Where I live every night of the summer we have Music in the Park from 7-8:30pm. It is such a lovely way to spend a summer evening that I find I am constantly trying to make portable easy dinners so that we can enjoy the spontaneity of all summer has to offer. I cooked a chicken last night and we still have a fridge full of cherries which led to the inspiration for tonight’s dinner.
I’ve been making chicken salad after a recipe from the Narrows restaurant (I think that’s where it came from), adding a tablespoon of stone ground mustard to mayonnaise, balsalmic vinegar, and a shot of hot sauce to the mayo and throwing in dried cherries (Michigan’s are the best), and walnuts with the onion.
Once you have started eating seasonally you start to have a whole new relationship and appreciation for lettuce. What once may have been taken for granted becomes an almost holy experience when you go without it for the better part of the year. In October heads of lettuce gradually begin getting smaller as a stark reminder of the season coming to a close and the earth going within to regenerate for another season.
We love our fall salads and eat them almost daily knowing that by the end of the month there won’t be tender greens again until April when the first few baby greens burst from the soil.
Coleslaw and kimchi replace fresh salad on our plates in the winter with most of our greens coming in the form of dehydrated leafy greens such as kale and parsley flakes or frozen spinach and chard.
Goodbye fresh salad we will miss you! See you again in April.
June sees the return of many of my vegetable favorites baby carrots, beets & potatoes first come out of the ground this month. Green onions can be found in abundance with radishes along side them. If you have had a warm enough spring peas make their first appearance at markets sometime this month and are a fleeting treat that is well worth the cost. We have never bothered freezing peas but do enjoy them when they are in season. Lettuce increases in variety and in size and the cabbage lover will probably find a small fresh head in someone’s stand.
Strawberries are the highlight of this months fruit basket with those delicious tender fruits appearing just as the last of the asparagus fades away.
I always find June a tricky month for cooking as it’s not quite warm enough for summer salads but no longer cool enough for winter soups and heavy dishes. Grilled vegetables becomes a quick favorite with the fresh baby vegetables bringing a new taste to the tired roasted root vegetable casserole of winter. We opt for lighter quicker cooking cuts of meat than the roasts from a few months prior the first batches of spring chickens are often found at market this month.
Farmers Market in May sees the first heads of lettuce. Those fresh salads continue to taste so good after the many months of going without. Baby greens are still tender and delicious, even the weeds are sweet in May. Asparagus comes about halfway through May and the potato farmers have stored their tenderest baby potatoes for you to enjoy this spring. Radishes start to appear this month and it may be the only time of year I am grateful to see a radish, spicy and sweet so full of life. Swiss chard will be big enough this month to enjoy and even see some of those beautiful colorful stalks.
If you are a tomato grower you can get your starts this month from those diligent farmers who started back in February I’ve even seen flowers on plants this early. Make sure you protect those tender shoots!
You should be cleaning out your pantry this month and finding all those forgotten things you stored back in September and October because summer will be along soon enough and you won’t want to eat last years preserves when this years harvest comes in! We often find peach and pear preserves a welcome delicious treat as we eagerly anticipate summer fruits. The last of our dried kale gets tossed into soups that now have sides of salad and meals start to take on a distinct green tinge as we replenish our vitamin stores. Jars of tomato sauce and frozen tomatoes do still have to last us a few more months as it won’t be until August that we start seeing the Romas appear again.