Saturday, March 27, 2010

Spring Fever: Market Greens

I've just returned from Green City Market and I'm pleased to report that the Spring greens have arrived. Genesis Growers brought in bagfuls of their spicy wild watercress as well as tiny turnips with their greens still attached. Three Sisters had delicate red flecked sorrel bunches, as pretty as the tulips stationed at the stand nearby. Growing Home had bagfuls of spinach and arugula, bright in color and brimming with flavor. What a sigh of relief this sight gives me, weary from the last burst of Winter days in March. For those of you lucky enough to score a bag of the watercress, try this salad - a bridge between the scarcity of Winter and the abundance of the growing season.

Beet, Watercress & Fennel Salad with Creamy Pink Peppercorn Vinaigrette

For 6 servings

3 medium beets, greens removed
1 bulb fennel
1 bunch watercress
1 teaspoon pink peppercorns
2 teaspoons good white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon good mayonnaise (I prefer Hellman’s)
2 tablespoons grapeseed or canola oil
Kosher salt to taste
Coarse sea salt, optional

Preheat oven to 350° F. Wrap the beets in aluminum foil and roast on the oven’s center rack for 1 ½ hours or until tender. Rub off their skins and cut into quarters.

Crush the peppercorns by enclosing them in a paper towel and smashing with a flat metal round, such as the bottom of a metal measuring cup or a meat mallet. Combine the vinegar and peppercorns in a small bowl. Add the oil by droplets, stirring with a whisk to emulsify the mixture. Add mayonnaise and whisk until well combined. Add salt to taste.

Very thinly slice the fennel, use a mandoline if available. Soak in a bowl of ice water for at least 30 minutes. Remove the thicker stems of the watercress. Wash and dry.

Arrange the watercress on a platter and place the fennel and the quartered beets on top. Dress with vinaigrette and garnish with coarse sea salt, if desired.
Do-ahead notes: The dressing can be made one day in advance, whisk just prior to serving. The beets can be roasted and the fennel sliced one day before.

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