The first signs of spring are pushing their way into the world. Tiny green shoots among the previous years grasses, delicate snow drops dot the gardens and the old magnolia tree is heavy with buds. Some days I find myself lighting a fire in the fire-place but other days, I have the windows thrown open, perhaps prematurely as I end up wrapped in layers, but the heady smell of the new season is powerful and irresistible; anything seems possible.
There is something thrilling about the first days of any new season but particularly I think to spring. Storms blow through often and with unmatched ferocity. Frost creeps in when you don’t expect and the occasional few inches of snow are still falling. These early days ask us to, rather consistently in fact, embrace the unexpected. As temperatures flip-flop and time changes come to pass, plunging us into darkness where there had been light and lifting the shadow of dark winter afternoons, we must wait patiently for what we know is coming. I, somewhat happily, awoke the other morning to find spring banished altogether and in its place, a wintery blanket of snow. Confused and delighted, I pulled on my boots and trudged out into the white world knowing full well that it wouldn’t last into the afternoon. I think it a bit remarkable that even after being away from this place for so long, I still understand its basic pulse. I feel pleased that the childhood memories of this land, not the film strip type of memory but the ones embedded and entwined in the land, endure after so much time away.
I am happy to watch and wait as spring begins to stretch and unfurl. I take comfort in the promise of longer days as the afternoon light stretches itself further and further into the twilight, pushing back the darkness of winter and making way for a new growing season. It is not just the light which has begun its shift. There are small hints of change everywhere. Most noticeably perhaps is the change in the farmyard. The sleepy-eyed hen-house of winter is now a place of convivial morning chatter beginning before I’ve even made it out bed. And where five or six eggs may have been there are now a dozen or more in their place. If this keeps up, expect many more egg recipes to be posted here. But their increased egg laying means brining gifts of eggs to friends and neighbors with much higher frequency and we are all pleased at these additional excuses to visit.
However, we are not yet firmly in the tranquil hands of spring. I am still waking to chilly mornings which required wooly jumpers and the occasional fire in the fireplace. There is still of winter’s sharpness in the bright New England afternoons as I hang laundry out on the line. But, the produce of early spring is slowly appearing in dribs and drabs at the farmers markets. It is a delight to see a few vibrant green pea shoots and tender new season lettuce nestled next to the faithful root vegetables of winter. To take as much advantage of the early spring produce as possible, I have been making lots of salads. It seem a bit of a luxury to have so many fresh green things again. The spring parsnips have been a particular favorite, made deeply flavorful by roasting and delicate sweet lettuces in various shades of purple and green bring out even more of their sweetness. I am making various dressings with the same seeds and oils which have sustained us through the winter and they are creating a cohesive marriage between the two seasons produce.
If you see micro greens or pea shoots at your market, they also add a burst of springy freshness to the salad
Miso Roasted Spring Parsnips and Baby Kale Salad
for the salad
- 6 to 8 small to medium spring parsnips scrubbed and cut into oblong slices
- 2 tbsp sweet white miso
- 2 tbsp good quality olive oil
- 1 large white belgian endive chopped crosswise into 2″ pieces
- 1 lb of curly baby kale or 1 large bunch
- 1/4 cup roasted chopped hazelnuts
- 2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
- 2 tbsp hemp seeds
- 2 thinly sliced spring onions
for the dressing
- 1/2 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tbsp raw apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp tamari
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp mirin
- 1/2 tsp good quality olive oil
- 2 smashed garlic cloves
- 1/4 tsp salt
- dash of cracked black pepper
- pre heat oven to 425f/220c
- add miso paste and 2 tbsp olive oil to a bowl stir to combine and then add sliced parsnips. toss well to coat and distribute evenly in one layer on a parchment lined baking sheet. roast 15 – 20 minutes or until parsnips are tender
- once tender switch the oven to the broiler setting and brown off about 8 minutes or until the parsnips have a lovely carmelized look to them but not charred. remove from the oven
- for the dressing add all ingredients to the same bowl used for the miso mixture. Whisk to combine and set aside
- in a large bowl tear washed and dried kale in to rough pieces and add about half the dressing. With clean hand massage the dressing into the kale leaves until they being to breakdown in structure and become soft
- add the endive, hemp seeds, sesame seeds and spring onion to the kale. toss to combine and add the remaining dressing as desired – don’t let the salad get to soggy with dressing though – you want it to be nice a light and fresh
- plate the salad and top with roasted parsnips and chopped hazelnuts