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Beet Salad
Credit: Jonathan Bardzik

For the past six years I’ve started my farm market cooking season the last weekend in March. From then, until Thanksgiving, I’m at a farm market almost every weekend cooking farm-fresh, seasonal dishes, handing out free samples and recipe cards and telling stories. Over time, there’s something I’ve observed about the start of each season.

As seasons change bringing shorter or longer days and warmer or colder weather so change the appetites of market goers. Take spring for instance: on the first warm day visitors flock to markets in their fresh pastels, light sweaters and shirt sleeves, looking for fresh, local, crisp asparagus and sweet strawberries. Aaaaaannnd…they end up disappointed. Just like you think early spring is a great time to greet the warming sun, so do the plants on the farm, and they’ve still got several weeks before they’ll offer up their first produce.

Am I telling you to stay home? Heck no! Get on out and buy some fresh, tender greens, fill your canvas bag with winter storage root vegetables like carrots, beets and celery root. Then head home and dress them up in spring’s finest- light, sweet flavors that pair perfectly with the fresh-cut tulips on the coffee table and the warm breezes gently blowing through your open windows. Happy spring.

Credit: Jonathan Bardzik

Blood Orange Glazed Beet Salad

Mildly acidic blood orange juice, fresh-tasting fennel seeds and the mild fat from Cotija cheese balance the earthy, rich notes of the beets delivering light, spring flavors.

Serves 6

For salad:

3 large beets, in 1/2” dice

2 blood oranges, finely zested and juiced (about 1/3 cup)

1 tbs honey

1 tbs olive oil

2 tbs toasted fennel seeds

1 tbs shredded orange rind

white pepper

1/2 crumbled cotija or feta cheese

1 head Butter lettuce

For vinaigrette:

1 shallot, minced

1/3 cup Sherry vinegar

1 tsp Dijon mustard

2/3 cup olive oil – the good stuff!

Directions:

Place beets in steamer basket over water with 1 tbs orange zest. Steam beets over high heat until just tender, 15-20 min, adding water if needed.

Make vinaigrette: In medium bowl, whisk together shallot, vinegar and mustard. Season with salt and pepper. While whisking, add oil in a thin stream to form a creamy emulsion.

Separate lettuce leaves and place in large bowl. Dress lightly with vinaigrette.

Warm olive oil in a 12” skillet over med heat. Add beets and cook 2 min. Whisk together juice and honey and add to pan. Increase heat to med-high and cook until liquid reduces and glazes beets. Season with white pepper and salt.

Toss beets with fennel seeds, cheese and remaining zest, and serve over dressed lettuce leaves.

Jonathan Bardzik’s new cookbook Seasons to Taste is available on Amazon.com or get yourself a signed copy here.