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Green things in warm weather


This time of year, nothing beats a big salad for dinner.

Saturday was so unexpectedly warm that I ended up with a headache. Also, the persistent conviction that I need to buy a sundress. It’s been years since I had a really good sundress. How is it that something so simple can be so difficult to find?

What is not difficult to find right now are fresh, beautiful vegetables. After an uninspiring winter, suddenly I’m compelled to buy green things. In just this past week, I’ve had asparagus, artichoke, zucchini (trying to cover the whole alphabet), and a series of monstrous and wonderful salads. I may have gone overboard last week, making an enormous salad for dinner every night.

This is the time of year that in 2010 prompted me to join a CSA. I love the idea of locally grown food, and of financially supporting organic farms in the area. All summer long, my fridge was full of a variety of fresh vegetables, many of which I’d never heard of. Now, creative people are supposed to see unknown edible stuff as an interesting challenge. Sadly, I learned that I’m not creative in that particular direction. I don’t believe I once managed to eat through my entire delivery before the leafy greens started to whither and the next week’s offerings were looking for fridge space.  I also frequently found myself spending more money than expected at the grocery store, buying more produce and other ingredients needed to prepare new dishes with the exotic, new vegetables inhabiting my kitchen.

Sadly (mainly for my own self-view), this was not the rewarding, personal growth-filled experience I’d hoped for.  Instead, it was a guilt-inducing exercise of wastefulness, as I ended up discarding more of my beautiful vegetables than I’d like to admit. Maybe if I’d been cooking for more than just myself I could have eaten it all, but as it was…well. Let’s not talk about it any more. No CSA for me this year.

This year I’ll stick to farmers markets and grocery stores. After last week’s visit to a farmers market in Santa Cruz, CA, I am feeling more inspired. This year, I’ll branch out in a more orderly fashion! New goal: one new veggie dish every week.

Perfectly cooked asparagus.

How to steam asparagus…

Asparagus is one of the simple, quick joys of spring vegetables. It’s easy to prepare, healthy, and versatile.

Prepare the asparagus by rinsing the stems and breaking off the tough ends. Don’t cut them–breaking is a much better way to be sure that you don’t end up with tough, stringy ends. To break off the tough part, hold the asparagus spear in both hands and gently bend the cut end until it snaps off of the stem. How much snaps off will vary with each spear.

Steam the asparagus by heating about a half inch of water in a saute pan or skillet. Put the spears into the simmering water and cover, cooking for just 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the asparagus from the hot water and serve immediately.

I like to sprinkle lemon juice and a little salt on my asparagus, but some people use a drizzle of olive oil, or a mayonnaise dip. Delicious, any way you make it!