Every time I am getting ready to go to the market Dr. V and I have the same conversation. “Can you please contain yourself?” V will tell me as I am packing my bags and stashing dollar bills into the wallet. Containing oneself, at least in this particular construct, describes ones inability to control ones buying impulses when one is surrounded with attractive, unusual, photogenic and out-of-ordinary produce and goods. “Can you please contain yourself?” V will tell me, and every time the conversation pretty much ends there, as I hear him, I hear him all to well, but there is very little I can do about it and very little hope for improvement.
The market is a dangerous thing; the produce talks to me, the flowers cast their own wicked spells, even the farmers are a threat, they have the powers of convincing, the powers beyond anything imaginable, and once the spell is cast, the next thing you know, you are in possession of six different bean varieties, as they are the perfect subject for your camera, or carrying eight pounds of heirloom tomatoes, because you simply must have one in every color, shape and variety. You may get tricked into buying a bit too many flowers: fresh flowers, edible flowers and a bouquet of dry lavender too, for who can resist lavender, and then you proceed to buy herbs, because fresh herbs are pure magic, and you end up with an entire herb garden and no produce to match.
The most dangerous market in the city is Union Square, the flagship and the pride of New York markets; dangerous not only for its size and diversity, but because of its proximity to other dangers, namely the flower district, the flea markets, vintage stores and Chelsea food stores. And the Union Square market itself is paved with threats every step of the way; threats in the form of Indian corn, gourds, exotic mushrooms, sheep’s skin, micro-greens, local wines, bee’s wax and candles. Just to name few.
“Can you please contain yourself?” V tells me again this week. But soon I realize that this week the battle is already lost, because the anemones have arrived. Oh, how I love anemones! I love them purple, I love them white, red and magenta, and their very special dusty pink. Most of all, I love them mixed, because the true bouquet of anemones must host all the colors. The florists know that, and they are the cunning sort; they are vile, for they organize their anemones into singe-colored bouquets, and to have them all, you must buy one of each. Needles to say, I end up buying a bouquet of every color available, and poof, the next thing I know my weekly food budget is gone before the shopping process has even begun.
But who cares, because the colors are so beautifully vibrant against the green stems, the opened anemones exploding, reaching out to grab me, the closed ones still sleepy, gently hugged by the curly little leaves.
And the next thing I know, I absolutely must have produce that matches my anemones: green spring onions and the purple ones, scallions and red radishes, green asparagus and the purple asparagus, accompanied by the dusty pink spring garlic, a dead ringer for the anemone of the same color. Needless to say, I buy two of each, and the next thing I know, I am two weekly budgets down, and nothing, absolutely nothing from my shopping list has been crossed off as yet.
I then spot some cherry blossoms. And apple blossoms. And peach blossoms. And poof, the next thing I know, I am three weekly budgets down.
And as I contemplate feeling remotely embarrassed, the blossoms keep cheering me up on the way home. I am followed by their scent, quiet yet intoxicating and I seriously do not care -- I carry a cargo very special. Because just like the blossoms, and the anemones, these tender spring vegetables are among nature’s most precious gifts. They reward us the moments of exceptional beauty -- when the petals are open, when breeze is perfumed with fragrance and food flavors are at their peek -- when everything is frozen in time for a tiny brief moment of infinite perfection, never to be found again. Until next spring.
This will be a week of great dining.
The Jewels of the Spring Salad
* 8-12 radishes, sliced thinly crosswise
* 1 small cucumber, seeded and cut into ¼ inch dice
* 2 spring onions, sliced thinly crosswise
* 2 scallions, sliced thinly crosswise
* 3-4 stalks of green asparagus
* 3-4 stalks of purple asparagus
* 2 stalks young garlic, white and light green parts only, finely minced
* 6 ounces burrata
* 5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
* 1 tbsp white balsamic vinegar (or up to taste)
* 2 tsp lemon juice
* about 2 tbsp balsamic glaze (see note)
* salt and freshly ground pepper
1. Snap off the tips of the asparagus and slice them into thin slices lengthwise.
2. Cut the asparagus stalks into think slices crosswise. (If you are not working with tender spring asparagus, snap of the hard ends first.)
3. Prepare the vinaigrette. Combine the white balsamic and lemon juice in a small bowl and slowly whisk in olive oil until well blended. Add young garlic and season generously with salt and pepper. (Taste and adjust the acidity and seasoning according to your taste.)
4. Arrange the radishes, cucumber and asparagus on a plate. Top with burrata and vinaigrette. Drizzle with balsamic glaze. Serve.
Note: I am seeing a lot of ready made balsamic glaze / reduction in the stores recently. In case you would like to make your own, in a small skillet or saucepan, bring the about a cup of balsamic vinegar to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower the heat to minimum setting and simmer for a while, until reduced to about a third of its original volume. The reduction will thicken some more as it cools. If it becomes too thick, thin it with a drop of water. Do not be tempted to expedite the process by turning the heat up, long slow simmer is a road to success at least when balsamic glaze is concerned.
Spring Garden Frittata
This is a wonderful no brainer frittata, where veggies completely dominate the eggs. There is a little trick however; I like to sauté my veggies separately, they tend to require different cooking times and this little extra effort will ensure that each veggie reaches its own “inner perfection”.
* 6 eggs
* 8 small radishes, sliced thinly crosswise
* 6 spring onions, sliced thinly crosswise
* 6 scallions, sliced thinly crosswise
* 6 stalks of green asparagus, cut diagonally into thin slices
* 6 stalks of purple asparagus, cut diagonally into thin slices
* 1 stalk young garlic, white and light green parts only, finely minced
* 2 tbsp chives, minced
* 2-3 tbsp sunflower oil
* 2-3 tbsp whole milk
* salt and freshly ground pepper
1. Preheat the broiler.
2. Lightly oil a cast iron skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Add the spring onions and scallions to the skillet and sauté for a couple of minutes, until onions begin to soften.
3. Remove the onions from the skillet and place them in a medium bowl. If needed, re-oil and reheat the skillet and add the asparagus. Sauté for another couple of minutes, until asparagus is tender.
4. Remove the asparagus from the skillet and add it to the bowl with onions. If needed re-oil and reheat the skillet and add the radishes. Sauté for another couple of minutes, until radishes are tender.
5. Remove the radishes from the skillet and add them to the remaining vegetables. Add the chives and garlic, season generously with salt and pepper and mix well.
6. In a medium bowl, lightly beat the eggs with milk.
7. Generously oil the skillet and heat over medium heat. Add the vegetables, gently flatten them with spatula and pour the eggs over the veggies. When the eggs start to set around the edges, using rubber spatula, gently pull the cooked edges and allow the uncooked eggs to flow underneath. Keep on repeating this, until the eggs are almost set -- I am tempted to say for about 5-6 minutes, but it will entirely depend on your stovetop, skillet, amount of foods, etc.
8. There will always be a section on top of the frittata that is still runny, despite everything else being cooked to perfection. When you reach that point, place the skillet into the oven, not too close to the broiler. Broil about two to three minutes until the runny part disappears.
9. Remove the skillet from the oven and cover for about 5-10 minutes. Cut the frittata and serve.