Again and again spring is here and not here. Forsythia bloom, yet the wind blows bitter off the lake. I wear a hat and winter coat to water the hoop house and enter the humid 70 degree warmth. The lettuce, spinach and Swiss chard we planted last September has not only made it through the winter, but is growing nicely. Our grand experiment to extend our season has been pronounced a success. Although we have lost the radishes and dill, the parsley and thyme thrived. The carrots however, need to be planted no later than mid-August in order to have anything larger than a pencil. Live and learn.
I take off my hat and coat and kneel down to start with the chard. I pull individual leaves off each plant. I look for small red and yellow ones, each one looking vibrant and alive. I crawl over to the spinach. We grow two varieties, Space and Bordeaux. Space is beefy, round and wrinkled, while Bordeaux is delicate with pointed lobes and wine-red veins. The spinach in particular prefer it cool and moist. They grow almost hedge-like, and thicker the more they are picked. I turn next to the lettuces and stop to appreciate their variety before I harvest. Green Deer-Tongue, Royal Oakleaf, Forellen Schluss, Tango, Sylvetta and Rocket Arugula, a world unto itself of color and texture. No heavy cream dressings for these beauties; only the simplest of vinaigrettes will do. I want to feel their fresh texture on my tongue.
I gather up my hat and coat and close up the hoop-house. Walking home with my bounty, I notice wild chives growing up through the leaves behind the barn; a bright green contrast to the forest floor. I decide to add these to my salad, gently cutting a handful. Entering the kitchen, Val is pulling fresh Ciabatta from the oven. The scent of warm bread surrounds me. I show Val my offering and she smiles her approval, giving me a kiss on the cheek. Our friends Beth and Brian will be arriving soon to share our table. I rinse and spin the salad, then place it in the frig. Next, I decide on the vinaigrette. I look through our condiment shelf and decide on Champagne Vinaigrette. I like to use a glass Dijon mustard jar that I have recycled. The size is ideal and allows me to shake it to my heart’s content until it emulsifies.
- 1 garlic clove finely chopped with 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
- 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup champagne vinegar
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp honey
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup good quality, extra virgin olive oil
- After finely chopping the garlic clove with the salt, let rest for 15 minutes.
- Put all ingredients into jar with tight-fitting lid.
- Shake vigorously until combined. Let rest 15-20 minutes to let flavors meld.
- Shake again and dress salad with hands (to prevent bruising leaves)
We all sit down to a simple meal of pasta, bread and salad. Brian starts to eat the salad with his fingers, exclaiming how fresh and alive it tastes. We share in his exuberance, not wanting to bruise the leaves. As we spread sweet butter on fresh bread our meal is elevated to something beyond the sum of its parts. We collectively await spring’s arrival with the warmth of friendship at our table.