T.S. Eliot might have been thinking of asparagus anticipation, which turns April cruel indeed. Like the dark before the dawn, my hunger heightens before the harvest, which is announced dramatically by those first green spears of May. Lettuces and other salad greens appear in the wings, herbs and green gar- lic too.
Rhubarb abounds, wonderfully sour, and I gnaw a raw stalk just to prove I can. Peas proliferate (snow, shell, snap) but not for long enough. Strawberries and cherries aren’t far behind. Wild foods push up from the forest floor, and even in Brooklyn we savor untamed species: fiddlehead ferns, morel mushrooms, garlickly ramps. Domesticated or not, birds lay more eggs when daylight lengthens, and a diet of fresh grass turns the yolks of pastured hens a deep, rich orange. Fresh grass also alters the milk of mammals that eat it; in spring, grassfed cows, sheep and goats give yellow, buttery dairy foods. Warmer waters mean fish return. Like a student buying September school supplies, I vow each spring that this will be the year I experience every ingredient, feast on fava beans, freeze pesto, stockpile jars of jam and salsa. Writing this in April, I’m crouched at the starting line, anticipating the race to November’s last rutabaga. I’m ready.
MEAT AND SEAFOOD
Black Sea Bass
Chicken & Eggs
Herring & Herring Roe
(Shad & Shad Roe)
Milk & Cheese
Bok Choi & Tat Soi
Garlic Scapes (see note)
Spinach Mushrooms (farmed and wild)
A Spring Haiku
They laughed at my scape bouquet
But garlic, I know
you are a lily
Garlic Scape Pesto
1/2 lb. scapes (chopped into 1 in. sections)
1 1/2 c. olive oil
2 c. grated parmesan cheese
In a blender, combine the scapes and olive oil. Pour mixture into bowl and blend the cheese in by hand.
Garlic (and its alium cousins onion, chive, shallot, scallion et al.) is a member of the bulbous lily family. Garlic farmers plant individual cloves before fall’s first frost like daffodils, and their green shoots push up in spring, ready to photosynthesize. Farmers who grow hardneck garlic (which has superior flavor but is more difficult to grow) must snap off each plant’s bud stem in June, so the plant will concentrate energy down in the bulb. The buds, or scapes, impart a wonderful flavor to spring omelets, salads and pestos.
They also look gorgeous in a bud vase.
SLICED CHICKEN WITH SNOW PEAS
by Ed Schoenfeld
For the seasoning sauce:
3 tbsp. chicken stock
1 tbsp. dry sherry or Shaoshing rice wine
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. white vinegar
dash white pepper
2 tsp. potato starch dissolved with 1 tbsp. water
1 lb. sliced boneless chicken breast
1 egg white
1 tbsp. dry sherry or Shaoshing wine
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. ginger, thin sliced and cut in 1/2 in. pieces
2 scallions, cut in 1/3 in. pieces
1/2 clove, finely minced garlic
24 snow peas
2 scallions, green tops only, cut into 2 in. lengths
1/2 tsp. sesame oil
1. Combine sauce ingredients and set aside. Toss chicken in a bowl with the egg white, wine and salt, to coat. Add the cornstarch and oil and mix until starch is just dissolved. Transfer to a clean bowl, cover and refrigerate. The chicken may be cooked immediately, though its texture is smoother after 4-6 hours and even better after 12.
2. Preheat wok until smoking hot. On highest heat, add 2 tbsp. oil, rotating to coat. Add the chicken, and using a slotted spoon, gently toss so the slices separate. Cook, stirring constantly, until the chicken is white and no trace of pink remains, about 90 seconds. Immediately drain into a strainer over a pot to catch the drippings.
3. Clean the wok and reheat until smoking hot. On highest heat, add 1 tbsp. oil, then the ginger, scallion, and garlic. Stir for 10 seconds, then stir the sauce, and add to wok. Stir con- stantly until the sauce just comes to a boil. Working quickly add the peas, chicken and drippings and stir until the peas are bright green, 30-60 seconds. Toss in scallion tops, sprinkle with sesame oil and serve.
ASPARAGUS AND WHITEFISH SALAD WITH SPRING ONION AIOLI
juice of one lemon
1 spring onion, minced
1 stalk green garlic, minced
3 egg yolks
2 tbsp. water
olive oil to taste
salt to taste
1 radish, grated
fresh herbs to taste (chives, mint, tarragon, or your favorite)
1 oz. smoked whitefish (or other smoked or cured fish), sliced thin
1 bunch asparagus, on bias as thinly as possible
For the aioli:
Combine lemon juice, spring onion, and green garlic in a stainless or ceramic bowl. Add egg yolks and water and whisk to combine. Very slowly, one drop at a time, add olive oil while whisking continually. The mixture will begin to thicken. When it reaches consistency of mayonnaise, add salt to taste and correct flavor with additional lemon juice as needed.
In a small bowl combine radish and fresh herbs. Lightly salt and add a drizzle of aioli. Mix gently and set aside. Combine whitefish and asparagus in a separate bowl. Dress with aioli. Place whitefish and asparagus salad on plate, then top with radish mixture.