This time of year in New England can seem almost bleak, as one rattles the last of the garden squash around the cellar bin, yanks the last of the parsnips from the garden during a warm spell, and roasts potatoes with snippets of the rosemary brought in from the late summer herb garden. The punky potatoes get a soup treatment and then, we start to anticipate Spring fruits and vegetables. Getting fresh green vegetables involves kale and spinach, hydroponic greens and tomatoes from the area growers, and yes, buying asparagus from 'far, far, away'.
May and June seem ages away but we dream of going into the back yard and snipping our own salad greens and lopping off our own spears of asparagus (or getting them at the farmer's market). Right now, though, we begin to feel the return of a more intensely warm sun and the maples are beginning to waken. Sap is flowing and, in our hearts, we know Spring can't be far off. Still that ache for green is urgent. That is why, when asked to choose a theme for March's Virtual Supper Club, I chose "All Things Green".
I also chose to make a Spring salad with the first of the greens coming from one of my neighbor's tent gardens ... fresh greens and fruits with a sprinkling of a salad dressing that is made from New Hampshire maple syrup. This is an homage to our local products as well as to the first cold crop greens that are beginning to come our way. I love the presentation of this easy salad. I saw a salad made this way on another blog and immediately thought it would be right for the maple mustard dressing that is drizzled down over top. Pretty, eye-catching, cold, and crunchy.
The base of this salad are the greens, hydroponic Boston Bibb lettuce and spinach and Claytonia greens from Farmer Garret's winter greenhouse tents. Everyone is familiar with spinach and Bibb lettuce, but Claytonia greens may be a new source of crunch. The common name for these tiny leaved and crunchy stemmed greens is miner's salad or winter purslane. It's extremely high in vitamn C and was used by foragers to prevent scurvy in the very early spring. It grows wild along stream banks and in cool damp shaded locations as far north as Alaska and as far south as Arizona and Utah. Other subspecies grow down into central America. It resembles a mild spinach in flavour, has a soft crunch much like the Bibb lettuce and had brittle crunchy stems. It is easy to pick over and tosses nicely without sticking together too much.
I chose to make a layered salad with alternating layers of Granny Smith and Empire apples, dried cranberries, toasted pecans, shaved sharp Vermont cheddar, and caramelized purple onions - perfect flavours to blend with the Cooking Light recipe for New Hampshire Maple Mustard Salad Dressing. The salad dressing recipe makes just shy of one cup - enough for a dozen salads. It is a sweet and sour affair with a real mustard punch!
a Cooking Light recipe
⅓ c. New Hampshire Grade B maple syrup
2 tbsp. chopped shallots
3 tbsp. whole grain
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tbsp. canola or extra light olive oil
¼ tsp. black pepper
⅛ tsp. Kosher salt
- Place the maple syrup, half the shallots, the mustard, and red wine vinegar in a hand blender cup. Whiz until the shallots are incorporated to make a smooth liquid.
- Drizzle in the oil, whizzing until emulsified.
- Taste for flavour and the salt and pepper to taste.
- Store in a closed jar. Makes about ¾ cup.
Spring Greens Salad for Two
1 small head of Bibb lettuce – 8 leaves separated from the head and washed
3 c. Claytonia greens or maché greens
1 c. baby spinach leaves
Four thin slices of purple onion
10 slices of apple – 5 cross sections each of Granny Smith and Empire or
½ c. dried cranberries
½ c. chopped pecans, toasted
1 tsp. butter
a handful of shaved sharp Vermont Cheddar cheese
Making the Salad:
- Wash and spin out the salad greens. Lay four leaves of Bibb lettuce on each large salad plate so that they form ‘bowls’.
- Mound the spinach and and small-leafed greens into the Bibb bowls.
- Toast the pecans in a small fry pan and then pop them onto a cool plate and set aside.
- Use the same hot pan to melt the butter and caramelize the purple onion slices, separating the rings and cooking until they are golden and limp.
- Use a donut hole cutter to cut out the seed stars in the cross sections of the apple slices.
- Alternating green and red rings, stack the apples atop the greens.
- Dribble the pecans and cranberries over top.
- Arrange the warm onions and Cheddar shavings on and around the salad.
- Drizzle on about 1 tbsp of the maple-mustard dressing and have more in a small bowl for the table.
- Serve while the onions are still warm and before the apple flesh begins to brown up (oxidize).
This month's menu is really a stunner ... the group continues to grow and the choices folks are making are just so interesting and delicious! Just take a look. I am seeing many meals coming up that will include these dishes! So bring on the green!
March's Virtual Supper Club Menu and Links
Starters - Val's Creamy Feta Spinach Dip
Salad - Roz's Pesto Caesar Salad
Salad - Susan's Fresh Greens and Apples with Maple Mustard Dressing
Appetizer - Sarah's Shrimp in Green Sauce
Side - Sandi's Lemony Snap Peas
A special note: I would like to apologize to my supper club friends for posting this salad so late in the week. Life handed me a couple unexpected tasks this week that could just not be ignored or put off. Consequently, I have had to wait until things settled down before having time to get to the computer for the extended time it takes to do a post. I'm sorry guys! I'll try to be super prompt next month when we 'go gourmet'!