This spring farmers market salad highlights the best of May’s produce, including beets, strawberries, and sugar snap peas, plus local goat cheese and quail eggs.
After suggesting the other day that you roast a bunch of chicken and potatoes, I’m here with something truly seasonal: this spring farmers market salad. All of the produce and the quail eggs are from Big Sycamore Farm in Decatur, TN and the goat cheese is from Rafting Goat Cheese in Old Fort, TN, so everything except the dressing is a local ingredient that I got at the farmers market or at the farm itself.
Getting my produce from nearby makes a huge difference for me in several different ways. First of all, let’s talk taste. The flavor of local fruits and vegetables is so much better. Pretty much every time I try something new from my CSA box, I say to myself, “These are the best _____ I’ve ever eaten,”. It’s happened with carrots, squash, beets, strawberries, and countless other things. When you’re thinking about vegetables that were picked today or yesterday at a farm in your area and produce from the grocery store that’s already traveled across the country or even the world before getting to you, there’s really no comparison. Fresher fruits and vegetables taste so much better.
Also, when you get your goods from nearby, you have the opportunity to go see exactly how everything works at the farm, or at least hear all about it directly from a farmer at the market. You won’t have to wonder just exactly how free-range the chickens are or what the crops have been sprayed with.
If you read my blog often, you’ve probably heard me talk about my Big Sycamore Farm CSA. (Wondering what a CSA is? It stands for community-supported agriculture and is also known as a farm share. Find out more and search for one near you here.) Right after moving down to Chattanooga in September, I met Initia and Bertus at the farmers market and bought a leftover box from their summer CSA. I was hooked by how amazing everything tasted, the wide variety of produce they included, and how convenient it was to get one big box of fruits and vegetables for the week in one fell swoop. I soon after signed up for their winter CSA, which has a short season running from October to December. It’s like a breath of fresh air during the colder months, and the vegetables in my boxes led me to create things like this winter vegetable gratin that I never would have made otherwise.
The main season (spring/summer) CSA is a bit more of an investment, so I’m doing a half work share. That means I paid half price for my CSA and am working to make up the rest of it. Each week I get to spend a morning helping out at the farm, and I absolutely love it. In addition to hanging out with baby bunnies, I’ve been harvesting and washing produce and planting seeds. I picked the lettuce and sugar snap peas in this salad myself, and later on in the season I’ll get to help harvest the kale, lettuce, and bok choy that I planted last week. It’s so much fun! If you have the time to do a work share, I highly recommend it. Your food tastes even better when you work for it, and it’s also a great opportunity to learn about all different kinds of fruits and vegetables and how they’re grown.
This post is more of an idea than a recipe. I highly recommend going to a farmers market near you, loading up a couple of bags with a bunch of fresh stuff, and making a big, beautiful salad. The dressing I’ve used here is a maple-lime vinaigrette that’s a bit sweet and bit tart, but light enough to let the produce take center stage. It’s delicious on anything, so try it on whatever is in season near you! If you do happen to find strawberries, beets, and sugar snap peas, though, I discovered they’re a particularly satisfying combination, especially with some soft-boiled eggs for protein and a sprinkle of goat cheese to tie all the elements together. We’ve got earthy beets, crunchy peas, sweet strawberries, creamy goat cheese, and some richness from the eggs. (If you don’t have quail eggs, you can definitely just use chicken eggs! Not as cute, but they’ll get the job done.) I enjoyed this salad on Sunday and brought leftovers for lunch on Monday, and it was like a ray of sunshine in the midst of the dreariest day of the week.
Have you tried a CSA? What goodies are you spotting at your farmers market this month? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments!
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon lime juice (lemon juice or your favorite vinegar would also work)
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup (honey works, too)
- ¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 6 quail eggs
- Half a head of curly green lettuce, separated into leaves
- 6 small beets (about ¾ pound total), roasted, peeled, halved, and sliced*
- 1 cup sugar snap peas, roughly chopped
- 1 cup strawberries, hulled and sliced
- 3-4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- To make the dressing, whisk all the ingredients together in a small bowl. Taste and adjust the seasonings if desired.
- Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Gently add the quail eggs and let them cook for 2 minutes and 15 seconds for soft boiled (or 4 minutes if you prefer hard boiled). While they’re cooking, prepare a bowl of ice water. As soon as the time is up, use a slotted spoon to transfer the eggs to the cold water. Once they’re cool, peel them. I start at the pointy edge of each egg, crushing it gently against a hard surface to crack it. I then carefully pull off a little piece of shell, making sure to tear through the stretchy membrane, too. From there it’s pretty easy to gently peel off the rest of the shell in a spiral pattern all the way down to the fat end of the egg. After you’ve peeled the eggs, cut them in half lengthwise.
- Arrange the lettuce leaves on a platter or on individual serving plates. Top with the beets, sugar snap peas, strawberries, and quail eggs. Sprinkle on a little salt and pepper and crumble on the goat cheese. Drizzle with dressing to taste and serve.