Our garden is waking up and stretching its’ arms after a long sleep. Seeds are spouting and perennials such as french tarragon, sorrel, parsley, lovage and scullcap are wearing their brilliant green glory. Volunteer dill, Turkish rocket arugula, lettuce, and beet greens invade the garden beds; their bright heads poking through the warm earth everywhere but where they were originally planted last season. I have never had any success formally growing dill but left to its’ own devices, it generously self seeds all around the garden and allows me to enjoy it with abandon.
I thoroughly enjoy these early season forages for salad ingredients . Everything and anything is used. Tonight’s salad contains overwintered green onions, lovage (but not too much), a goodly helping of tarragon (the mainstay of cuisine du terroir or country cooking), a handful of rocket, a handful of lemony sorrel, lots of tiny dill fronds, micro beet greens, and tiny lime green lettuce leaves. Oh, and let us (or lettuce!) not forget the flat leaf parsley. A little scullcap for the “What the heck is this?” factor and some early summer savory.
Washing the greens is a very important part of making a salad. Fill up a large bowl with cold water. Plunge the greens in the water and swish them around. Lift greens from water and empty the bowl. Refill and repeat. Refill and repeat as often as necessary using the water from the bowl for watering your Jade plant or your dog. Some greens need a thorough washing. Nothing like breaking your tooth on a small bit of grit to turn you off salad greens and onto your dentist.
I like to drip dry my greens in a colander and then lay them out on a clean dish towel. Fragile greens get too much of a thrashing in a salad spinner.
Crazy Mixed Up Spring Greens and Herbs with Hazelnut Dressing
1/4 cup hazelnuts
4 handfuls crazy mixed up herbs and greens
2 shallot lobes, sliced very thin
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon hazelnut oil
2 tablespoons olive oil
1.Heat oven to 350F.
2.Spread hazelnuts on a baking sheet and toast for 3 – 5 minutes. Remove and let cool. Rub them together in a dish towel to remove the skins.
3.Crush the hazelnuts with a rolling-pin. Just break them up into small pieces – do not crush them to a fine powder.
4.In a large bowl toss the hazelnuts, greens and sliced shallots. Make the dressing. In a small bowl whisk together the mustard and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Add the hazelnut oil and the olive oil to the vinegar in a slow, steady stream whisking vigorously to emulsify the dressing.
4.Pour the dressing over everything and toss to coat well. Taste for seasoning and serve.