It’s no secret that season to season--even week to week--the farmers market brings inspiration. Right now, just before summer comes marching in with its profusion of fruits and vegetables, the stalls are fairly bursting with potential.
There are fresh English peas (maybe as an appetizer?). Tender young greens (perhaps for a vegetarian main course?). And those cherries (here today, gone tomorrow) for dessert.
Suddenly, there it is: a burst-of-spring menu.
Not only that, making the whole meal isn’t going to take any time at all. It’s the produce that counts.
The young, fresh ginger root that’s everywhere now, and green onions, just reaching their crisp and clean best, make a wonderful spicy ginger sauce. Tofu is the perfect foundation, quickly pan-fried and served with the sauce, which also highlights another gift of spring--baby bok choy that’s so crisp it’s almost perky. Lightly steamed then drizzled with a bit of the ginger sauce, the bok choy tastes simple and fresh, the way spring vegetables should.
As the bok choy steams, it’s easy to put together an appetizer that mixes the sweetness of newly shelled peas with the heat of wasabi. Lightly steamed, the peas are pureed with wasabi paste for a dip or spread. Served with goat cheese and sesame crackers, the first course comes together in minutes.
Finish the meal with fresh cherries--but be sure to get to the market early. Local cherries, such as Brooks and Tulare, are there now, with Bings expected at any time. So sweet and juicy, they’re only around for a few weeks, and so popular that they often sell out in the market’s first hours. (Later in the season, cherries will arrive from the Northwest.) Serve them with their long stems on, in a stylish bowl or stemmed glass, splashed with a little sweet plum wine. Swirled through the wine, plucked right from their stem, they are one of the deep pleasures of the season.
In no time at all, spring has come to the table, leaving time to think about ... summer. Hidden among today’s leaves and stalks at a farmers market are glimpses of summer--early stone fruit, the first blush of tomatoes--and more inspiration.