By Kim Dannies
“I am amazed at this spring, this conflagration
Of green fires lit on the soil of the earth, this blaze
Of growing, these sparks that puff in wild gyration,
Faces of people streaming across my gaze.”
— D.H. Lawrence from The Enkindled Spring
May, a riot of newly minted leaves, plants and herbs startles our appetites awake. After a sleepy winter of predictable produce this is prime time to go wild and green savoring foods that are strictly seasonal. Watercress, mint, spring peas, asparagus and new potatoes are lovely ingredients to pair in a meal. Any potato that is harvested early is a new potato. New potatoes are crisp and waxy and high in moisture because they are picked before their sugars have converted to starch.
Wild Gyrations Salad
Scrub 3 pounds of new potatoes and place in a large skillet. Add enough water half fill the pan. Cover and simmer potatoes until slightly soft in center, about 20 minutes. Drain. Cover and reserve in pan.
Meanwhile clean and dry 2 bunches of watercress. Prep one pound of asparagus by snapping off bases; slice remaining stalks into 1-inch sticks. Heat a sauté pan medium-high with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Sauté the asparagus until it begins to char a bit, about 5 minutes, turning often. Shell one pound of baby peas (or use one-half pound of baby snap peas, cut in half).
In a jar with a cap combine one-half cup rough chopped walnuts, 1 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons Dijon vinegar, one-half cup lemon juice, a pinch of salt and pepper, and 1 teaspoon maple syrup. Shake vigorously. Taste to adjust seasoning.
Add potatoes to a large prep bowl. Use a fork to press lightly on the spuds, cracking them open a bit. Add asparagus and peas. Toss with desired amount of dressing and season with additional sea salt and fresh pepper. On a large serving platter, arrange the watercress. Pour the vegetables over the watercress. Top with freshly chopped mint. Serves 6-8.
Kim Dannies is a graduate of La Varenne Cooking School in France. She lives in Williston with her husband, Jeff; they have three twenty-something daughters who come and go. For archived Everyday Gourmet columns go to kimdannies.com.