Even though salads are delicious and necessary year round, it is all but impossible not to get excited about spring salad possibilities as our farms and gardens offer up the first offerings of the season. Delicate radishes, sweet little English peas, fava beans, asparagus, fennel and more enhance the greens we’ve been enjoying throughout the winter.
Avoid the impulse to rush headlong into summer with out-of-season tomatoes and green-house basil and instead savor the flavors spring gives us. Not only will you be pleased and perhaps even delighted with what you make; tomatoes, basil, and other summer produce will taste all the better for the waiting.
When it comes to cooking seasonally, delayed gratification is your friend.
And you might just want to sing “How Can I Miss You If You Won’t Go Away” as you cook, a song that always evokes, at least for me, the sad tomatoes of winter.
Today’s recipes are adapted from “Vinaigrettes and Other Dressings” (Harvard Common Press, 2013, $16.95).
If you love the classic Italian salad of sliced tomatoes, mozzarella, and fresh basil, it can be temping to buy out-of-season ingredients as the days begin to warm and lengthen. However, you’ll have much better results if you use what is in season now and save the classic version for when we have local basil and local tomatoes.
Spring Caprese with Parsley Vinaigrette
Serves 4 to 6
1 pound fresh mozzarella, preferably fior di latte or mozzarella di bufala, chilled
— Parsley Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
— Kosher salt or Malden sea salt
3 spring onions, red or white parts only, trimmed and very thinly sliced
5-6 French breakfast radishes, trimmed and cut into thin lengthwise slices
8-10 very fresh spearmint leaves
3/4 cup shelled, blanched, and peeled fava beans or 3/4 cup shelled and blanched English peas
1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
Drain the mozzarella and, if it seems particularly damp, pat it dry with a clean tea towel. Set the cheese on a clean work surface and cut into 3/8-inch slices. Set the slices on a serving plate, cover and let them come to room temperature.
Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette and set it aside.
Once the cheese has reached room temperature, scatter the garlic and a bit of salt over it. Tuck onion slices, radish slices, and spearmint leaves here and there between the slices of cheese.
Scatter the fava beans or peas over everything and spoon the dressing on top. Sprinkle with chives and enjoy right away.
Makes about 1/3 cup
1 small shallot, minced
1 tablespoon best quality white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
— Kosher salt
3-4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
— Black pepper in a mill
1 tablespoon chopped, fresh Italian parsley
Put the shallot into a small bowl, add the vinegar and lemon juice, season with salt, and let rest for about 15 minutes.
Use a fork to stir in the olive oil. Add several turns of black pepper, stir in the parsley, taste and correct for salt. Set aside until ready to use.