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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.


Parsley Vinaigrette
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.


Cole slaw made with whatever you find at your local farmers market or farm stand is the best way to go. These days, you’ll find arugula year round but it is always best before the heat of summer, when it has a tendency to bolt and turn bitter.

Spring Cole Slaw
Serves 6 to 8

— Creamy Sesame-Ginger Dressing (recipe follows)

3 cups, loosely packed, thinly sliced arugula

10-12 radishes, trimmed and very thinly sliced

1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed and very thinly sliced

1/2 white cabbage, trimmed

2 medium carrots, trimmed and peeled

1 small red onion, trimmed and peeled

1/2 cup chopped, fresh Italian parsley

— Kosher salt

First, make the dressing and set it aside.

Put the arugula into a large mixing bowl, add the radishes and fennel, toss gently, and set aside.

Fit a food processor with the thinnest slicing blade. Cut the cabbage into wedges that will fit into the feeder tube; with the machine operating, gently feed the wedges through the tube. Slice the carrots and onions in the same way.

Add the cabbage, carrots, onions, parsley, and cilantro to the arugula mixture and toss. Season lightly with salt and toss again. Add the dressing, toss thoroughly, and enjoy right away.


Creamy Sesame-Ginger Dressing
Makes about 1 3/4 cups

1 cup mayonnaise, homemade or Best Foods

2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon finely squeezed lime juice

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

— Kosher salt

2 tablespoons white sesame seeds, toasted until golden brown

— Black pepper in a mill

Put the mayonnaise into a medium bowl, add the ginger, sesame oil, vinegar, lime juice, sugar, and several generous pinches of salt and stir well with a small whisk until very smooth. Add the sesame seeds and several turns of black pepper and stir again.

Use right away or refrigerate for up to 8 days.


For rice salads in the spring and summer, I typically use a white rice, as I find the flavor of brown rice clashes with the delicate foods we are harvesting now. But you should feel free to use whatever rice you prefer or even substitute quinoa or farro.

Spring Rice Salad
Serves 6

— Warm Fava Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

3 1/2 cups cooked jasmine rice (from 1 cup raw), cooled and fluffed with a fork

— Zest of 1 lemon

— Juice of 1 lemon

— Kosher salt

— Black pepper in a mill

3/4 pound asparagus, roasted and cut into 1-inch diagonal slices (see note below)

1 firm-ripe avocado, halved, cut into cubes, and scooped out with a soup spoon

1/2 cup shelled and blanched English peas

1 small red onion, cut into small dice

3 tablespoons minced, fresh Italian parsley

2 tablespoons snipped, fresh chives

2 tablespoons minced, fresh chervil

3 tablespoons shelled and lightly toasted pistachios

— Several leaves radicchio, cut into thin julienne

Make the vinaigrette and set it aside.

Put the rice into a large bowl, add the lemon zest and lemon juice, season with salt and pepper and toss. Let rest 10 to 15 minutes.

Add the asparagus, avocado, peas, onion, parsley, chives, chervil, pistachios, and julienned radicchio and toss gently but thoroughly. Add half the dressing, toss and then serve in a bowl or on individual plates. Spoon the remaining dressing on top and enjoy right away.

Note: To roast asparagus, preheat oven to 450 degrees. Snap off and discard the tough ends of the asparagus, set the green stalks on a baking sheet and drizzle with a little olive oil, just enough to coat it. Season with salt, set in the oven, and cook until tender, about 7 minutes for thin stalks and up to 12 minutes for fat stalks.


Warm Fava Vinaigrette
Makes about 1 cup

— Olive oil

1 small shallot, minced

2 garlic cloves, minced

— Kosher salt

3/4 cup freshly shelled, blanched, and peeled fava beans

2 tablespoons best quality white wine vinegar

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

— Black pepper in a mill

1 teaspoon fresh, snipped chives

Pour a little olive oil into a small sauté pan set over medium-low heat, add the shallot and sauté until soft and fragrant, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté 2 minutes more. Season with salt

Add the fava beans, vinegar, lemon juice and extra-virgin olive oil and heat through; do not let the mixture boil. Stir, taste and correct for salt. Season with several turns of black pepper, remove from the heat, and stir in the chives.

Use right away or warm just before using.

Michele Anna Jordan is the author of 24 books to date, including “Polenta.” Email her at michele@micheleannajordan.com

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