed the recipe and tried boiling them as directed, but I should learn by now to stick to my preferred method.
Other than this hiccup, I loved the end result. The contrast of the salty tangy pickles to the fresh verdant flavor of the herbs make a winning combination. I’ll definitely be making the River Cottage version of potato salad again this summer!
The second recipe was the Greens and Ricotta Tart. I couldn’t find beets with greens the day I went to the farmers market (just a tad too early in the season), but I found beautiful Swiss chard from Kimball’s Farm. I also couldn’t find ricotta salata where I looked, so I substituted another sheep’s milk cheese: Spanish Manchego. Savory tarts are another favorite of mine. In the summer, I make one almost every week. Again, I’m always happy to try a new combination and learn something new.
I love when a recipe that uses both the stems and the leaves of greens. It always feels wasteful to discard the stems which they are perfectly edible, though not always in the recipe at hand, and try to do “nose-to-tail” cooking of vegetables when possible. For this tart, thinly sliced stems are sautéed with the onion and garlic before adding the leaves to wilt. The custard for this tart is made richer with egg yolks and cream.
The pastry crust was interesting in its use of cold milk instead of water. I found the dough to be easy to work with and the final pastry had a flaky texture. The crust didn’t brown as I would have expected, but I’ll admit I’ve been having some issues with my oven temperature and it was probably that, not the recipe.
My intuition told me to use a larger tart pan than called for, so I chose an 11-inch instead of a 9-inch. This was the right call. The crust fit into the larger pan with no trouble, and I had custard leftover. I ended up making a mini-crustless tart with some already cooked broccoli rabe and the extra custard.
I was very lucky in my choices this month: two winners that I will definitely make again this season.
One of my favorite parts of this group is seeing the other participants’ results with the recipes I didn’t choose to make. It helps me narrow down the other winners in the book that I must try. If you’d like to see their posts, you can see them here.
Follow my blog with Bloglovin. Google Reader goes away tonight. I switched over to Bloglovin and it’s been a positive experience so far.
Overheard last week at our favorite farmstand (Chipman Farm) in Maine. Uncharacteristically, there was a box of California corn for sale. Usually, they only have vegetables they grow themselves. Teenaged girls enter the farmstand, and ask the woman working “What’s the difference between California corn and Maine corn?” We were on our way back to the car, but this stopped us in our tracks. She politely answered, “California corn is grown in California, and Maine corn is grown in Maine”. The girls said, “We’d like to buy Maine corn”. Howard and I turned to each other and smirked. Howard said, “They’ll have to wait a few more months then”.
I continue to be amazed how out of touch people can be about food and seasons. We try to eat with the seasons, and this is the time of year I wait for, especially in the wasteland between the last days of winter and the long days of early spring. Summertime fresh fruits and vegetables, locally grown, are finally available.
This summer, we are members of the CSA at Waltham Fields Community Farm. We’re in the third week. So far, lots of greens (kale, collards, chard, spinach, arugula. cabbage) and spring roots (radishes, turnips, beets, scallions). I love the challenge of making meals from what we pick up each week. With this CSA, we have some choice in what we get, but it’s still limited to what’s ripe and ready and coming in from the field.
It’s also strawberry season. Last weekend, we had our annual picking and jam making weekend. We picked over 20 pounds of gorgeous strawberries at Spiller Farm in Wells Maine. Then we spent the evening making strawberry freezer jam: four batches. I prefer freezer jam to the truly canned version because the berries aren’t cooked and retain the fresh flavor when we eat it in the midst of winter. We eat a spoonful into yogurt for breakfast every morning.
Here’s a few of the things I’ve made so far:
Vietnamese Chicken Salad
I also took some inspiration from what was in the refrigerator to make this early summer salad with radishes and peas. The vibrant colors were gorgeous.
Minty Radish and Pea Salad
½ cup shelled peas
12 sugar snap peapods
1 scallion, sliced
1½ Tbsp olive oil
½ Tbsp cider vinegar
½ tsp honey
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
2-3 Tbsp slivered mint leaves (from 1 large sprig)
Scrub and trim the radishes. Cut half of them into quarters lengthwise. Slice the other half thinly, crosswise.
Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Fill a medium bowl with ice and water. Blanch the shelled peas by cooking in the boiling water for 2 minutes. Scoop them out and cool in the ice bath. Boil the peapods for 3 minutes and transfer them to the ice bath as well. Drain the peas and pat dry. Cut the cooked peapods in half crosswise.
In a small jar, add olive oil, vinegar, honey, salt and pepper. Shake well to combine.
In a medium bowl, combine the radishes, peas, and scallion with the dressing. Add the mint leaves and toss well.