We moved last month, to a house we looked at once and fell in love with. We weren’t even really looking to buy a house, but this one went on the market and a friend drove me by and insisted it was perfect for us. Back at the office, we pulled the listing up online. “Too small,” I said. “Go look at it,” he advised. “The location is great, but we wouldn’t really be trading up in terms of size,” I explained. “Go look at it,” he repeated. “It’s probably a better house for a young single person. Or, like, a really really old person,” I offered. “Just go look at it,” he insisted. So we did. Then we bought it.
There were actually quite a few steps between the looking and the buying, all of which were unbearably nerve-wracking. Early in the process, people warned me that buying a house is stressful, and I nodded politely while secretly thinking, “I’ve bought stuff before. How hard can it be?” Here’s the difference: when you buy regular stuff, you click add to cart and a few days later the UPS guy shows up with something pretty; when you buy a house, the bank calls you several times a day to say comforting things like, “I’m reviewing your loan application and I have to ask: do you have any other money?”
But now we live here, in an adorable little mid century ranch with a river for a backyard and a kitchen twice as big as our old one.
There are a handful of things I’ll miss about living at our old house, and the farmers market is one of them. The market in our new town doesn’t start until the end of the June, so yesterday I drove back to our old town to get my fix. Guess how many of those things I bought just because they’re pretty. Hint: four. I was particularly captivated by the flowering arugula, which I’d never seen before. Evidently the flowers are nice in salads or scattered over soups or deviled eggs. Any other ideas?
The fudgies ate all my vegetables!
I know that in high season, if you don’t get to the market by 10 you’ll miss out on some good stuff. But there are a lot more people up north now than there were a week ago, and this morning we missed out on almost all the stuff! When we got to the market a little before 10, my favorite farmer was already sold out and packed up. Everyone else just had lettuce and spinach, which I still have left from last week. The good news is that quite a few farmers had strawberries, and there’s still a bit of rhubarb around.
The other good news is that all these visitors generate revenue that ultimately ends up in my paycheck, so I’m happy to share my farmers with them. Still, I guess my Friday nights should consist of a little less Buffy and a lot more sleep so that I can get my lazy ass to the market earlier.
You’d think a blog with the word salad in its title might occasionally feature a salad recipe. In the case of this blog, you’d be wrong. To date, When Harry Met Salad features only one recipe for salad, a late spring salad that also highlights asparagus. The truth is we don’t eat much salad worth mentioning. Chris doesn’t like it (!!!) and I generally can’t be bothered to do much more than dress greens with vinaigrette for just me. But last weekend I fanned my farmers market purchases out over the dining room table and arranged them to photograph. I nestled a bunch of tiny pink radishes in alongside bright green stalks of asparagus and admired the graceful curve and deep purple-greenness of wild mint, and when I looked through the viewfinder of my camera I immediately thought salad. This is that salad.
I sliced the radishes and asparagus into coins and drizzled them with olive oil, lemon juice, and a little honey. Then I tossed in a handful of chopped mint, seasoned the vegetables with salt and white pepper, and carefully folded in crumbled bits of incredibly creamy local feta. And because I was also in the middle of a chive blossom vinegar project, I finished the whole thing off with a smattering of chive blossoms. Sometimes I get a little carried away.
“Hmmm, that looks like something I wouldn’t like,” Chris observed when I emerged, crunching, from the kitchen. And it’s true: he wouldn’t. But you might. With or without the chive blossoms, this salad is really lovely. It’s fresh and crisp and pleasantly vegetal. The sharp, peppery flavor of the radishes and the tender greenness of the raw asparagus mingle with the sweet, aromatic notes of mint, and all this bright freshness is beautifully balanced by the creamy tang of goat’s milk feta. It’s a salad that’s delicious in its simplicity, a salad that captures the fleeting flavors of early summer and hints at the bounty yet to come, a salad that’s totally worth making for just you.
Asparagus, Radish & Mint Salad with Feta
1 lb. fresh asparagus
2 bunches radishes
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
½ tsp. honey
3 Tbsp. mint, chopped
4 oz. feta, crumbled
salt and white pepper, to taste
2 chive blossoms (optional)
Slice the asparagus and radishes into thin coins or discs, slicing as thinly as you can. (I tried this with both a mandoline and a knife — the knife was actually faster and easier.) Transfer to medium bowl and drizzle the olive oil, lemon juice and honey over the vegetables; stir to combine. Fold in mint and feta; season with salt and pepper to taste. If using the chive blossoms to garnish, separate the individual florets from the large blossom and scatter over the salad. Serve immediately.
I left for the market this morning with the intention of buying asparagus, rhubarb, and fish. You can see how well that plan worked out. A thunderstorm blew through around dawn and I guess a lot of farmers decided to stay home, including those with rhubarb and asparagus. It was pretty quiet at the market, which is how I ended up with all these leafy greens: my favorite farmer kept tucking spinach and kale into my basket as we chatted. I have no idea what he charged me for and what he didn’t. Or what I’m going to do with all that spinach.
Asparagus, finally! That wild mint is especially beautiful, isn’t it?
Sometimes I have good ideas. This is not one of them. It is a good idea — it’s a fantastically brilliant idea, really, but I can’t claim it. This recipe is a gift from the Google gods. I wanted to do something savory with rhubarb for a change, and a chef friend had recently mentioned how delicious rhubarb is with fish. But I’m a skeptic at heart, even when faced with overwhelming expertise, so I googled just to be sure. Judging by the sheer number of search results returned, rhubarb is indeed a proper companion to fish.
But the thing about Google is that it still takes a human to cut through all the crap. For there, amid multiple ho-hum recipes for fish with rhubarb sauce, was this delicious little gem of a recipe, which I promptly re-created in my own kitchen. “Rhubarb salsa?” Chris lamented, sporting his best yuck face. But rhubarb salsa is bright and tart and assertively zippy, and it’s difficult to maintain a dour demeanor in the face of such brazen freshness, particularly when that zippiness is paired with sweet, crispy cornmeal-coated strips of freshly-caught Lake Michigan whitefish. So difficult that I suspect we’ll be eating this at least once a week for as long as rhubarb is around.
For the salsa
1½ cups rhubarb, diced
¼ cup red onion, minced
2 tsp. lime juice
¼ cup finely minced scallions
1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
2 tsp. honey
1 Tbsp. cider vinegar
¼ tsp. kosher salt
1/8 tsp. cayenne
Fill a medium bowl with ice and water; set aside. Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add the diced rhubarb, blanch for 10 seconds, then scoop out with a slotted spoon into the ice water. Place red onion in medium bowl and drizzle with lime juice. Remove rhubarb from water batch and blot with towel to dry, then transfer to clean medium bowl. Add rhubarb to red onion and toss with scallions and jalapeño. Whisk vinegar with honey until combined, add to salsa mixture and season with salt and cayenne. Refrigerate.
For the tacos
¼ cup yellow cornmeal
3 Tbsp. olive oil
2/3 pound whitefish, skin removed, cut into 2-inch strips
1 large sweet onion, sliced thin
6 5-inch corn tortillas
1 Tbsp. chopped cilantro leaves
Heat oven to 200°F. Place the cornmeal in shallow bowl and season with salt and cayenne. Dredge the fish strips in the seasoned cornmeal. Add 3 Tbsp. oil to a large skillet and sauté the fish over medium heat, turning, until golden and crispy, one to two minutes per side. Remove to a heatproof dish, and place in the oven. Heat the remaining oil in the skillet. Add the onions and cook over medium heat, stirring, until golden brown and slightly caramelized.
Warm the tortillas in a cast iron skillet about 30 seconds on each side; hold in warm oven if necessary. When ready to serve, place two or three pieces of fish in the center of the tortilla, top with some of the caramelized onion and finish with about 2 Tbsp. of the salsa and a sprinkle of cilantro. Serve any remaining salsa alongside.
I didn’t intend to buy more rhubarb this week, but my favorite farmer ran out of ones so we agreed that I’d just take my change in rhubarb. Pretty good up-selling strategy. Think he learned that in farmer school? Also, DUH, I should have taken my change in extra morels!