At the market, asparagus is showing up, along with leafy young turnips and the first peas. But even beets can be springy when given a chance.
I craved a light, fresh meal to match the season. Earthy beets beckoned at the market in bright bunches, leaves attached. They were so fetching that it was hard to choose: the ruby-red or the sunny gold ones?
Though they take a while to prepare, freshly roasted beets are worth the effort. You can cook a dozen or so at a time and keep them in the fridge, at the ready for use in salads or soup. I wanted a zippy soup that hinted at borscht but not in a wintry way. So I seasoned and tempered sweet beets with a touch of vinegar, then whizzed them to a silky purée. To contrast the soup’s rich flavor, I swiped a hefty amount of yogurt, dotted with tarragon and chives, across the soup’s surface. The good news is, it tastes good hot or chilled — and, I think, is best served in small portions.
On the West Coast, spring is the beginning of wild salmon season. There really is nothing quite like it: Wild salmon simply tastes better than farmed and is always a better choice, sustainably speaking. (Is it a splurge? Yes, except in places like Seattle.) Whether you choose king salmon, coho or sockeye, take care not to overcook it: At the fish market, I ask for one large fillet. Then I lay it flat on a baking sheet and roast it in a moderate oven, just until white juices appear on the surface of the fish. This ensures moist, flaky salmon.
To enhance the fish, I mashed grated ginger and lime zest and juice into butter, to be smeared over the hot fillet. I used the same butter to quickly wilt a huge potful of baby spinach, which made a fine accompaniment. Their additions were in keeping with the theme of fresh, bright and springy — amplifying, not minimizing, the greens’ role.
Summer’s riotous bounty may get more attention, but the return of spring’s seasonal offerings to my basket feels like a true celebration. When I spied cherries on the market rounds the other day, it put a little pep in my step. Gorgeous, shiny cherries straight from the market are the ideal finish to a meal. Just put them in a big bowl and take them to the table — instant glorious dessert.
If, however, you feel a need to serve a “real” dessert, try these easy, slightly gussied-up cherries. It’s really a kind of simplified version of brandied cherries. The almond-cherry combination is classic; in fact, the two are botanically related. Serve a few of these cherries in little glasses, perhaps with some Italian almond cookies — but you’d get no complaints if you spooned them over vanilla ice cream.
Recipe: Beet Soup With Tarragon, Chives and Yogurt
Freshly cooked beets, though they take a while to prepare (see Tip below), are so delicious that they’re worth the effort. Cook them the day before you need them and keep them in the fridge for up to a week, to use in salads or for a soup. For this borscht-inspired soup, a splash of vinegar tempers the beets’ natural sweetness, which is perfectly complemented by a splash of tart herby yogurt. The good news is this soup may be served warm or chilled; each way is refreshing.
By David Tanis
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Total time: 40 minutes, plus time for cooking beets
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 pounds cooked, peeled red beets, chopped (see Tip below)
Salt and pepper
Pinch of ground cayenne
1/4 cup red-wine or apple cider vinegar, plus more to taste
8 cups water or broth
1 cup whole-milk yogurt
3 tablespoons chopped tarragon leaves
2 tablespoons thinly sliced chives
1. Put olive oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot or deep, wide skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, cook slowly, stirring, until softened, about 10 minutes.
2. Add beets and season generously with salt and pepper. Add a pinch of cayenne and pour in vinegar. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add water and raise heat to a brisk simmer. Taste broth and adjust. Cook for another 10 minutes, until beets are completely soft.
3. Purée in a blender, in batches if necessary, and strain through a fine-mesh sieve. (Consistency should be like heavy cream, no thicker – thin with water or broth as necessary). Return puréed soup to pot and reheat. In a small bowl, combine yogurt with tarragon and chives. Add a good pinch of salt and beat with a fork to loosen yogurt.
4. Taste soup, and adjust for salt and vinegar. Ladle into individual bowls. Swirl a large (2 to 3 tablespoons) spoonful of herbed yogurt across the surface of the soup.
Tip: To cook beets, cut off the greens and reserve for another use. Wash beets well, put them in a low baking dish and add 1 inch of water. Put on a tightly fitting lid or wrap tightly with foil. Bake at 350 degrees until they are fork tender, about 1 hour 15 minutes. While beets are still warm, slide off the tough “skin” with the aid of a kitchen towel. Refrigerate cooked beets for up to 1 week.
Recipe: Roasted Salmon With Ginger-Lime Butter
Wild Pacific salmon is available in spring and summer, and the flavor is phenomenal. It definitely tastes better than farmed salmon and is always a better choice, sustainably speaking. Though it is expensive, think of it as a seasonal treat. Whether you choose wild king salmon, coho or sockeye, take care not to overcook it.
By David Tanis
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Total time: 25 minutes
1 (1 1/2 pound) wild salmon fillet, such as king or coho, at room temperature
Salt and pepper
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons grated ginger
1 teaspoon lime zest
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 pound baby spinach
Lime wedges, for serving
1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions, green and white parts
1. Lay the salmon on a rimmed baking sheet, and season with salt and pepper. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Make the ginger-lime butter: In a small bowl, combine softened butter, ginger, lime zest, lemon zest and lime juice. Add salt and pepper to taste, and stir well to combine.
3. Transfer salmon, uncovered, to the oven to cook for about 8 minutes. Check the salmon once or twice as it cooks. Depending on the thickness of the fish, it should be fully cooked when little white juices appear on the surface — moist and yielding with big flakes when probed. It may take 10 minutes for thick fillets.
4. As the salmon cooks, put 2 tablespoons ginger-lime butter in a wide deep skillet or large pot over medium heat. When butter is melted, add spinach and a pinch of salt. Put on the lid and turn heat to medium-high. (You may need to add the spinach in batches.) After 2 minutes, remove lid and stir spinach to help it wilt. When all spinach is wilted, turn off the heat.
5. Transfer salmon to a platter or divide among individual plates. Smear the remaining ginger-lime butter on the fish. Surround with wilted spinach and lime wedges, and top with scallions. — NYT