Friday, June 21, 2013

When the Market Gives You Radishes and Kohlrabi

You know it's been a sluggish growing season when, at the farmers market two days before the summer solstice, you greet the appearance of kohlrabi with...excitement isn't the right word.  Joy is too strong.  Glee? Nah.  It's, you know, kohlrabi.  How about interest?  That'll do.  It's something different, at least, adding a mild variety to the growers' tables which, since late May, have held monotonous tableaux of rhubarb, asparagus, spinach, lettuce, and spring onions.  Oh, and radishes, absolute rock stars compared to the other blah offerings.

Now, I'm not actually knocking any of those lovely spring delicacies.  The first salad of real fresh lettuce after the long white winter is an absolute delight, something to be celebrated.  It's just that, you know, it's supposed to be summer now, it's the freakin' solstice, is it too much to ask for some peas, a strawberry, even new potatoes?  The market in Menomonie has been a pretty sleepy spot so far this year, I'm afraid.

But, you make the best of what you have, don't you, and with the proper attitude and some good supporting players, that can be damn good.  What I love about this salad is that the title, "Radish and Kohlrabi Salad with Yogurt Chive Dressing," contains the entire list of ingredients, other than salt and pepper (and after I made this I wished I'd omitted the pepper; I only mention it because you can see it in the picture, so you might wonder, Hey why didn't he mention the pepper? if I hadn't).

The chives are a bit droopy this morning after last night's pummeling rain.

Chives!  I love chives.  They are usually the first thing to appear in the garden in spring, and they are an absolutely reliable perennial.  To my utter astonishment, our garlic chives failed to make it through last winter.  Our sorrel also perished, equally astounding.  But the chives soldiered through, as did what must be the world's hardiest tarragon plant--the true fragrant French tarragon, transplanted last year from our former house in Saint Paul.  It was in a container on the deck, too, making its survival all the more remarkable.

Anyway:  chives.  I love the flavor of chives, I love the blue of chive flowers.  The chives are usually up with the ramps, and when the ramps are all done, the chives are still going strong.  Chives are excellent in a tart dairy dressing based on buttermilk or sour cream.  In this case I used some wonderful yogurt that Mary cultured using fresh whole milk from our friend Renee's farm.

The sweet kohlrabi goes well with the bitey radishes.  The dressing, simple as it is, is both mellow and perky, and, of course, wicked chivey.  This salad would go well on a picnic or barbecue buffet.  You don't want a lot of it, but it's a lovely accent dish.  We had it as part of a noshy dinner that included superb charcuterie from the Underground Butcher in Madison (they do mail order, too, and their stuff is great), Marieke gouda (one of those cheeses which, as many times as I've eaten it, blows me away every time I try it), a green salad with market lettuce (our will be ready in a few days), and some simply boiled new potatoes (from Madison, again; they had strawberries down there last week, too, so it's on the way).  And of course some of our homemade sourdough bread.

Looking over the table I was so impressed with how various and delicious our local foods are, even if the market isn't booming yet.  And I was reminded of how simple is the answer to the question of how to keep a local diet: Well, just buy local stuff, that's all, or grow/make your own.  And as summer progresses, it will become easier and easier.

Radish and Kohlrabi Salad with Yogurt Chive Dressing

Serves two

6 radishes
1/2 a small kohlrabi
A fistful of chives (or a few chives more, for Sergio Leone), chopped
About 3 tablespoons excellent yogurt
Chive flowers for garnish

Slice the radishes into coins, not too thin, maybe six coins per radish.  Quarter the half a kohlrabi and then cut the pieces crosswise into wedges--you want the kohlrabi pieces roughly the same size as the radishes.  Combine the veggies in a bowl and toss with a couple good pinches of salt.  Add the yogurt and mix.  Stir in the chives.  Put it in a pretty bowl (mine from Theresa of Utile Mud, who appears to have moved from the Twin Cities to Everett, WA, I didn't know that).  Garnish with chive flowers.  We're done.

Happy Solstice to all.

Text and photos copyright 2013 by Brett Laidlaw

Monday, June 10, 2013

Attention, Madisonians! Trout Caviar Coming to Underground Butcher, Forequarter

Here's an extremely short notice notification of a cool event I'll be participating in, tomorrow!!! in Madison, WI.

The Underground Food Collective, which consists of Forequarter restaurant and the Underground Butcher, is hosting a Trout Caviar event tomorrow, Tuesday, June 11.

From 3:00 to 4:30 p.m. I'll at the Underground Butcher location, 811 Williamson Street ( ;608.338.3421), for a book signing.  We'll also be sampling a dish or two that I'll prepare from foraged ingredients, mainly ramps and nettles.

Then from 5:00 to 7:00, the chefs at Forequarter, 708 1/4 E Johnson Street ( ;
608.609.4717) will be preparing a couple of recipes from the book, and I'll be there again to chat, sign books, talk food, etc.

The regular Forequarter menu will be available from 7:00 to 10:00, along with the TC dishes, as supplies last.

I'll be joined at both events by co-conspirator Andre Darlington, a terrific writer whose work appears in the  Madison Isthmus and elsewhere.  Andre is the guy who really made this event happen, and I'm very grateful to him, and to the folks at Underground Food Collective, for getting me back to Madison, a city I like more each time I visit.

Reservations are not accepted, but you can indicate your intention to attend at the Forequarter Facebook page.

Sorry about the late notice.  If you're a Trout Caviar reader in the Madison area, I'd love it if you could stop by to either event.

Cheers~ Brett