Monday, June 16, 2008

On the Table

Peas have always been a favorite of mine.

Growing up, my brother and I constructed miniature forts out of slabs of meatloaf, held in place by a mortar of mashed potatoes. We shingled our little roofs with green peas before we dug in to eat--a perfect dinnertime combination, in both form and function.

Every summer we were put to work in the family garden, picking rows of sugar snap peas--not just for our table, but for the half dozen neighboring tables along our cul-de-sac. They were always worth the work, and while I haven't found sugar snap peas as sweet and tender as my dad's, peas are easy to find right now at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market.

This salad is made from Brines Farm arugula, fresh peas (blanched first) and mint, tossed in a bit of olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and topped with shaved Parmesan. It hit the spot for dinner tonight, with the sweet peas and mellow mint providing the right foil against the spicy greens.

Below: (Summer 2006) My dad gets an early start on breaking in the next generation of pea-picking slave labor.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Can't Be Beet!

I had never eaten a beet that wasn't pickled until just a few summers ago, when I resolved to start revisiting all the vegetables that I avoided in my youth. This was the first recipe I tried and it remains a favorite. It is from Giada De Laurentiis' Everyday Italian cookbook, and the combination of ingredients hits your palate just about everywhere. The season is right for spicy arugula and tasty new beets, but truthfully you can pretty much make this salad any time of year with tasty results. I recommend some nice Zingerman's Creamery goat cheese!

Beet and Goat Cheese Arugula Salad

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons shallots, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon honey
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 medium beets, cooked and quartered
6 cups fresh arugula
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries or dried cherries
1/2 avocado, peeled, pitted, and cubed
3 ounces soft fresh goat cheese, coarsely crumbled

Line a baking sheet with foil. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

1. Whisk the vinegar, shallots, and honey in a medium bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in the oil. Season the vinaigrette, to taste, with salt and pepper. Toss the beets in a small bowl with enough dressing to coat.

2. Place the beets on the foil and seal them up in the foil, creating an envelope. Roast until 25 minues, then open the foil envelope, toss the beets a bit, then roast uncovered for another 20 minutes or until they are tender and caramelized. Set aside and cool.

3. Toss the arugula, walnuts, and cranberries in a large bowl with enough vinaigrette to coat. Season the salad, to taste, with salt and pepper.

4. Mound the salad atop 4 plates. Arrange the beets around the salad. Sprinkle with the avocado and goat cheese, and serve.