It’s May Day and time for a romp in the garden.
There’s kale and chard, lettuce that somehow survived winter and a newly planted crop that will be ready to dress in a couple of weeks. Mizuna’s ready; rhubarb’s in full swing; fava beans, almost; arugula every which way, leeks and corn salad; artichokes and cardoons on the way along with newly planted broccoli and Brussels sprouts; and herbs: parsley, thyme, sorrel, tarragon, chives, mint is back, bay leaf. Kale florets are like raab and will be abundant and delicious for a few more weeks until we tear out the overgrown plants and put in tomatoes.
All of these things are worth a celebratory fling around the maypole, and this is just a backyard garden. The Farmer’s Market has ten times this plus more – asparagus has a brief local season and this is it, rhubarb lasts through May/June, more or less, and then it’s on to strawberries. May the seasons reign.
I had the pleasure of a meal at Willows Inn on Lummi Island last weekend with three of my best girlfriends. Dinner featured the best of spring produce. It’s a sustainably-oriented small resort with its own organic farm, Nettles Farm. We walked, OK, we romped, through their farm in the late afternoon and later had some of it on our dinner plates: good homemade bread, fresh asparagus and a tiny crab cake for starters, then a luscious asparagus consommé followed by a salad of tender spring greens; the main course was local beef tenderloin and potatoes, and for dessert, their strawberry ice cream (last summer’s berries, frozen) with rhubarb sauce. $40
The salad was elegant and so simple.
A pile of spring greens on a plate, lightly dressed and garnished with caramelized walnuts. Nothing else. I harvested a few greens from my own garden and thought I would try to recreate the character of the Willows Inn dressing. Right about then Willows Inn responded to my request and sent their recipe – I love it when that happens.
Walnut vinaigrette (from Willows Inn)
1 clove garlic
2 tsp finely chopped shallots
1/4 c sherry vinegar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 c apple cider vinegar
1/4 c walnut oil
1 1/3 c light olive oil
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
Garnish with chopped walnuts.
This is the restaurant’s version. Cut this in half and you’ll still have well over a cup of dressing, enough for several salads. Add the oils last, whisking as you drizzle it into the rest of the ingredients. It’s good to have a new recipe and one with normal ingredients that I actually have in my kitchen. I made it this evening and it’s fantastic. Thank you Willows Inn for sharing your recipe and for a great meal last weekend.
I make salad dressing regularly. My standby is a smashed clove of garlic, balsamic vinegar, a dab of mustard, olive oil, salt & pepper. Fast. (More homemade salad dressings.)
Speaking of spring romps, Sustainable West Seattle Festival 2009 is happening this weekend, Sunday, May 3rd. Everybody showed up last year, it was a blast and will be even better this year. The theme is building resilience in our local community. Lots of fun going on as Sustainable West Seattle encourages neighborly environmental responsibility.
And local small farmers are at Farmers Markets with resources for the latest in spring cuisine. Vegetable starts of all kinds are beckoning – it’s the sweetest pleasure to step outside and harvest a salad from your own plot or pot. Seattle’s Tilth is one of the best resources around for both veteran and novice gardeners. Ask them anything about organic gardening and they’ll know the answer, probably. Visit their website or give them a call. An actual person answers the phone and is eager to help.
Happy May Day, plant something in the garden.