Eating Fresh when the Veggies are Not

by Laura FrerichsTastemaker in Residence

It's always inevitable at this cusp of winter and spring...we are tired of heavy winter dishes and our tastebuds are itching for light, fresh foods. The reality is that anything fresh and green is still at least a month away, even with our greenhouse starting in another week or two. So while I stare at the pantry full of our canned tomatoes, salsa, and root veggies, I'm uninspired by options of stews, roasts, and chili. What has saved us of late is a wonderful exploration of grain and vegetable salads. Grain salads with light lemony dressings mixed with a smattering of green veggies like broccoli or kale have come to the rescue for us. 

The process is pretty simple. We usually start with 2 cups cooked couscous or quinoa (or experiment with barley, millet, wheat berries, lentils, etc, etc) and then add a few cubes of our frozen basil pesto or cilantro pesto to melt and mix in with the grain. Zest a lemon, and squeeze in the juice if you are looking for an extra zip. Broccoli or kale, from the depths of our freezer and straight out of the fall Loon fields, is steamed and chopped finely, added to the salads. A handful of sundried tomatoes (that we dry and freeze in ziplock bags for such times as these!) are rehydrated, chopped and tossed with olive oil. If we have green onions or fresh herbs on hand, those get chopped and added. Sunflower or pumpkin seeds get salted and roasted for a final topping. Along perhaps with a quick grate of parmesan. 

Our tastebuds guide us and favorite recipes get twisted according to what we have on hand. Couscous may get a lemony vinaigrette with roasted beets and slivered almonds for a deliciously pink swirl of a dish. Or a tahini dressing is tossed with grated carrots and cabbage and a generous portion of parsley. Either way, we are searching for crunch, sweetness, tartness and great texture playing off each other to create a really interesting dish. And it's getting us through these March doldrums until we can bask in the glory of really fresh-from-the-dirt produce again. That first taste of fresh radish is always a revelation!

Here are a few favorite non-lettuce salads to get you started:
Oh She Glows "Over the Rainbow Carrot Salad with Lemon-Tahini Dressing"

Smitten Kitchen's "Lentil and Chickpea Salad with Feta and Tahini"