Fried rice used to be an old standby for us. Have a lot of veggies? Chop it up and saute with a bit of egg and soy sauce. Add some chicken or beef if you’re out for more protein. And one of the best parts about dishes like fried rice is you can easily make double or triple the batch, enough for leftovers and lunches for the week ahead. But at some point the fried rice stopped. I’m not really sure why; I guess we just got tired of eating it. And sometimes (ok, most of the time), takeout was easier, despite the less healthy version.
I’m a big fan of most types of squash. Summer, butternut, pumpkin, even acorn (though I still have a few on my kitchen counter, waiting to be turned into food). But Spaghetti squash? Eh… There’s just something about one food trying to be another that I’ve never really been able to support. Like Tofurkey. WTF? If you’re vegetarian and don’t eat turkey, fine. But how filling up on all the other wonderful things the harvest provides? Like roasted vegetables, mashed sweet potatoes, apple pie…why ruin it with a log of fake meat? So similar to fake meat, why would I want veggie strings of fake pasta?
Peas can sometimes be forgettable. I never wake up on Saturdays in late June or early July and think “I’m going to buy peas today!” as I plan my weekly trip to the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket. Though they’re a welcome a surprise and treat to be greeted by when I arrive.
For most people, including myself, peas come from the freezer. Sometimes I’m lucky enough to find locally frozen peas in the freezer doors of the Park Slope Food Coop during the depths of winter, but either way, they’re frozen. It’s probably one of the very few vegetables, that even in our season-less grocery stories with winter squash and asparagus sitting right next to each other, is rare to find out of season, fresh, sitting on the shelves. For that reason, peas are forgettable. I never plan meals around them as they make their way so infrequently into my diet. But when peas do grace the tables at the New York City Greenmarkets, for those few short weeks, it really is a treat.
It’s practically impossible to avoid the ramp conversation. They’re everywhere. Literally. Once a little known foraged plant, ramps have taken America by storm, appearing on nearly every menu, in overabundance. The tragedy of the situation is ramps still are wild, foraged plants. They have yet to be cultivated for farming and with improper harvest, their growth can be threatened. While I crave them like crazy during the early spring months, I’ve avoided them at restaurants and stores unless I’m certain that they have been sustainably harvested. Which pretty much leaves me with a few select restaurants or waking up at the crack of dawn to get my hands on some at the greenmarkets before the masses descend. So for the few times I can get my hands on them, they need to be part of a very special meal.
This is the time of year that becomes difficult to cook. You muster your strength to again survive the harsh cold of winter (this one being especially challenging), knowing that spring is just a few short weeks away. But wait. March 20 doesn’t instantly bring a new season of fresh produce. Plants are still seedlings, barely yet being transported from greenhouse to ground. It’ll be another month at least before we see the first stalks of asparagus make their way to the Greenmarkets and still longer for those first stalks of rhubarb and ripe strawberries.