Field to Feast: Eat Your Beets

Good advice, I’d say, but it does reinforce the air of obligation beets already have about them; we’re admonished to eat them because they’re good for you, rarely because they’re delicious. Despite that crushing sense of duty, flavor is a great reason to chow down on beets, and now that local crops are veering toward root vegetables, there couldn’t be a more perfect time to sample them.

I think a lot of people have negative associations with beets after some childhood dining trauma, but they weren’t on my radar when I was young. In fact, I’m pretty sure I never tasted a beet until they started popping up in salads with goat cheese and frisée sometime in the ’90s. But that only takes care of the root — what about the greens, which also deserve a chance to shine? When Gil and I first moved in together (long before the dogs came to live with us), I exercised on the treadmill pretty regularly. Most of that treadmill time was spent watching Lidia Bastianich’s show where I learned, well, all sorts of things, one of which was that preparing beet greens is pretty simple. Her roasted beet salad stuck with me through the years and it’s always on the menu when I come home with some beautiful beets from the market.

Roasted Beet Salad | Minimally Invasive

I used golden beets this time instead of the deeper red ones because those were already spoken for. If you hate worrying about stained hands from preparing beets, you can wear gloves or just buy these golden beauties. They’re not quite as earthy as their darker cousins, but I love them just the same.

Veselka Borscht | Minimally Invasive

Of course, I can’t let a post about beets go by without pushing borscht on you. But this wasn’t just any borscht! No, I broke out my Veselka Cookbook and got to work on the lengthy process of cooking their most famous dish. Making it involved cooking three stocks — beef, pork and beet — along with much straining and simmering and work. So Much Work! The end product was satisfying and rich with a depth of flavor my regular borscht doesn’t have, but was it worth the extra five hours and four pots to make? For me at least, the answer is no because I can make it to the restaurant any time I want. But I did love their suggestion to use the strained beets from the stock in a salad composed of nothing more than beets, prepared horseradish and salt. I was skeptical, but found the combination addictive and kept nibbling away at tiny portions until I’d consumed an entire meal’s worth.

Veselka Borscht | Minimally Invasive

I somehow managed not to stain my newly white walls with any drips from the process of cooking, which we all should consider a miracle. All in all, it was a very successful beet week!

Update: I’m starting a new feature over at Amy Roth Photo called (provisionally, anyway) How I Got the Shot. I’m discussing the opening shot of this post for my very first entry. Take a look and let me know what you think! 

Field to Feast: Poblanos, Two Ways

I’ve been spending entirely too much time sitting at my desk and not enough of it standing in the kitchen, which has resulted in a pretty impressive knot in my right shoulder. But the boys are great company, even if they’re weird (and occasionally smelly — eye-wateringly so). I look over to find them in the strangest positions, fast asleep:

Brothers | Minimally Invasive

Bless.

But I did manage to cook up a couple of recipes featuring poblanos last week. I absolutely adore these peppers from Bialas Farms because they have some character — not insipid or bland, but full of flavor with a peppery bite. The obvious place to begin was with poblanos with crema, something I make whenever I’ve stocked up on these peppers. The major players are onions, poblanos, crema and cheese, but this is a dish where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I couldn’t find crema this time, so I used heavy cream mixed with roughly an equal amount of full-fat sour cream, and it worked perfectly.

Poblanos in Crema | Minimally Invasive

I just never said it was pretty.

I love to serve it with homemade corn tortillas, but a good packaged variety would really cut down on the work involved. For me, making the tortillas is worth the effort, especially when it comes time for dessert and I smear a little honey butter on a still-warm tortilla and sprinkle it with a little salt. It’s heaven, I tell ya. I take the easy way out and use a cast iron tortilla press, but if you really want to get down and dirty, have at it with a rolling pin!

Both the poblanos with crema recipe and tortilla how-to are from Simply Recipes. I used Bob’s Red Mill masa harina this time and liked it just as much as the Maseca brand I’ve always used in the past. Bob’s is much easier to locate around here, so it probably will become my default brand for tortilla-making.

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The other obvious choice when you have a surfeit of poblanos is chiles rellenos, which always remind me of my mom. They were her favorite item at the local Tex-Mex joint when I was a kid (Anyone else miss the old Pancho’s on Veterans Boulevard?), though I didn’t understand the appeal of the dish at the time. I was more of a cheesy enchilada girl, you see. But now that I’m older, I get it. Problem is, I don’t want to go to the trouble of making an authentic version of it, both for the gut-busting cheese filling and for my fear of frying, even in miniscule amounts of oil.

So I healthed it up, with inspiration from Vegetarian Times.

Chiles Rellenos | Minimally Invasive

The most difficult part (IMHO) of making this is charring the poblanos and somehow removing the seeds and membranes without completely destroying the pepper. What worked best for me was charring them over open flames on my gas burners just until blackened; any longer over the flames and they turned too mushy to handle. After they rested in a covered bowl for five minutes or so, I used a paper towel to get rid of most of the blackened skin, then slit open one side of the pepper and carefully scooped out the membranes and seeds with a small spoon. If you have an easier way to go about it, please let me know in the comments, because I do plan to make this again someday.

Instead of a fully cheesy center, I stuffed the now-prepped poblanos (only four large ones, though I’d recommend going with six to use up all of the filling) with a mixture of onions, diced mushrooms and spinach sautéed together, then mixed with a can of rinsed black beans and about two ounces of shredded mild cheddar. Jack would work here, too, or any of your favorite melty cheeses. I think I seasoned it with some ground cumin along with salt & pepper, but it’s honestly a little tough to remember. (And I rarely write things down as I’m cooking.) I closed up the peppers with wooden toothpicks before dipping them in an egg wash (just one beaten egg), then in corn meal seasoned with salt, pepper, and a little chipotle chile powder. They baked at 425°F for 25 minutes.

For the sauce, I sautéed a chopped onion, minced garlic clove, some ground cumin and coriander seed, Mexican chile powder, and salt & pepper in a little olive oil until the onion was softened. I added a box of Pomi chopped tomatoes and a chopped chipotle chile in adobo sauce and let it bubble away until the poblanos were about five minutes from being ready. At that point, I blended the sauce until it was completely smooth, then enjoyed the hell out of my lunch. Unfortunately, I only made four of these peppers, which Gil and I finished off in one sitting. If you make this, I’d certainly suggest doubling whatever recipe you use. It’s well worth it. You could change out the stuffing ingredients to use what you have on hand — corn, zucchini, rice, quinoa, etc. I love adaptable dishes!

And poblanos. I really, truly adore them.

Field to Feast: Spiralized Zucchini

Spiralizer with Zucchini | Minimally Invasive

Gluten-free pastas just don’t do it for me. If the taste is good, the texture is all wrong, and when the texture is passable, the flavor is blaaaaahhhhh. There are a few I’ll use in a pinch, but I usually skip them entirely in favor of spaghetti squash, which, of course, has its own problems (chief among them being its flavorlessness). So when I started seeing this spiralizer business everywhere from Bon Appétit to Fresh Tart, I placed an order within the week. I figured a bumper crop of zucchini was the perfect test for the machine and even with the shame of its single-use gadgetry hanging over my head, I’ll admit that I love it!

Zucchini Twirl | Minimally Invasive

I softened thick spirals of zucchini and summer squash with a hefty pinch of salt while I threw together a simple, punchy dressing for it, since the stuff isn’t exactly a flavor powerhouse. I fried thinly sliced garlic in olive oil until the slices were browned and crunchy, then drained the chips on some paper towels. In a small bowl, I mixed together some of the garlic oil, minced sun-dried tomatoes, fresh herbs and lemon zest, then topped the dish with wisps of Parmesan, garlic chips, Maldon sea salt and freshly grated black pepper. I was surprised to find the dish so filling but loved that it didn’t weigh me down, even with an oil-based dressing.

Zucchini Pasta Top View | Minimally Invasive

The view from above.

Zucchini Ribbons | Minimally Invasive

I knew that the angel-hair setting would render zucchini into mush, so I tried the ribbons for the next dish. The dressing was even lighter than before, using oven-roasted cherry tomatoes and garlic with fresh herbs as the base with a few dollops of Edgwick Farm chevre tossed in for contrast. Salt & pepper naturally followed and I gobbled it up. There was only one problem: many of the tomatoes were lost to quality assurance testing before the dish was assembled.

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes with Herbs | Minimally Invasive

But you really can’t blame me.

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes | Minimally Invasive

The spiral slicer is nice for anyone on the Paleo bandwagon, but if you’re just interested in reducing processed carbs, you should consider giving this a try. I love that I can rejigger a dish and make it healthier with a big serving of vegetables added to my meal. I’ll be trying it out with lots of other seasonal produce from Bialas Farms, so stay tuned.

I bought the Paderno World Cuisine spiral slicer from Amazon; it was recommended by Bon Appétit and I liked that it offered three different settings for roughly the same price as other models. Cleanup was easy and I managed not to cut myself on the blades, so I give it two (unmarred) thumbs up!

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And if you’re still awash in tomatoes, dive right in to Kasha’s Cherry Tomato and Brie Galette. It looks spectacular! The things this woman cooks on the fly just amaze me.

Field to Feast: Paleo Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Go on, treat yourself to a slice of chocolate zucchini bread with your morning coffee. I won’t tell.

As ever, the recipe from Elana’s Pantry is perfect — moist, rich and delicious. I doubled the recipe and baked it in a regular-sized loaf pan, so that’s probably why it fell in the center, but the flavor was unaffected. And for a dessert as unassuming as zucchini bread, imperfection just adds to the charm, don’t you think?

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Have you read Kasha’s great recap of our Field to Feast posts yet? No? Well, grab another slice of zucchini bread and hop on over

Field to Feast: Homemade Tomato Paste

Happy Friday, everyone! Has this week felt terribly long to you? Maybe you just want to put your feet up this weekend, relax and enjoy some sun, and who could blame you if you do? But if you’re looking for a project, something that sounds impressive yet requires minimal effort — the best kind of project for lazy summer weekends — here’s a great one: homemade tomato paste. You may be wondering exactly why you should bother when little cans of the stuff are already so very, very cheap and so very, very convenient, but you’ll just have to believe me when I tell you that homemade is so much better than canned that it’s like a completely different animal. Or fruit. (You know what I mean. Don’t make me turn this car around.) It has a bright, zingy, concentrated (duh) tomato flavor without any of that tinny aftertaste we’ve all grown accustomed to after years of eating the canned variety. It’s a treat anytime you use it, but in midwinter when hot sun and bountiful produce couldn’t be farther away, it’s damn near a revelation.

But before you start, fortify yourself with a light salad because the kitchen will get hot while the paste is cooking and you won’t want to spend much time in there. And while you’re up to your elbows in tomatoes anyway, why not make them into your meal? I reworked the Roman Summer Salad with more of an emphasis on fresh tomatoes while they’re as perfect as possible. I started with a base layer of assorted, sliced tomatoes from Bialas Farms and drizzled them with olive oil and red wine vinegar.

Sliced Tomatoes | Minimally Invasive

Then I mashed together some anchovies and garlic in a mortar and pestle to make a paste. I scattered the paste across the tomatoes along with chopped capers, black olives, basil, parsley and goat’s milk ricotta, and devoured half the salad in one sitting.

Roman Salad Reprise | Minimally Invasive

But let’s get moving; you’re here for tomato paste! It’s a time-consuming process, but really very easy. You cook the tomatoes briefly, use a food mill to get rid of skins and seeds, then leave a sheet pan filled with the tomato purée in the oven until the water has evaporated and you’re left with a pan of brick-red loveliness. Just freeze the cooled paste in a thin layer in a Ziploc bag until you need a hit of summer.

I used bacon fat on the sheet pans instead of olive oil to give my tomato paste a smokey flavor, but it really isn’t necessary, just indulgent.

Tomato Paste | Minimally Invasive

I hope to get at least a couple more batches of paste put up for the winter. Rationing my one bag from last summer got me through April, but I’d like to put away enough this year to keep me going until next year’s tomatoes are in market.

Get the recipe for homemade tomato paste at Saveur. And have a great weekend!

Field to Feast: Tomatoes & Zucchini

After a full week of eating tomatoes everyday, I needed a little break to let my poor mouth heal. Sorry about that. The few tomatoes I hadn’t used by the end of the week weren’t going to last much longer, so I turned them into tomato water. Which of course you’ve heard of because everyone’s making it, but with good reason: It’s addictive. Imagine the purest tomato essence in liquid form, perfectly delicious on its own, but also strong enough to stand up to, say, vodka. If I were able to get fresh horseradish anytime other than Passover, you’d better believe I’d be drinking Bloodies with infused vodka right now.

Generally, recipes suggest straining blended tomatoes through a cheesecloth or t-shirt-lined colander (without pressing on solids so the liquid stays clear), but I really hate dealing with the soaked cloth, so I tried something different. Behold, the Chemex strainer!

Chemex Tomato Water | Minimally Invasive

My husband, as previously discussed, is a huge coffee snob. Brewing coffee is the only thing he does in the kitchen, but he does it exceptionally well with the help of his Chemex. Sometime last year, he decided to try out the pourover filter to get more of the coffee oils in us and to keep all of that filter paper out of the landfill. It worked so well that I figured it couldn’t hurt to try with tomatoes. You can see in the picture that it did let a small amount of pulp through, but the clear tomato water was easily poured out, leaving the pulp behind in the Chemex. The size of the filter doesn’t allow you to make the tomato water in one go, but I’d certainly recommend this method if you don’t mind doing it in multiple batches.

The gazpacho was inspired by the knockout meal we had at Bent Restaurant during May’s Toronto Comic Arts Festival, which we’ve attended since 2009, save for one year. It’s the only comics festival I truly love, partly because of the airy feeling of the natural light-infused reference library, but mostly because I’m interested in a greater proportion of the artists there than at other festivals. (I discovered Nina Bunjevac‘s exquisite Heartless this year, nearly vomited with laughter over Lisa Hanawalt‘s My Dirty Dumb Eyes, met Michael Kupperman, whose work I’ve loved for years, and briefly hung out with Jaime Hernandez, who needs no introduction from the likes of me. And that’s just off the top of my head. So I encourage you to look into the 2014 show, and if you want to read a much smarter take on this year’s TCAF than I’m capable of writing, check out Tom Spurgeon’s thoughts on the subject.)

But back to food. Our past few trips to Toronto have involved dining at one or another of Susur Lee’s restaurants, but Bent might be my favorite yet. Everything served was fresh and exciting, with flavor combinations I hadn’t really experienced before. It’s impossible to apply the label “best” to a single item in the bento box Gil and I shared, but the one my thoughts return to most often is the oyster shooter, which I suspected was tomato water-based. Because I needed to know how Chef Lee works his magic, I ordered his two-volume memoir/cookbook and immediately looked up the dish. And yes, tomato water was the base! Yay for my working tongue! Newly inspired, I worked up a little gazpacho for lunch today.

Tomato Water Gazpacho inspired by/adapted from Chef Susur Lee

Mustard oil is only sold for external use in the US; evidently it makes a great massage oil. I found my bottle at Kalustyan’s, but any well-stocked Indian or Bangladeshi grocery should have the oil; it just won’t be shelved with the rest of the foodstuff. This is a good basic soup, but feel free to play with ingredients. I’m not a big fan of onion in my gazpacho, but thinly sliced green onion or diced shallot would play well here, as would celery, other colors of bell pepper, or even more tomatoes. Because you never can have too much of a good thing.

1 red bell pepper, finely diced
1/2 cucumber, finely diced
1-2 hot chile peppers, finely diced
1 yellow summer squash, finely diced
1 zucchini, finely diced
1 1/2 cups tomato water
2 tablespoons mustard oil
Salt, to taste
Sherry vinegar, to taste

For four appetizer servings, put one to two tablespoons of each of the diced vegetables (perhaps less of the hot pepper if you don’t want it too spicy) into four small bowls. Whisk together tomato water and mustard oil and pour over vegetables. Add salt and sherry vinegar to individual servings to taste.

 

Field to Feast: More Carrots

We have Dorie Greenspan to thank for this recipe dish idea. See, as I was flipping through her brilliant cookbook Around My French Table, the recipe that opens the salads chapter caught my eye. It was so minimal as to be more of a suggestion than a recipe, so I decided it must be perfect. It’s nothing more than avocado halves with lemon juice, pistachio oil to fill and fleur de sel. You know my obsession with avocados, so it shouldn’t be too shocking to learn that I tried it within the day, fell head over heels and have indulged with abandon since then. While it’s well worth investing in a bottle of pistachio oil for this one use alone, I have another for you. It hit me when I was faced with another bunch of carrots and no desire to make more soup, that pistachios could just be the perfect answer again.

The carrot preparation is slightly more involved than the that of the avocados, but still easy enough to serve in well under an hour. All you have to do is to toss whole carrots (well-scrubbed and peeled, if you like) with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, then roast them in a single layer at 400° F for about 30 minutes — more time for larger carrots, less for smaller ones. You want to roast them until they’re tender enough to offer little resistance to a knife. Fresh out of the oven, drizzle the carrots with pistachio oil and toss them around on the baking sheet to coat them well, then sprinkle with a little lemon juice. Transfer the carrots to a serving platter and top with ground pistachios and finishing salt, and you’re done. Perfection.

Pistachio Carrot | Minimally Invasive

Field to Feast: Carrots

Every Saturday morning at the Ringwood Farmers’ Market, Kasha and I have essentially the same conversation:

“So, what should we post about this week?”
“I don’t know, what would you like to do?”
“Hmmm, let me think.”

The sides change, but that’s pretty much how it goes every week. So I can honestly say that I just strolled around until I saw a pile of gorgeous carrots and knew I’d found our topic. Sometimes it isn’t about having a great recipe ready to go (though sometimes it is), but about inspiration and beauty.

As I’ve been doing for about a month now, I chopped off the carrot tops and put them in a vase on the table to serve as a makeshift centerpiece. The only time I ever cook with carrot greens is when I use them in a gumbo z’herbes, so this is a good way to use what I buy and decorate at the same time. And I just love the Sideshow Bob look of them.

Carrot greens on display | Minimally Invasive

I jotted down a few ideas for carrot recipes over the weekend, but nothing came of it until today, when I felt like gazpacho. I love spicy, savory carrot dishes and since it’s just a small step from Spain to Morocco, I added some Moroccan influences to my soup with harissa-spiked oil, preserved lemon and chopped cilantro. Many gazpacho recipes call for bread to lend the correct texture, but this was out for me from the very beginning for obvious reasons, so I substituted almond flour instead. It’s appropriate with the other flavors and so many classic gazpacho recipes use almonds that it seemed like the solution was always there, staring me in the face.

Moroccan-Inspired Carrot Gazpacho | Minimally Invasive

Instead of building the recipe from the ground-up, I based this gazpacho on a Martha Rose Shulman recipe from The New York Times, but changed it around quite a bit to suit my purposes. The harissa oil starts out very spicy, but mellows as the soup sits in the refrigerator, so don’t be too scared if you taste it right away and your tongue turns inside-out. Of course, I can’t guarantee it won’t turn blazingly hot after it sits overnight, but promise to let you know if it does.

Update: The flavors blended beautifully after an overnight stay in the refrigerator, but the gazpacho isn’t spicy at all. I’ll probably stir in a bit of the reserved paste to add a little heat. If you want it spicier without the added texture from the paste (which isn’t very smooth), just double the harissa recipe.

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This morning I woke up with an idea to offer free shipping on everything in my Etsy shop until 6pm ET tomorrow. (This offer ends 8/7/13, if you’re reading this post sometime in the future.)  I opened the shop a few months ago, but haven’t really pushed it beyond sticking a link in the top navigation of this blog and hoping you’d notice. So take a look around and let me know what you think. 8×10 is the standard offering, but I’m happy to go larger or smaller or to print photos from the blog that you like but don’t see in the shop. Just send me an email and we’ll work something out! (To get free standard shipping in the US only, apply code FREESHIPSUMMER in the cart at checkout.)

Moroccan-Inspired Carrot Gazpacho adapted from Martha Rose Shulman/The New York Times

1 1/2 oz. sliced onion
3/4 pound cucumber, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 1/2 lbs. ripe tomatoes, quartered
4 medium carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped,  about 3/4 lb.
2 sticks celery, coarsely chopped
2 large red bell peppers, coarsely chopped, about 3/4 lb.
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons harissa oil, recipe follows
1 tablespoon preserved lemon peel, chopped
1/4 cup finely ground almond flour
Salt to taste
1 cup ice water
Chopped fresh cilantro for garnish

1. Put the onion slices in a bowl and cover with cold water. Set aside for 5 minutes while you prepare the remaining ingredients. Drain and rinse.

2. Working in 2 batches, blend all of the ingredients except cilantro in a blender until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and chill for a couple of hours before serving. Garnish each portion with chopped cilantro (and if you’re brave, a little of the leftover harissa paste) before eating.

Harissa Oil
2 teaspoons dried chili flakes
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon caraway seed
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and stir over medium heat until garlic and spices are fragrant. Set aside to cool. Once cool, strain oil through fine mesh strainer into a cup, pushing on solids to release as much oil as possible. You should have two tablespoons of oil. Grind solids to a paste in a small food processor or in a mortar and pestle and reserve for another recipe.

Field to Feast: Basil

As some of you know, I’ve had a hate-hate relationship with my kitchen for years. The minuscule corner butterfly sink, the cooktop with only two functional burners, and the narrow wall ovens that only operated one at a time were excellent clues that it was designed by someone who didn’t do much cooking. Since the cooktop and wall ovens were 25 years old, it wasn’t much of a shock when the ovens gave up the ghost a few weeks ago. In fact, I did a happy dance and promptly ordered the range I’d had my eye on! Unfortunately, one of the igniters clicks constantly when the stove is plugged in, so I’ve been lighting it manually until a service technician can make it out here next week. Not a big deal, and lord knows I don’t want to bake in the summer, so I’m ok with it for a few more days. Details to come if I’m pleased with the service (more so if I’m not). We’re working toward a full renovation in the future, so my kitchen looks a hot mess right now and will for some time to come, but it’s mostly functional now!

This is all to say that I’ve been doing a lot of grilling this week while things are getting settled in the kitchen. For this week’s Field to Feast basil post, I went with a classic summertime dish — grilled eggplant and tomato slices topped with basil pesto. Instead of traditional pesto, I worked on a to-be vegan version that had a savory element to it even without the Parmesan. Nutritional yeast is a popular cheese alternative, but I’m not a big fan of the flavor, so I went the miso route again. Since some pesto recipes call for adding a little butter for richness, I added the leftover roasted garlic-miso butter from last weekend to puréed basil, ground pine nuts, olive oil and salt to enrich it. There’s no recipe because I just tasted as I went along until I was pleased with the results. Now obviously, butter nixes the vegan objective, but it’s easily made vegan by using Earth Balance or something similar in place of the butter. The richness of the pesto offset the acidity of the tomatoes beautifully and with the roasted garlic, it was delicate enough not to overpower anything. Not too bad for cooking in a fraction of a kitchen!

Kasha turned out a beautiful pesto this week using chevre from Edgwick Farm tossed with fresh corn pasta. Brilliant idea and her photos are TDF!

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A few weeks ago, Bialas Farms had an open house, so we got to see where all of these glorious vegetables originate. Groups of us took tractor rides to get up close with the black dirt and do a little harvesting of our own. I just wanted to share a few of my favorite photos from the day with you below. Have a great weekend and be sure to share any spectacular dishes you create with me; I’d love to hear about them!

Greenhouse | Minimally Invasive

Bialas Farms | Minimally Invasive

Rear view | Minimally Invasive

Bialas Farms cornfield | Minimally Invasive

Doris | Minimally Invasive

Pallets | Minimally Invasive

Bialas Farms storage | Minimally Invasive

Bialas Farms board | Minimally Invasive

Bialas Farms Market | Minimally Invasive

Field to Feast: Red Komatsuna

Red komatsuna is perhaps my favorite leafy green of Spring. This spinach-mustard hybrid is delicious with a mildly peppery bite and pretty versatile, too — good cooked down with garlic and red pepper flakes, sturdy enough for a stir fry, and truly excellent in a salad. In fact, most mornings I eat a “breakfast salad” with a base of finely chopped red komatsuna (including stems) topped with cubed avocado and cherry tomatoes with chipotle chili powder, lime juice, a spritz of fish sauce and one of my homemade flavored salts sprinkled over. It’s a great way to start the morning.

But red komatsuna plays so well with other salad greens, it’d be a shame to keep them apart. It adds such a pleasant crunch and depth of flavor to any green salad, I freely add it whenever I have some on hand. The salad above made use of the contents of my fridge, but experiment and throw together a free-form salad of your own.

I thought a tangy buttermilk dressing would complement this salad, but buttermilk dressings alone can be a little watery. To beef it up a bit, I added half of an avocado and was pretty pleased with the results. It’s substantial, but also light enough on the tongue to douse your salad liberally with it if that’s your thing.

Coincidentally, Kasha posted a recipe this week for an amazing dill and garlic scape dip with buttermilk at The FarmGirl Cooks. Be sure to check it out, and ogle her gorgeous photos!

Buttermilk-Avocado Dressing

1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup ripe avocado, cubed
1/8 teaspoon grated garlic
1 teaspoon each chopped dill, chives, thyme
big pinch salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
a few grinds of black pepper

Add all ingredients to a blender jar and process to combine. Alternately, use an immersion blender in a quart-sized mason jar — my preferred method, as it makes storage and cleanup that much simpler. The dressing is fine to use right away, but really benefits from an overnight stay in the refrigerator.