Spring awakening is upon us. At the market, asparagus are appearing, as well as young leafy turnips and the first peas. But even beets can be springy when given the chance.
I was craving a light and fresh meal to match the season. Earthy beets beckoned to the market in bright clusters, leaves attached. They were so attractive it was hard to choose: ruby reds or sunny golds?
Although they take a while to prepare, freshly roasted beets are worth it. You can cook a dozen at a time and store them in the fridge, ready to use in salads or soups. I wanted a tangy soup that hinted at borscht, but not in a wintry way. So I seasoned and tempered some sweet beets with a splash of vinegar, then whipped them into a silky mash. To contrast the rich flavor of the soup, I smeared a healthy amount of yogurt, sprinkled with tarragon and chives, over the surface of the soup. The good news is that it tastes great hot or cold – and, I think, best served in small portions.
On the west coast, spring marks the start of the wild salmon season. There really is no such thing: wild salmon simply tastes better than farmed salmon and is always a better choice, from a sustainable perspective. (Is that crazy? Yes, except in places like Seattle.) Whether you choose king salmon, coho, or sockeye, be careful not to overcook it: At the fish market, I ask for a big fillet. Then I lay it flat on a baking sheet and roast it in a moderate oven, until white juices appear on the surface of the fish. This guarantees a soft and flaky salmon.
To enhance the fish, I mash grated ginger and lime zest and juice in butter, to coat over the hot fillet. I used the same butter to quickly melt a huge pot of baby spinach, which made a great side dish. Their additions were in keeping with the theme of fresh, bright and springy, amplifying, not minimizing, the role of greens.
Summer’s tumultuous bounty may attract more attention, but the return of spring’s seasonal offerings to my cart feels like a true celebration. When I spotted some cherries in the markets the other day, it put a little pep in my step. Beautiful, shiny cherries straight from the market are the perfect finish to a meal. Just put them in a big bowl and bring them to the table – an instant glorious dessert.