Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Spring Looks Good on You, Salad

As April very nearly gives way to May, it's becoming my favorite time of year again: the farmer's market stands multiply from the few winter standbys to the rows and rows of newcomers, their tables overflowing with the first real fruits of the new season.  The farms showcase leafy spinach, flourishing in the cool and rainy weather of the Northeast spring, alongside the first few weeks of asparagus as the sleeping roots begin to shoot up their tender stalks.  The fall harvest of sweet root vegetables hasn't quite been exhausted, and sweet heirloom squash varieties and beets -- greens removed for storage -- are still out in the baskets next to their early season cousins, carrots and turnips.  

Having missed the market one Saturday, my husband even scored some fresh strawberries and fiddleheads at the grocery co-op coming in from farms a bit further south -- no doubt thanks to our unseasonably warm spring.  Strawberries favor the cool season before the onslaught of real summer heat, so take advantage of their abundance and flavor while you can.

Whatever your region, keep your eye out for newcomers to your local market or items coming from your area at the grocery store.  These are clues that these varieties are in season right now in your area, and will most likely have been picked recently at or very close to ripeness.  This is where you'll find the most color, flavor, and nutrients -- not to mention enough variety to consistently spice up your dinner rotation. It's the perfect storm for salad creation: abundance, simplicity, and freshness, easily thrown together on any night of the week. 

Spring market salad:

Curly leaf spinach

Yellow carrots

Fiddleheads (furled fronds of a young fern)


Butternut squash, roasted in coconut oil 

Beets, roasted in coconut oil 

Local blue cheese crumbles (easily omitted if you're doing it vegan or paleo)

For protein: edamame (or eggs, paleo)

For fat: olive oil + avocado

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Happiness is a Portuguese Pastry

Pasteis de Nata and Port. Saturday, 08 April 2017

Exactly six months ago I married my husband, in a hurricane, in Virginia.  Two days later, we packed our bags, said goodbye to our dog, and boarded a plane -- Lisbon bound.  The city was a dream; we spent our days walking miles of marble-tiled narrow streets, winding up and down hills and in and out of stone-walled cafes, drinking port and sangria and dreaming about our future as the sun set and the sounds of melancholy voices singing fado echoed off alley walls.  

One morning, we stopped by a bakery, Manteigaria Fábrica de Pastéis de Nata, selling nothing but espresso and what seemed to be the national pastry of Portugal, an egg custard tart.  We watched in rapt fascination as the white-clad bakers behind the glass deftly rolled, pressed, and poured the contents of the tarts into long rows of pastry cups.  They had it down to a science -- the assembly line as art.  Five minutes later, we were biting into fragrant layers of hot and crispy pastel de nata -- properly enjoyed with powdered sugar and cinnamon sprinkled on top just after coming out of the oven.  Custard tart devoured only moments after its creation, we finished our espresso and set off into the early morning bustle of downtown Lisbon.  

Fast forward to Friday, the day before my birthday.  I get home to find my husband intently focused on spreading out his pastry dough carefully into a muffin tin, a bowl of egg custard standing at the ready, the aroma of the first batch already wafting from the oven, flour covering everything.  A bottle of port wine waits patiently on top of the fridge.  

Happiness is a homemade Portuguese pastry -- best enjoyed with friends.