Maine Dish: Celebrate Spring’s First Arrivals



Even though it may not yet feel like spring is in the air, tell-tale signs are popping up. Bright purple crocuses dot the fading white snow, pairs of ducks are dabbling in the cove, the woods smell of new growth, and there are patches of green. Ah green! The color we love to see! The longer days of April are good for growing greens in unheated hoop houses, and bags of local spinach and mesclun mix are starting to surface at the markets.

Greens are packed with nutritional benefits such as phytochemicals and antioxidants. Phytochemicals are the broad range of compounds that plants manufacture to protect themselves against a variety of dangers, ranging from solar radiation to menacing microbes. The best thing is that these vegetable defenders protect people, too, against a whole host of ills. Lutein, found in salad greens, spinach and parsley, is critical in maintaining the health of our eyes. Lutein prevents macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in the elderly.

 

As I see it, now is the perfect time to enjoy the fresh, zesty flavors of green spring salad. The inspiration for this recipe comes from Barbara Damrosch in Harborside. Four Season Farm Spring Salad makes a delicious light luncheon, or the salad course for a festive meal. Ruby-red roasted beets are the perfect foil for assertive cheeses such as feta or blue. Or be adventuresome and try a local artisan goat cheese. Diced scallions or chopped chives highlight the spicy flavors. Toasted nuts or seeds and a rich, raspberry-infused maple mustard dressing complete our spring, green repast.

Cheryl Wixson, who lives and cooks in Stonington, welcomes food-related questions at [email protected].

Four Season Farm Spring Salad

Makes 8 servings

Salad:

  • 4 roasted beets, skinned and sliced *
  • 4 cups spring greens, like spinach, mesclun mix or arugula
  • ¼ cup diced scallions or chopped chives
  • 2 oz. crumbled assertive flavored cheese like blue, feta or goat cheese
  • 2 oz. toasted nuts or seeds (pecans, walnuts, sunflower seeds)

Dressing:

  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsps. raspberry vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. Raye’s mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • Sea salt and fresh pepper

Line a platter with the spring greens, tearing the big pieces if necessary. Arrange the sliced beets over the greens. Sprinkle the top with the toasted nuts, diced scallions and crumbled cheese. In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. Pour over the salad and serve.

* To roast beets, scrub well and coat with olive oil. Roast in a 400-degree F oven until they pierce easily with a fork. Allow to cool to room temperature, then slip off the skins. Roasted beets store in the refrigerator for a week or more. Enjoy them on salads, or in a soup!

Nutritional analysis per serving: 153 calories, 4 grams protein, 6 grams carbohydrates, 13 grams fat (0 grams trans fat), 212 mg. sodium, 3 grams fiber. Nutritional benefits: Vitamin K, Vitamin A, manganese.

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