Vail Seaonal: Simple preparations for spring greens
VAIL, Colorado The climate in Colorado’s Vail Valley can be challenging for many crops, but varieties of lettuce and other greens thrive. In the 1920s, Beaver Creek and Bachelor Gulch were home to ranchers, trappers and lettuce farmers. With the nearby Minturn ice house and railroad access at Avon Depot, the bountiful iceberg lettuce crop was shipped in box cars as far as the east coast, providing warmer locales with crisp salad greens. Modern farmers continue this tradition, but have branched way beyond iceberg. Varieties of greens are planted in early spring and harvested within a few weeks. For the novice gardener, baby greens can be planted in window boxes, and enjoyed with almost instant gratification. Mother Nature also provides a variety of wild greens. Adapting to the local weather, these are some of the first plants to pop up in spring and are tasty in salads or cooked in side dishes.Greens are inexpensive and provide a plethora of health benefits iron, fiber, calcium, vitamins C and A and very few calories. Deeper colors and tangy flavors are good indicators of nutritional content.Lettuces are divided into four types: Crisphead Have a distinct head with a crisp texture and distinct veins (iceberg, Ithaca, raddichio, summertime).Butterhead Have a head but the texture is more soft and pliable with less distinct veins (Bibb, buttercrunch).Loose leaf Forms a bunch instead of a head (green leaf, red leaf, oak leaf, mache)Romaine An upright plant with long narrow leaves (Romaine, Endive)Take advantage of salad mixes that are available in grocery stores or at your local farmers market. Mesclun Mix is a common blend that typically includes an assortment of lettuce, arugula, kale, Swiss chard, beet and Asian greens. It may be mild or spicy and will introduce you to new flavors. Ask your farmers which greens they use in their mixes; they will usually offer tidbits of growing lore and simple serving ideas. A ready-made mix can be the first step to experimenting, but soon youll be ready to try your hand with the different textures and flavors. Take a tangled frisee and pair it with leaf lettuce. Sprinkle with any kind of crumbly cheese and some toasted nuts. Add in your choice of other ingredients to suit your mood. Drizzle with a simple lemon vinaigrette (two parts extra virgin olive oil and one part fresh lemon juice). Season to taste with salt and pepper. Use this basic method to make unlimited new salads.Greens that may be cooked will lend versatility to your menus. These include spinach, chard, kale, mustard, collard or dandelion. A simple preparation for wild greens is a quick saut, said Jeremy Kittelson, executive chef at Restaurant Avondale. Start by sauting some thinly sliced onions and apples in olive oil. Add a little balsamic vinegar and rinsed, chopped greens. Sprinkle some white wine on top of the greens and put the lid on to let them steam/saut for a few minutes until tender. This makes a healthy side dish.Greens can also be added to pastas, soups and cooked beans to add dimension and nutrition to a dish. Use your imagination, there are no rules. The flavors of greens are distinct, but will complement your cooking style.
2 cups assorted lettuce and greens1 cup sliced fingerling potatoes4 eggs, poached1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil2 tablespoons red wine vinegar1 teaspoon Dijon mustardSalt and pepperFresh snipped chivesSteam potatoes over boiling water until just tender, about 10 minutes. Allow to cool slightly. Whisk olive oil, vinegar and mustard together. Toss the mixed greens with the potatoes and add enough dressing to coat lightly. Divide amongst 4 salad plates and top each salad with a poached egg. Season with salt, pepper, and snipped chives. Serves 4.
1 pound bow tie pasta1/2 cup olive oil4 ounces arugula, trimmed1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese1/2 cup pine nuts, toastedAdditional freshly grated Parmesan cheeseCook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add arugula and stir until just wilted, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat. Drain pasta and return to pot. Add arugula and toss well. Add Parmesan, salt and pepper to taste; toss well. Transfer to serving bowl. Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts. Serve immediately, adding additional Parmesan, if desired. Serves 4.Sue Barham is the marketing director for Restaurant Avondale and Larkspur Restaurant. Avondale recently opened in The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa in Avon. The restaurant features a West Coast inspired, seasonal menu and the chefs use time-honored cooking methods, such as slow roasting and braising, to create simple dishes rich in flavor. The wine program focuses on small production wines to compliment the straightforward cuisine. For more information visit http://www.avondalerestaurant.com.
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