“Spring has sprung!”
On at least a dozen walks around our neighborhood in March and April, I hopped around, kicking up my heels and exclaiming to Dan, “Spring has sprung!” like a huge dork. The first day we had temperatures above 60 I was ready to pack up all my winter clothes and haul them up to the attic. I was so ready for this winter to be over.
I’m not exactly sure why the giddiness, but perhaps it’s because this is the first time since 2005 that I am going to be living in one place for the summer. Spring has sprung, I can plant things and watch them grow and I’ll be around in the same place come summer to harvest them. I can also put those winter clothes in the attic and, chances are better than not, the next time they come out of the attic it will be not to pack them up for a move but, rather, because it’s simply getting cold again. Amazing.
We planted a garden! A very tiny little garden – a raised bed of about 4 by 8 feet. It’s in empty lot next door, made of cinder blocks collected from the trashed home foundation in that lot and fence scraps from our own yard. The most amazing part of this little bed is the soil, which came from Farmer D Organics. I’ve got cucumber – check out the first little baby cuke growing below:
Of course I had to hedge my bets, so I’ve got many more tomatoes, sweet red peppers, basil, sage, mint, thyme, parsley, chives, and marjoram in pots. If, for some reason, we’ve got to pull up stakes and move this summer, those suckers are coming with us!
Perhaps the most exciting thing of all is the lettuce, which I’ve never grown before. It is so easy and so good. Lately I’m enjoying really simple salads: fresh lettuces, thinly sliced radish, a homemade dressing. I often like to throw in something sweet – dried cherries, thinly sliced apples or pears, and yellow raisins are favorites nowadays, and nothing sets these off like shaved red onion and toasted nuts.
I haven’t bought bottled salad dressing in over five years, and neither should you. Why take gorgeous salad greens and coat them in high-fructose corn syrup, stabilizers and preservatives? Salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon juice are enough to make any raw veggies or lettuces shine but more often than not I make up a quick French-style vinaigrette. Homemade salad dressing takes less than five minutes and is miles and miles better than anything you’ll find on the shelf at the grocery store.
Lunch today was a home-grown salad with homemade salad dressing, a simple tomato soup and a crusty baguette with cheese – there just isn’t anything better. Yippee, spring has sprung!
Makes 1/2 cup – enough for salad for 8
1 minced medium shallot (sub 1 tbs minced onion and/or 1 cloved minced garlic)
1 tsp dijon mustard (this is my favorite brand)
1 tbsp red wine vinegar (sub another light vinegar or lemon juice if you’d like)
1/2 tsp granulated sugar
1/4 cup good olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
I like to mix my salad dressing in a coffee mug with a fork – something about the high sides of the cup with the narrow bottom is great for my whisking style. If I had a small whisk, I’d use it – but I don’t, so I use a fork.
Whisk together shallots, mustard, vinegar, and sugar. Continuously whisking, slowly drizzle in olive oil – whisk until emulsified. Taste and adjust as needed – if you want your dressing a little sweet, add more sugar; for a more acidic taste, add vinegar; for a spicier dressing, add more mustard; for a lighter flavor, add more oil.
This is extremely flexible – if you want to highlight a particular herb, add some, minced (chives and dill are a favorite for me). Want a creamy dressing? Whisk in some yogurt or sour cream. Want an earthier sweetness? Swap honey for the sugar.