By Elisa Ludwig
The harbingers of warmer days to come, tender greens and sprouts are symbolic enough to be appear on the Passover seder plate (where they are summarily dipped into saltwater “tears” to represent the Jews’ pain in Egypt). But fresh new greens have many other uses on our spring holiday tables, all of which should be as delicious as they are metaphorical, but which certainly don’t need to involve crying.
What qualifies as a spring green? Watercress, pea shoots and greens, baby arugula, baby spinach, (baby anything, really), bitter chicories, spicy mustard greens and dandelion greens are some of the most common green vegetables that start to emerge as the weather warms. Keep an eye out at the farmers market for blink-and-you-miss-’em fava greens, fiddlehead ferns and sorrel. FYI, any kind of greens that arrive attached to a vegetable should not be discarded as trimmings for trash. That includes turnip, beet and kohlrabi.
Naturally, the tenderest greens are delicious raw, which means they can replace any of the usual lettuces in your favorite salads. One of Steve’s great tricks is to throw whole herbs in to make salads taste even fresher and more flavorful. Just remember that the other toppings should be small and light, and dressing should be applied with a cautious hand, lest the greens’ gorgeous delicacy be overwhelmed. Avocado, edible flowers and some lightly pickled baby beets or ramps can all nestle in nicely. Toss a poached egg over top and there you have a light supper.
Of course, spring greens also pair beautifully with other verdant seasonal delicacies, like peas, asparagus, artichokes, fava beans and leeks. Lightly sauté and plate them as a bed for fish. Use sturdier bok choy and kale as a base for stir fries. Fold finely chopped greens into a risotto with goat cheese or ricotta. Bitter greens add peppery deliciousness to frittatas, or brothy soups. Cut a head of radicchio or escarole lengthwise, brush a bit of oil on it and throw it on the grill to tame its bite and dress with a bold garlicky dressing (hello, anchovies). Or pulse any kind of green with any kind of nut and some aged cheese and garlic to make a pesto. Make extra to freeze. That way you can enjoy spring that much longer.