The spring awakening is upon us. At the market, asparagus is showing up, along with leafy young turnips and the first peas. But even beets can be springy when given a chance.
I craved a light, fresh meal to match the season. Earthy beets beckoned at the market in bright bunches, leaves attached. They were so fetching that it was hard to choose: the ruby-red or the sunny gold ones?
Though they take awhile to prepare, freshly roasted beets are worth the effort. You can cook a dozen or so at a time and keep them in the fridge, at the ready for use in salads or soup. I wanted a zippy soup that hinted at borscht, but not in a wintry way. So I seasoned and tempered sweet beets with a touch of vinegar, then whizzed them to a silky purée. To contrast the soup’s rich flavor, I swiped a hefty amount of yogurt, dotted with tarragon and chives, across the soup’s surface. The good news is, it tastes good hot or chilled — and, I think, is best served in small portions.
On the West Coast, spring is the beginning of wild salmon season. There really is nothing quite like it: Wild salmon simply tastes better than farmed and is always a better choice, sustainably speaking. (Is it a splurge? Yes, except in places like Seattle.) Whether you choose king salmon, coho or sockeye, take care not to overcook it: At the fish market, I ask for one large fillet. Then I lay it flat on a baking sheet and roast it in a moderate oven, just until white juices appear on the surface of the fish. This ensures moist, flaky salmon.
To enhance the fish, I mashed grated ginger and lime zest and juice into butter, to be smeared over the hot fillet. I used the same butter to quickly wilt a huge potful of baby spinach, which made a fine accompaniment. Their additions were in keeping with the theme of fresh, bright and springy, amplifying, not minimizing, the greens’ role.
Summer’s riotous bounty may get more attention, but the return of spring’s seasonal offerings to my basket feels like a true celebration. When I spied cherries on the market rounds the other day, it put a little pep in my step. Gorgeous, shiny cherries straight from the market are the ideal finish to a meal. Just put them in a big bowl and take them to the table — instant glorious dessert.