The thing about early spring, at least here in the Hudson Valley, is that it basically looks and feels exactly like winter. For most of March and even into April, it’s cold and damp, and nothing in the garden will grow. During these dog days, a bright and zingy citrus salad feels like a life-saver. And it’s simplicity itself: juicy, sweet blood oranges (and a few mandarins for variety’s sake), tossed with crisp endive and some quick-pickled red onions. Toss over a little peppery mint and pistachios for crunch and that’s it. A drizzle of good olive oil and a sprinkle of flaky salt is all the dressing it needs.
If fresh, local asparagus is in the stores, it must be early Spring. This vegetable is one of the first to beckon in the new season and herald an end to Winter. We simmer the delicate white asparagus spears until they become tender and sweet, then drizzle them with a homemade aioli flavored with black garlic, lemon, and miso. It’s both simple and incredibly delicious.
Note: This recipe will work just as well with green asparagus, if that’s what you have (and the Black Garlic Aioli is delicious on just about anything. It’s crazy good).
After a long, hard Northeast winter, nothing makes me happier than looking out on the deck and seeing row upon row of fresh herbs, sitting up in their little pots all bright and perky, like, “what? I was always here.” No, Rosemary, you weren’t. And I know that for a fact because I paid a freaking fortune for a few measly sprigs in January since I just couldn’t bear to use the dry, desiccated jar of rosemary-scented dust that languishes on my spice rack through the winter.
Even though spring is yet young, the herb garden still feels like a cornucopia. Chives! Mint! Cilantro! Sure it’s still too cold for the basil, but don’t be greedy, it will be here soon. Anxious for a recipe that uses this green bounty, we decided on a Black Rice Salad which, along with crisp red cabbage, sweet golden raisins and crunchy peanuts, uses a full cup of fresh herbs. We went with cilantro and mint (because that’s what we have) but basil, when it’s fresh, would be fantastic too, especially spicy Thai basil if you’re growing it or can find it in the store.
A simple, healthy Thai shrimp salad with an authentic sour-savory-spicy-sweet combination of fresh lime juice, fish sauce and chili paste, showered with fresh herbs and crunchy roasted peanuts.
Summer is almost done but we are officially in the middle of a heat wave. You know those shots in movies of a long, empty road, heat lines shimmering up from the pavement? Maybe a tumbleweed blows by, lazy and misshapen? That’s our living room right now. In this case the “tumbleweed” is Arya, our rescue dog who, for a pup who lived her first year on the streets of West Virginia, is hilariously particular about the range of temperatures she finds acceptable. 70º – 75ºF is fine, but a few degrees in either direction and get ready for dramatic sighs and woeful glances.
I hear you, puppy. I’m hot too.
Everyone has a favorite summertime potato salad recipe, and here’s ours: infused with Dijon mustard, tart white wine vinegar, and plenty of chives, parsley and dill. It’s our go-to BBQ side.
Here’s a not-at-all hypothetical scenario for you. You email somebody an invite to a summer grill-out, and they get tremendously happy and excited and reply “Great! What potato salad church do you worship at?”. Because you have now encountered a Potato Salad Enthusiast and your previous plan of just buying a tub of the stuff at the grocery store is no longer going to fly.
Fresh, light and delicious, Vietnamese summer rolls are a great appetizer or light meal any time of the year. Crisp vegetables, bright herbs and shrimp are rolled in a rice paper wrapper, with a side of sweet and salty peanut sauce for dipping.
If you’ve ever eaten at a Vietnamese restaurant (or had the pleasure of traveling to the country, you adventurer), you’ve probably had summer rolls. They’re sometimes called “fresh spring rolls” or “salad rolls”, but not to be confused with traditional spring rolls, which are often smaller, fried, and filled with cooked vegetables and pork. These are the epitome of fresh and light, filled with finely shredded raw vegetables (we used purple cabbage, carrots, cucumber & scallions, as well as butter lettuce), lots of bright herbs like mint, cilantro and basil, rice vermicelli noodles and poached shrimp, all wrapped up like a translucent burrito in a rice paper wrapper.
We love the flavors of Vietnamese cooking (as you can tell by some of our previous recipes: Vietnamese-style baked chicken and Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops (Thit Heo Nuong Xa). I first made Vietnamese Summer Rolls over a decade ago and I’ve been wanting to make them again ever since. When we found out we were going to have a weekend houseguest, our 12-year-old niece Charlotte, who is an adventurous eater and a great cook in her own right, we thought these would be a fun dish to make together.