The trees finally unfurled their leaves, infusing the city’s weary winter canvas with vibrant shades of green. The sounds of birds, kids playing, and friends chatting rejoined the honks, sirens, and jackhammers of the city's soundscape. Light and warmth, too, returned. I let out a long, slow breath; it seemed like I'd been holding it all winter.
The change in season also brought the first CSA box from Mountain View Farm. I’d been waiting anxiously since I signed up back in the depths of the dreary winter, and wondering, What would the first box hold? What wonderful things could I cook up with it? Where would I find the time to keep up with all of the produce?
It felt like my culinary birthday as I pried open the waxy white cardboard to reveal the treasures inside: radishes, kale, lettuce, oh my! There were other early season leafy greens—chard, bok choy, komatsuna—turnips and oregano. The smell of damp soil—earthy and alive—clinging to the just-harvested leaves transported me to a spring garden.
When each vegetable makes its seasonal debut, I tend to savor it straight up first: fresh, raw, with minimal manipulation. As the season progresses, I become increasingly willing to let the vegetables see heat and inspired to create more elaborate dishes. By the end, it’s a challenge (in some cases) to figure out something new to do (zucchini again?) and I start looking for ways to preserve and pawn off (er, gift) the excess bounty.
The first CSA box contained three full, gigantic heads of lettuce, so I had salad on my mind and on my plate. I was craving something fresh, light, and bright, and looking for a way to declutter the fridge to make space for all the new produce. (See here for tips on building a better salad.)
I reached for the pretty red head lettuce first and shaved a few of the bright red radishes with a mandolin (what color!). I unearthed a jar of pickled beets from winter (time's up), some fresh (but not for long) goat cheese, a bowl of quinoa (leftover from last night’s dinner), and a giant bag of sunflower seeds.
I dressed it all with my favorite vinaigrette, seasoned it with salt and pepper, added a healthy squeeze of lemon juice, and mixed it all by hand. I tasted a leaf: the fresh, delicate greens played with the crunchy sunflower seeds, spicy radishes, tangy cheese, sweet and sour beets, and bright burst of lemon.
Still, it was missing something. I eyed the fresh oregano. I'd never really given the poor herb much thought, except a vague awareness of it's presence in its dry (and often stale) form in "Italian" seasoning. But in its fresh form? Why not? I thought as I nibbled a leaf and explored the sweet, peppery, and fresh flavor. I plucked the leaves from a few sprigs and sprinkled them in. Now there it is.
Leafy green salad with quinoa, pickled beets, and fresh oregano
- 1 head lovely lettuce
- 2-5 colorful radishes, shaved thin with a mandolin or knife
- 1 cup quinoa, cooked
- ¼ cup sunflower seeds, toasted
- 2 oz fresh goat cheese, crumbled
- ½ cup pickled beets (with a splash of their pickling liquid)
- Leaves from a few sprigs of oregano
- Healthy squeeze of lemon juice
- Favorite vinaigrette, to taste
- Gently wash lettuce; dry well; carefully tear leaves into pieces.
- Add radishes, quinoa, sunflower seeds, goat cheese, beets and oregano leaves. Season to taste with salt, fresh ground pepper, and lemon juice. Toss with vinaigrette.
*Got more greens? Here are twelve tips for building a better salad.
Other dishes from this CSA box
- Snacks of radishes and turnips dipped in miso butter
- More salads with the romaine lettuce and kale
- Soba noodle bowls with bok choy, komatsuna, turnip tops, and radish greens
- Sautéed chard with green garlic and pickled chard stems served with fish