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The Veggies Are Coming

May 31, 2012

Seasons are still confusing to me. Part of this is spending 14 years living in Florida and another 12 years living in California. Now that Memorial Day has come and gone Summer has unofficially begun. And thanks to an early thaw, plenty of rain and sunshine my CSA is going to start delivering the first produce of the season next week.

Unfortunately, I’m going to miss it since I’ll be in California.

However summertime produce is already in stores. I got a watermelon last weekend and have seen what’s being billed as “The first corn of the season” in stores as well. Now I’m not sure when to expect the first corn from Roxbury, but I do know that in rural Pennsylvania when Mrs. Fussy was growing up, they had a saying about corn. If it was growing well, they expected it to be, “Knee high by Fourth of July.”

Some quick poking around the Internet saw mention of an early harvest way down south in Louisina as early as July. But this gardener didn’t get their first corn harvest until August. Still, restaurants are releasing their spring and summer menus. And it just leaves me scratching my head.

Here in the Fussy household, we are shaking off winter with some brighter flavors, including a new trinity of ingredients I’m particularly enamored with right now.

Lemon, garlic and dried mint.

Cooking with dried mint is still relatively new to me. I started using it last year when some friend of ours came back from Turkey and brought us a bunch of Turkish spices as a present. One of them was dried spearmint.

After a bit of online research, we found a recipe for a mint and cucumber salad that quickly became one of our favorites until we stopped getting cucumbers from the CSA.

Recently I replenished our supply at Penzeys and used it in yet another variation of the Moroccan carrot salad. Then last night I kind of made something up with boiled potatoes, feta cheese, olive oil, lemon, garlic, and mint. I threw some leftover chickpeas in for good measure too. Sometimes cooking isn’t about recipes, but rather understanding what flavors go well together, and managing those flavors in a dish so that they work in harmony.

And that’s all this was.

Potatoes got softened in salted boiled water (cooked whole and unpeeled).
Leftover chickpeas were refreshed in a colander with the boiled potato water.
Potatoes were cut in eighths and put into the warm, empty pot along with the chickpeas.
A few ounces of feta were diced small.
A clove of raw garlic pressed into the pot.
Dried mint was added, as was olive oil, salt and pepper.
Half a lemon was squeezed on top if it all.
Then it was tossed.

The most important thing is to taste.

It needed a bit more lemon to brighten it up, so I added a little bit of zest.
And I thought a small bit of dried oregano would add complexity.
Then just a bit more salt and olive oil for good measure.

Wow, that was tasty stuff. And considering it was potatoes and cheese, it felt a lot more like summer than winter. The garlic, lemon and mint really go far in bringing a bit of the mediterranean to wherever you may be. And I’m sure we’ll be leaning heavily on this combination throughout the summer as the actual first vegetables of the season arrive.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. May 31, 2012 10:16 am

    I have a saying. Zest is the best! Seriously, it brings life into a dish. I love it.

  2. May 31, 2012 10:28 am

    I hate to say it, most chefs often don’t know better. They assume because it is available it must be in season and consumers and chefs often believe what the purveyor or grocery store tells them. In season now: spring peas, ramps, fiddle-head ferns, baby greens, spring garlic, herbs, asparagus, strawberries, rhubarb and some people in the NE have taken to hydroponics so you’ll see tomatoes, some squash. Summer menus… not yet. Spring menus mixed with some of the beets and potatoes out of the storage from the winter, I like the Japanese seasons, slowly mix the seasons week to week, moving into the next full season, and then summer mixes eventually with fall, and then fall with winter.

    I was shocked to see the HUGE pile of corn in our grocery stores down here and people pouncing on it like they had never seen corn or the melons which clearly are not from within the US borders.

  3. May 31, 2012 10:35 am

    Melons travel OK so I might buy one out of season- but sweet corn is going to taste like starchy crap after a long shipment, even refrigerated.

  4. May 31, 2012 11:44 am

    Out in Illinois we also used “knee high by the 4th of July”, or in particularly good weather years, “thigh high”. I was shocked to see corn in the stores (but I probably shouldn’t have been) last week.

    I still haven’t been able to get behind fresh mint in some meals. I like the refreshing tastes of parsley, lemon, feta and the like, but mint is a tough one for some reason. I keep trying it just to see if it’s a matter of the right recipe, but haven’t found one yet where I don’t replace it with another herb the second time I make it. I don’t think I’ve tried dried mint. I wonder if that might be mild enough for my taste.

  5. John permalink
    May 31, 2012 12:56 pm

    The corn in stores now is from way down south. However, the “knee high by the Fourth of July” saying was based on planting old varieties of corn (which weren’t bred to be especially early) and not planting it until conditions were ideal. Now some of the local farmers around here get corn by the end of June. To do that, they not only grow newly-developed early varieties, but they start it earlier and use some type of covering to protect it from cold early in the season. They have to charge more for the early crop because they incur extra costs to get it so early…but it is local and fresh, so is better than the “imported” stuff in the supermarket.

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