Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Get your green on

"What butter and whiskey will not cure, there's no cure for." — Irish proverb

Tender corned beef or a dark rich Guinness beef stew come to mind for St. Patrick's Day. But with a warm, moist breeze blowing and the vernal equinox only days away (that's when the sun crosses the equator and begins concentrating its warmth on the northern hemisphere, marking the official beginning of spring), I can't help thinking about a different kind of green.

Foraging today I discovered some of the first tender spikes of asparagus, to combine with some still-green sage leaves and a saute of red onion, olive oil, a couple of drops of good vinegar, sea salt, ground black pepper and a nice sharp cheddar. How amazingly tender the spears of asparagus as I cut them into pieces!

Another recent pleasure: red swiss chard (U.S. grown although unfortunately not local), chopped and wilted in a saute pan with a similar cast of ingredients except for this time a crumbled blue cheese and fresh chunks of the season's last pomelo grapefruit. Simple pleasures!

If you're looking for more green-is-good ideas, the Wall Street Journal ran a weekend feature paying tribute to the artful possibilities of fresh artichokes (including an appealing roast artichoke, asparagus and potato combination.) Adding to the fun, Food & Wine Magazine devotes an online "page" to multiple recipes for using fresh spring produce, everything from apricots to watercress.

Yes, it's still early. The area gooseberries won't be ripe until July, and they are among the earliest fruits. But the artificial warmth of plastic has helped coax the first baby greens from the ground on area farms, and there will be more, much more, to follow.