Vail Simply Seasonal column: Tatsoi brings salads alive
A recent visit to the greenhouse at LaVenture Farms in Gypsum assured me spring was indeed alive just a few miles away. The early crops of baby greens had sprouted, promising salads and stir frys of new flavors and textures coming soon. One unfamiliar variety beckoned. The thick flowering rosette was reminiscent of ornamental kale, but the leaves were spoon shaped, the color a lush, dark evergreen. Tatsoi, a member of the brassica family, is kin to kale, collards, Brussels sprouts and broccoli. I knew I would love it.Bringing the first harvest of this new and foreign food back to Restaurant Avondale, I asked chef de cuisine Dustin Beckner how he planned to use it. “When you’re lucky enough to find tatsoi, it can be substituted into any dish where you would normally use spinach or baby bok choy,” he said. “It’s a sturdy salad green to eat raw, or gently wilt it for a warm salad. Tatsoi has a delicate flavor that works well with nuts, fruits and cheeses.” Like its relatives, tatsoi is a nutritious boost to one’s diet. It is low in calories, but high in vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants promising to keep you healthy. The flavor can be considered a medium green – less bitter than kale or collards, yet more assertive than spinach. Comb the farmers markets to find tatsoi as it may be difficult to find in local grocery stores. Better yet, seek seeds through an online catalog and grow some tatsoi yourself. This annual is winter-hardy, and according to expert gardeners tatsoi can be harvested from under snow, so it will tolerate the Vail Valley’s version of spring.Tatsoi with Asian vinaigrette 1 pound tatsoi, washed and dried 1 Tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted Dressing:2 Tablespoon Tamari1 Tablespoon rice vinegar 1 teaspoon grated ginger root1 teaspoon sugar1/2 teaspoon Sambal chili sauce 1 clove grated fresh garlic Mix dressing ingredients together and let sit for 1 hour. Over a pot of boiling water, steam tatsoi until just wilted. Chill the tatsoi in a ice bath and drain well. Mix tatsoi with dressing and garnish with sesame seeds. Serves 2.Wok-wilted tatsoi salad 1 pound tatsoi, washed and well dried 1/4 cup dried currants2 Tablespoons pine nuts, toasted1/4 cup ricotta cheesePinch of chili flakes1 Tablespoon olive oilIn a wok or large saut pan, heat oil, add tatsoi and cook until wilted, about 1-2 minutes. Add the currants, nuts and chili flakes, heat through. Divide between two plates and sprinkle ricotta cheese over the top. Serves 2.Tatsoi and bacon salad with mustard vinaigrette 1 pound tatsoi, washed and dried well.6 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled1 Sweet Vidalia onion, thinly sliced2 fresh eggs1/2 cup Dijon mustard vinaigretteDijon Mustard Vinaigrette:1 Tablespoon finely chopped shallot 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard 1/4 cup red wine vinegar 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil Salt and freshly ground pepper, to tasteWhisk vinaigrette ingredients together. Set aside.Soft boil the eggs: place in a small pot and cover eggs with water. Bring to a low boil and set timer for 10 minutes. Chill eggs in ice water immediately. Shell and slice eggs. Toss the cleaned tatsoi with enough dressing to coat, then add bacon and onions, toss. Garnish salad with sliced eggs. Serves 4.Sue Barham is the marketing director for Larkspur Restaurant and Restaurant Avondale. Larkspur (www.larkspurvail.com), at the base of Vail Mountain, has been serving American classics with a fresh interpretation since 1999. Avondale (www.avondalerestaurant.com) opened in September 2008 in the Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa and features a West Coast-inspired, market-driven menu. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.