Yesterday the boy and I took lunch in the garden. (We have a son. His name is Milo. He’s two, though if asked he’ll tell you he’s sixteen). We sat in straight-backed chairs beside the nursery hoop, overlooking the chickens. We ate a spinach salad with balsamic and rosemary vinaigrette straight from a huge, stainless mixing bowl. We shared a sparkling water, from a single tall glass with lemon and ice. It was a simple meal, no more than ten minutes from field to plate. And it was perfect. Lately, between soil prep, spring planting, grow room work, raising the boy and working my regular 50+ hrs/wk at the store I’d been running it a little thin. I was needing something simple and lunch in the garden with my son did the trick. It was one of the best meals I can remember.
In the garden nothing is simpler than spinach. It’s easy to grow, yields abundantly and tastes a world better than anything one can buy at the grocery. We start all our spinach plants in the grow room and transplant them, 5 rows across a 30 inch bed, with 12 inches between each plant. Spinach grows very fast and will keep producing leaves for almost as long as we keep harvesting them. We try to keep all the leaves around two inches long. This requires us to harvest two or three times per week. (For the market minded: we get 1 to 1.5 retail bags per 2-feet per week. It works out to 200 plants per 40-foot bed that yield 20-30 bags per week.)
This year we are growing two spinach varieties Space and Bordeaux (pictured). They both have a great meaty body. Space tastes sweet and mild. Bordeaux has gorgeous red veins and an earthier taste. So far Space is more than twice as popular at market, but I’m committed to Bordeaux and am going to do all I can to get other into it as well. We’ll keep growing both varieties all season.
In the kitchen nothing is simpler than vinaigrette. It’s so easy there is no reason to ever buy salad dressing. Whisk together (or blend, or shake-up in a mason jar) one-part oil and three or four-parts vinegar and you have vinaigrette. That being said there are, as always, a few details that make a big difference. First, dice some onion or shallot as fine as you can. Next, and this is the important bit, combine the onion, salt a vinegar and let it sit for 5-10 minutes. The salt and acid break the onion down and create a truly magical sauce. Other than that, go crazy. Add some dijon for flavor and help keep things emulsified. Add some herbs for flavor. Experiment with different vinegars (generally I use balsamic when I’m looking for sweet and white wine when I want something “bright”).
It’s going to a busy year and sometimes something is going to have to give. And while food is great and lunch was wonderful, it was the moment with the boy that made the afternoon. I have to remember that when things get tight, time with Milo needs to remain at the top of my list.
Balsamic Vinaigrette with Rosemary
Makes a jar full of bright, sweet dressing
- 1/2 c balsamic vinegar
- 1/8 c white wine vinegar
- 2 c olive oil
- 1 med bulb shallot (bulb onion is okay)
- 1/2 ts sea salt
- black pepper
- 2 sprig fresh rosemary
Fine dice shallot or onion. Combine onion with salt and vinegar in a non-reactive bowl. Let things sit for 5-10 minutes. Add oil (very slowly at first) while whisking, until dressing thickens. (Against intuition, if it looks oily it probably needs more oil.) Adjust oil and vinegar to taste. If you want it brighter add more wine vinegar. If it’s too bright add oil. Chop rosemary and add to the dressing. Adjust seasoning and toss with fresh spinach. Serve immediately.
Vinaigrette can be stored under refrigeration for two weeks.