The Simple Art of Cooking: Local Bounty Abounds

It’s a feel-good time just to see the many colors of spring visible at farmers markets and farm stands here on the East End. With longer, sunny days warming us we are in prime time to enjoy the local bounty fresh from the growers.

Each year at the beginning of the growing season I sign up for the Green Thumb Organic Market’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Further east on the South Fork is the organic Quail Hill Farm in Amagansett, another farm program offering a CSA. Community Supported Agriculture exists in many places in the country and is a way of supporting local farmers in their endeavor to bring the freshest and finest produce to the public through the seasons. Early spring pickings at the Green Thumb in Water Mill yielded the sweetest lettuces, tender asparagus, “summer peas,” rhubarb and the first strawberries of the season, red, lush and juicy.

Mesclun, greens that are grown together to include an assortment of lettuces, is best purchased from local or organic farms. Lettuces in a mix from 3,000 miles away could possibly include a strain of greens detrimental to our health. A simple mesclun salad of mixed greens dressed with vinaigrette is easily a daily habit. And the green shell pea, just one of a variety of edible peas, is literally here today and gone tomorrow. The vegetable needs warmth but not heat and so its tiny time frame is late spring to early summer. Combine them with different varieties – less shelling to do – and create an assemblage with sugar snaps and snow peas.

With infectious diseases and environmental health issues on the rise it has never been more important to eat locally. Supporting our local farmers and preparing foods from the good earth surrounding us is not only good for our health but benefits the local economy. Happy seasonal eating!

MESCLUN SALAD WITH BASIC VINAIGRETTE

Mesclun greens currently abound at farmers markets. The technique below to dress greens is basic to almost any salad.

Yield: 4 servings

1/2 pound mesclun greens

2 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

3/4 to 1 tablespoon Champagne or rice wine vinegar

Freshly ground pepper

1. Wash and spin-dry salad greens then spread on a length of paper towel. Roll up and wrap the greens to absorb excess moisture. If mesclun is refrigerated, place in a zip-top bag and chill. Bring to room temperature before serving.

2. Transfer greens to a salad bowl to dress. Add the oil in a slow steady stream beginning at the outer perimeter of the greens towards the center. Toss the greens with the oil and, if necessary, it can stand for 10 minutes or so without getting soggy. Just before serving, add about 1/4 teaspoon salt into a tablespoon measure. Add enough vinegar to fill the tablespoon. Agitate the vinegar to dissolve the salt and pour over the greens in a circular movement. Add several grinds of pepper to taste and toss well to mix. Taste for seasonings and serve at once.

AN ASSEMBLY OF PEAS

Select the freshest mix of spring peas from your farmers market for a sweet taste of the season.

Serves 3 to 4

1/3 pound snow peas

1/3 pound sugar snap peas

1/3 pound sweet peas

1 to 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1 cup loosely packed chopped fresh herbs, such as basil, mint and/or chives

1. Trim and remove the strings from the snow peas and sugar snap peas; remove the sweet peas from their pods. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Add the peas and boil until they’re barely tender about 2 1/2 minutes. Drain, shake dry and return to the pan. Place over medium heat and stir in the butter and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for about 2 minutes longer. Add the herbs, stir to mix and serve.

Reprinted from Silvia Lehrer’s Savoring the Hamptons: Discovering the Food and Wine of Long Island’s East End (Running Press: 2011).

SMOTHERED BROCCOLI RABÉ

Broccoli rabé ‘affogata’ meaning drowned, is an old Italian method for cooking greens.

When cooking a large bunch of broccoli rabé for two, as I do, splash the leftovers with good red wine vinegar over bread slices for a tasty snack!

Serves 4

1 1/2 pounds broccoli rabé

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

4 large garlic cloves, crushed

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste

1. Discard heavy stems of the broccoli rabé and coarsely chop the greens. Rinse then soak in cold water.

2. Meanwhile heat the oil in a large cast-iron skillet or heavy saucepan with a lid over medium heat. Add the garlic and pepper flakes and sauté over medium-low heat about 2 minutes until garlic is golden. Drain the broccoli rabé and add the vegetable to the garlic and pepper flakes with 2 to 3 tablespoons water. With lid ajar, cook over low heat for 15 to 18 minutes, or until vegetable is tender to the bite. Taste for seasoning and serve.

Variation: Substitute spinach for the broccoli rabé and add 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg.

Recipe adapted from my dear friend, Linda Romanelli Leahy’s 366 Ways to Cook Healthful Greens, A Plume Book.

Visit Silvia’s website at www.savoringthehamptons.com to read her blogs and more recipes.

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