We’re now so far into Spring that daffodils have been replaced by eager tulips, and camellias have faded to make room for the first tentative rhododendron buds. Everything is awash in color and pollen. If you can see through your allergy haze, you’ll notice that spring food is following a similar path. As the days become consistently warmer, the most obvious sign of spring at the farmers’ market are the tables heaped with raab and rapini.
Broccoli raab/rapini is closely related to the turnip and is grown exclusively for its small greens (that happen to resemble mini broccoli florets, yet taste more mustardy). But in addition to broccoli raab – a plant that will never become broccoli if left to grow – other kinds of raab, like kale raab, brussels sprout raab, and arugula raab are indeed the plants indicated by their names; their raab is the flowering, expectant shoots on each plant. Raab is a welcome sign at any farmers’ market or garden; in addition to being a perky, flavorful boost to your root vegetable haul, they mean that the brassicas have successfully overwintered and are ready to re-seed themselves.
In Vegetable Literacy, Deborah Madison bills a salad similar to the one photographed here as “a cheerful winter” creation. I’ve adapted her salad to fit into the transitional season in which we find ourselves. Along with nearly translucent escarole and deep hued arugula, I’ve added purple rapini and colorful microgreens (among them, buckwheat, dill, kale, and mizuna). After carefully mixing everything together, the salad’s bright, punchy flavors are tossed with a simple lemon and shallot vinaigrette.
I’ll happily eat a similar salad to this every week until tomato season and, in fact, already plan to modify Madison’s basic recipe further with the addition of snap peas as soon as I spot the first basket at a future market.
A Transitional Salad of Escarole, Arugula, and Rapini
Recipe Inspiration: Vegetable Literacy
Serves 4 as a side dish or first course
- 1 head of escarole
- 1 avocado, halved, pitted, and sliced
- Arugula leaves (as many as fits the balance of your salad)
- Rapini or raab flowers/florets of your choosing
- Microgreens, for a boost of visual interest and flavor
- Salt & Pepper
- Lemon & Shallot Vinaigrette, to taste
- Separate the escarole from its base, creating appropriately sized pieces for a salad. Put the escarole leaves into a large bowl with the arugula leaves and rapini/raab.
- Toss with the vinaigrette (enough to moisten), then add the microgreens and avocado and gently toss again, adding more dressing as needed. Finish with salt & pepper. Enjoy!
Lemon & Shallot Vinaigrette
Makes 6-7 tablespoons
- 1 finely diced shallot
- zest and juice from 1 lemon (you can change things up and use a meyer lemon here)
- Sea salt
- 1 teaspoon (or more, if you prefer mustardy dressings) Dijon mustard
- 4-5 tablespoons of olive oil
- Put the shallot, lemon zest and juice, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt in a small-medium bowl. Stir and then let sit for 10 minutes.
- Whisk in the mustard and olive oil, adding more or less of each, to taste.