When we talk about seasonal produce, we are generally referring to those that grow locally during a specific time of year. There is of course a caveat with winter – when the ground is frozen solid, “seasonal” still includes those fall crops that store beautifully throughout the cold months – mainly, winter squashes and root vegetables (thus the many hearty stews and comfort foods that winter is known for). As we near the close of winter, however, our palates start to bore of those roasted and crock-pot-treated root vegetables, and we crave sweetness, lightness and crunch. That’s where this salad comes in. It still relies on those trusty root vegetables, but offers a few you probably seldom use – beets, kohlrabi, rutabaga and/or turnips – and furthermore, they will be left raw for a really satisfying crunch. Here’s the “spring” in this transitional salad – tender, sweet pea shoots. The sweetness of a snap pea is embodied in these little shoots, and they will make you believe that spring is right around the corner. Although peas are a spring crop, you can actually grow your own shoots year-round on your window sill. Follow the instructions in this post, but use pea seed in place of sunflower seed. You can also find pea shoots at many grocers, especially natural food stores. Finally, kale is a readily available green in both winter and spring, as it is so cold-hardy (albeit probably grown in some manner of greenhouse if you find it locally in Minnesota or other frozen-over states). It adds some nice color, flavor and nutrition to the salad.
This dish was inspired by a trip I took this last weekend to meet two dear friends – we spent a long dinner enjoying a local food menu from HoQ Restaurant in the historic East Village of Des Moines. Nothing like a road trip to spend just a few hours with people who uplift your spirit 🙂