Monday, April 18, 2011

season of the green

Each season brings a specific dish or preparation that defines that particular year for me.
Beautiful things are popping up everywhere!

This year my springtime culinary obsession has already taken form. Sauteed baby greens served cold, as a salad with pickled red onions are going to be part of my weekly if not daily diet for the next month or two. This dish came together while I was cooking lunch in the school kitchen this week. On hand was an abundance of fresh spinach, but not enough to serve as a side dish to 200 children, so I turned it into a salad we could put on the salad bar. It was a long shot, especially when I considered how most children feel about spinach, but the students put a dent in it I am happy to report!

Knowing that all sorts of baby greens would be hitting the farmer's markets just about now I headed over to Union Square and scouted out a vendor who was very excited about her overwintered broccoli rabe, touting it's sweet flavor and warning that it was only available for a few days, maybe a week or two at most. SOLD!

Overwintered broccoli rabe has been planted in the fall and harvested in the early spring. 

Baby greens cook so quickly, you really only have to get them to the wilted stage. This recipe will work equally well with tender spinach, kale, chard, mustard greens, and of course broccoli rabe. Use good quality extra virgin olive oil and add lots of garlic for flavor.
Pickled red onions are easy to make. Plus, they add great color and an acidic pop to this dish.  Make a large batch (a whole onion) to keep in the fridge, it is perfect to top sandwiches and other salads all spring long. 

Tender Spring Greens Salad with Pickled Red Onions
for the greens:
1 large bunch of young greens- either one variety or a mix (about 3 cups)
4 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbs. red wine vinegar
1/4 cup pickeled red onions

Wash greens carefully in cold water to remove any dirt or sand. With the water still clinging to the leaves, roughly chop them into bite sized pieces. Heat the oil in a saute pan and add the garlic. Cook the garlic for about five minutes. Add the damp greens and stir to coat them with the garlic and oil. Cook over medium heat for another five minutes till just wilted. Season with salt and pepper and the red wine vinegar, stir and remove from heat. Put greens in a bowl and stir in the pickled red onions (recipe below). Serve at room temp or serve cold after chilling for 4 hours

Pickled Red Onions
1 red onion, thinnly sliced
2 cups cold water
1 teaspoon salt
4-5 Tbs. red wine vinegar
Put the sliced onions in a large bowl and cover them with the cold water. Let the onions sit in the cold water for 10 minutes, then drain. In a small bowl, combine the onions, salt and vinegar, tossing the ingredients to combine. The onions can be ready to use in as little as 10 minutes. The longer you leave them in the vinegar the more wilted and tart they will become (a good thing)
Use the onions right away or store them in a covered container in the fridge for up to a week.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Have a Happy Passover everyone!

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