Baby salad greens by Anjuli

Posted on 08-11-08

I was at my parents in rural Connecticut for the wedding of a family friend. To relax at at the end of the weekend, Matt and I decided to cook Sunday dinner for my parents.  We drove the five minutes to the closest of the local farms to look for salad greens. My mother’s garden has everything you could want minus the greens. When my father was growing up in India, uncooked produce was too risky to eat, and he has never really kicked the habit. Of course my mother would say she is losing the garden bounty competition amongst her friends, but it sure feels like I have more fresh options in my mother’s garden than at home in the horribly toxic cemented excuse for an island that- oooops, I digress.

I have a weakness for baby greens. A salad of tiny leaves is criminal but oh so tasty. Not having a garden myself, I am afforded some mental distance from the crime,  selecting my leaves with a pair of tongs at the local grocer. Such is the brilliance of industrial food. Leave the plucking to the grower, and I will happily sit back and enjoy my tender little leaflets. What, baby greens aren’t the plant genus?

I also have a weakness for produce procured at a farm store, directly off the vine, and waiting for same day pick-up. Due to monetary pressures, though, I’m realizing that while the farm store still exists, farmers barely every cary any ingredients grown at the farm anymore. I am divided about whether or not to continue supporting my local farmer, when many of his goods are procured from the same industry both he and I despise. I can’t help but feel bad him, because he is a grower and caretaker of edible plant life, not a good businessman. He also needs to make a living, and so he generally can’t afford to sticking to growing only healthy, green-friendly foods.

Tulmeadow Farms used to raise cows and grow produce. Now, like every other local farm, they can’t sustain, and most of the family (large both in number and in physical features), has selected other more lucrative careers. The only one to stay behind, Donny Tuller, knows how to make ice cream. And so Donny sold most of the cows, has opened up an ice cream stand, and sells what will sell at his farm store.

From seeing many farm stores this summer on weekend jaunts to upstate, I understand these products to be: fresh farm-grown seasonal produce, Dole pineapples, citrus, milk and eggs from distant farms, maybe some local meats, sucking candies, sugar sticks, maple syrup candy, licorice, jellied candies, and some locally prepared goods like ice cream, jams, jellies, and pickles. If you break that down, it means the local farm store now sells a very limited amount of their own produce, sugar wrapped in pretty packages, various staples like milk and eggs to make the stop worth it for customers, and some novelty prepared items for the tourists.

This summer the Tullers had grown baby salad greens. An assortment of lettuces, chards, and spinach were packaged in little plastic bags. Farm stores can make a lot more money off of these little greens all washed and easily packaged than they can to wait for the vegetables to grow. I bought two bags.

Along with some Indian dishes, we assembled a fresh and totally delicious salad that was a treat for my mother (who hardly ever gets the fresh greens). I suggest a trip to the local farm store before first frost to decide for yourself.

Baby greens salad with goat cheese and toasted pumpkin seeds in a tarragon-mustard-shallot vinaigrette

It’s fresh and tasty, combining the bitterness of the salad greens, sweetness of the red pepper and honey, acidity in the dressing, nuttiness of the seeds, creamy and salty goat cheese, and spiciness of the mustard.

1 lb baby salad greens (ideally, a blend of sweet lettuces like mizuna or purslane or butter, peppery lettuces like arugula or mustard greens, and bitter lettuces like treviso and endive or chard), washed and spun dry
2 red peppers cored and thinly sliced lengthwise
Handful of fresh oregano, chopped
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted
2 oz fresh goat cheese, crumbled

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (real one pls)
2 tablespoons acid (either a white wine vinegar, rice vinegar, or fresh lemon juice)
1 small shallot, minced
2 stalks fresh oregano, minced
2 stalks tarragon, minced
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (I like the full seeded kind)
1 teaspoon honey (Ideally local, helps prevent allergies)

Assemble all salad ingredients in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, assemble vinaigrette ingredients and whisk. Taste and adjust seasonings (spicier: add pepper or mustard in small quantities, sweeter: add more honey or balsamic by 1/2 teaspoon, acid: add more lemon juice or vinegar by teaspoon).

What do you think?