Saturday, April 2, 2011

Dirt, Grit, Growth: Spring and a Not Quite Nicoise Salad

Spring is coming. I'm looking down from 36,000 feet on April 1st and below me it's already been warm enough to melt the snow once, just not thaw the larger bodies of water. Since then, in keeping with a March reputation, there's fresh dust on the ground so the bulk of what's below is white but only half-heartedly so. It's lingering just a little bit longer but it'd probably let you in with your own pop and snacks if you tried to sneak it past at the movies. It's got plans later and its heart isn't really into militancy anymore.

The post-prime garlic cloves I haphazardly tucked into a shallow ditch in October? Sprouting strong green scapes- eight count marching up out of that sticky clay-infested dirt. I've secured a squared, sunnier plot this year and am now in the enviable position of needing to transplant the garlic I never really expected to come up.

In a frenzy this morning, I also managed to pick up my cool weather seedlings and then broke ground in my new patch without ceremony. Okay, maybe not entirely without ceremony. For as fast as I clawed through that dirt today, there were weeks of toiling over seed catalogs, filling in communal excel spreadsheets and transplanting ambitious seedlings that had outgrown their tiny cups. Gina came over as I was putting the first of the seedlings into my plot behind the house. Even before they made it into the dirt, I'd harvested a little arugula and some joker lettuce for our lunch. Not enough to be the dominant ruffage but herein lies the ceremony with a Not Quite Nicoise Salad "recipe" below. Those few fronds are meant to represent the fresh crunch of many salads to come.

Bruce has been the absolute patron saint of growing, providing a home with lights, rich dirt and seemingly boundless curiosity for the process. Growing from seed, knowing how much food could come from a $2 seed packet...these were firsts for me this year. He and Heidi have been running Green Roof Growers for years and coupled with my landlord Ala's intrinsically green thumb, my luck at finding this apartment continues to resonate four and a half years after I moved in. My kale affection is well-documented and to be able to take advantage of its growing season on two ends this year is just really exciting. I imagine myself attending dinners with bouquets of kale tied up with gardener's twine. Maybe some wild arugula providing an attractive ruffle around the edges.

It feels like a good year for walking the walk. I spent my second annual Saturday in like-minded company at the Family Farmed Expo and was so happy to be nodding along with the rest of my crunchy kin. I'm trying. I'm trying to vote with my dollar, to budget in a way that better represents the rest of the world in what I invest in my food. I've always cared. It always mattered. I just haven't always been very consistent in what sounded like the right thing and what ended up being the easiest.

And on an ever so brief personal note, it's April and I've got a March reputation of my own. My wintry mix was the travel and womenfolk whom I love dearly. While the travel and girlfriends aren't going anywhere (I'm on a plane to Seattle while writing this but likely there already for the posting), I'm thawing out. An uptick in daylight and energy lends itself well toward other pursuits. There've been some false starts but my shoulders are finally relaxed and the cold is less daunting this way. Feeling new on the heels of a sleepy season is good for the soul. Bring on the Bambi levels of twitterpation, my greens are in the ground and my salad days are beginning again.

Not Quite Nicoise Salad

Mixed Greens (I use the boxed organic mix with spring greens and spinach)
Purple cabbage, shredded
1/2 cup chopped olives (I had Cerignola, Nicoise, and those delicious extra salty and wrinkled black ones from a Pastoral run)
3 potatoes sliced and steamed
6-8 grape tomatoes (couldn't resist at the store but ready for them to be in season properly)
Handful reduced fat feta
3 hard cooked eggs, quartered

Simple vinaigrette (juice from 1/2 lemon, 1/3 cup olive oil, teaspoon Dijon mustard, salt and pepper)

Arrange however contents your precious little heart then toss with the vinaigrette. Delicious and satisfying lunch, also recommended with a warm demi loaf of crusty bread and some salted butter.

And because I hope you post your lists's what will be growing for me this year!

2012 Wicked Vegetable Patch Roster
Joker Lettuce
Lacinto (Dino) Kale
Red Russian Kale
Pentland Kale
Italian Parsley
Bok Choy
Vitamin Green
Scarlet Nantes Carrots
Marvel Striped Tomato
Black Krim Tomato
Black Cherry Tomato
Valencia Tomato
Red Pear Sel Tomato
San Marzano Tomato
Listada de Gandia Eggplant
Black Beauty Eggplant
Santa Fe Grande Hot Pepper
Bee Balm
Sweet Genovese Basil
Sacred Basil


Anonymous said...

what a fantastic little afternoon! can't wait to shark in on some of that kale :)

Maris (In Good Taste) said...

These are lovely pictures and I do admire your green thumb! Beautiful salad!

RebeccaC said...

This makes me miss you and miss a proper spring. I shall console myself with a nicoise salad tomorrow. Of course it's high tomato drain here so at least lll have that (tho seasons down here are so screwy who knows what I'll be eating next month)

TKTC said...

Gina- That was really a lovely little treat. It's shark week every week if either of us is cooking. All kale, all the time.

Maris- Thank you very much! My thumb is still a pale celery green but it's getting better. Amazed by how much work the plants do with minimal work or knowledge.

Rebex- I miss you. I want to fly down and go pick oranges and avocados for a bright ceviche. And the tomatoes...GAH. Waiting for little bean to arrive then booking for September. Wishing it could be sooner.

Audrey Ellen said...

You garden looks great!
And one time I ordered a Nicoise salad and said "Na-koi", and was laughed at in a cafe. I have been afraid of them ever since, but I think now I must overcome that fear. Yours looks delish.