Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Tasting Spring

I felt it in my bones on Sunday, walking the misty side streets of University City on my way into work.
  It's kind of amazing where memories attack us, when we least expect it. The air was heavy with fog, a thick mist that coated my cheeks as I walked along. In the background, a whooshing noise, probably a generator inside some busy college building. But what I heard, what I felt, was a waterfall.
   I closed my eyes, and for a few short minutes, I was in the Pocono Mountains, atop our campsite, the one we visit every summer. It's early morning; the woodpeckers just stretching their vocals, the fire's embers smouldering gently from the night before, curly wisps of smoke rising from the ashes. I breathe deep. Sean and Colette still asleep in the tent, I pad over mossy earth to the outcropping boulder clinging to the mountaintop. I sit, hug my knees, and stare enchanted at the waterfall below me. The water is deafeningly loud, and yet so silent, a white noise that fills my ears and tosses me into deep mediation. Morning on the mountain, this mountain, our place - it is where I love life the most, where beauty surrounds me, my muscles aching with relaxation.
   This is where I went, for a few short minutes, on a Sunday morning in Philadelphia.   It was my first taste of spring to come, of renewal, of cool misty mornings that drag me into the garden, plunge my hands into cool dark soil, and being the creation of plant life that will sustain us for the season.
   As fortune had it, my boss gave me the next two days off, and as fate would have it, Monday was yet another fine misty mountain morning, fog hanging low over the treetops,earthworms exploring out of the humus. It had to be sixty degrees, at least - in January nonetheless! No mind - I was in March already. I let the dogs out to roam, grabbed my crocus bulbs and spade, and planted. I dug my columbine seed out of the crisper drawer, and planted those as well. With my mug of coffee chilling fast on the patio, I reveled in the deep, cleansing breaths of temperate air, and began to plot the vegetable garden. Even though I knew the coming week would bring a cold snap, I could not help to indulge my senses in this tiny snippet of spring weather. Even the frogs were out in the pond! The garlic chives are beginning to throw wispy growth out of the soil. The hydrangea is beginning to bud out. My Christmas tree is finally at the curb, and well, it's time. I'm ready for spring.
   I wondered what would come up first, my early forced lettuce or the rhubarb. Or maybe the asparagus? Sure, it's early, but never too early to plan for tasty things to come.I thought back to last spring, and a deliciously simple meal I prepared and shared with my dear friend Clara, one crafted from the spring produce in our campus garden. I decided this would be my first meal of the food year, a fitting tribute to all things fresh and new, to misty cool mornings in the yard and impatient earthworms and self-composting leaf piles.
SO ready for spring!

Spring Salad for Two
1/2 pound fresh asparagus
2 c. mixed lettuces
5 French Breakfast radishes (or whichever look delightful)
1 handful flowering chives (stems and flowers)
2 tbsp. Extra Virgin olive oil
2 tsp. white balsamic vinegar
4 pastured chicken eggs
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
shaved Parmigiano cheese

Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Add asparagus spears, sprinkle with kosher salt, and allowto blister on stems, about three minutes. Toss and continue to cook on medium heat until very crisp-tender, five minutes more. Divide between two plates.
Add lettuces, torn into bite-size pieces, into a bowl. Shave the radishes into the same bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and dress with olive oil and vinegar. Toss, and divide between plates atop asparagus.
Bring the pan back up over low heat. Melt the butter, and crack in the eggs whole. Cook gently until whites are set underneath, flip and cook to desired doneness, 1-4 minutes. Place two eggs on each salad. Garnish each plate with chopped and whole chives, sprinkle with cheese, and serve while eggs are still warm.