Signs of spring are in the air — and on full display at our local farmers’ markets. As new crops nudge from the ground, they signal the season’s transition from a wintery slumber to springtime’s full bounty. Now is the time to grab the earliest harbingers from Marin’s local farms — from baby roots and shoots and new onions and bulbs to delicate leaves and herbaceous sprigs — that portend the abundance of produce that lies ahead.
Roasted Carrot and Israeli Couscous Salad With Arugula
Spring carrots are delicate and unfailingly sweet. Like most new roots, baby carrots are pulled from the fields to make space for the remaining carrots to grow to full size. When possible, choose colorful heirloom varieties in striking shades of purple, gold and white to add vibrance to the plate. Toasted Israeli couscous (pearl couscous) adds satisfying nuttiness and heft to this salad, which is embellished with peppery baby arugula, snippets of fresh herbs and a squeeze of fresh lemon.
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 cup Israeli (pearl) couscous
- 1 cup water
- Kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
- 1 1/2 pounds thin rainbow carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise if thick
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
- 1/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- Pinch each of salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 cups baby arugula, about 3 ounces
- 1/2 Meyer lemon, plus wedges for serving
- 1 to 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
- Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the couscous and toast it until golden, 1 to 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the water and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover the skillet, and simmer over low heat until the liquid is absorbed, and the couscous is tender, about 3 minutes. Transfer the couscous to a bowl and stir in the lemon zest, cumin, coriander and cayenne. Let stand at room temperature while you roast the carrots.
- Heat the oven to 425° F.
- Place the carrots in a large bowl, drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and lightly season with salt. Spread the carrots on a rimmed baking sheet and roast in the oven until lightly charred and crisp-tender, about 20 minutes. Remove and cool slightly or to room temperature.
- Mix the gremolata ingredients in a small bowl.
- Scatter the arugula on a serving platter or in a wide shallow serving bowl. Spoon the couscous over and around the arugula and arrange the carrots on top. Squeeze the half lemon over the salad, then sprinkle the gremolata and pine nuts over. Garnish with the lemon wedges and serve.
Baby Beets and Spring Greens With Whipped Ricotta
Baby beets are sweet, mild and void of the earthiness often associated with larger beets. Their skin is thin and once scrubbed, certainly edible, providing an extra boost of nutrients to the healthy beet root. If possible, choose a mix of red and gold beets for a variety of colors and flavors. As the beets roast, they will release their juices, which will mingle with the olive oil in the pan. Do not discard it — you’ll use this oil to create the base for the vinaigrette.
- 1 cup whole milk ricotta
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 3 bunches small or baby beets (10 to 12 total), ends and stems trimmed, scrubbed clean
- 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 5 ounces mixed baby spring greens
- 2 tablespoons chopped raw pistachios
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
- Finely grated lemon zest for garnish
- Combine the ricotta, olive oil, lemon zest, salt, and a grind or two of black pepper in a food processor. Process until light and smooth. Transfer the ricotta to a bowl and refrigerate until use.
- Heat the oven to 400° F.
- Place the beets in a large Dutch oven. Pour in the 1/4 cup olive oil and stir to coat. Cover the pot, transfer to the oven, and roast the beets until tender when pierced with a knife, about 45 minutes. Remove and cool, uncovered, in the pot.
- Peel the beets, if desired, and cut them into large bite-size chunks. Do not discard the oil from the pot. Place the beets in a bowl with 1 tablespoon of the cooking oil, and lightly season them with salt and pepper. Cool to room temperature or refrigerate until ready to use.
- Strain the remaining cooking oil into a bowl. Whisk in the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, vinegar, lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste).
- To assemble the salad, arrange a layer of mixed spring greens on a platter or serving plates. Lightly drizzle with some of the vinaigrette. Mound the beets on the greens and spoon a generous dollop of whipped ricotta on the salad. Garnish with the pistachios, mint, lemon zest and additional black pepper. Serve with the remaining vinaigrette for drizzling.
Salmon With Leek and Tarragon Compote
Leeks are in the allium family, which includes onions and garlic, but they are notably milder and sweeter than their sharp and pungent siblings. While leeks are available year-round, baby leeks, or “new leeks,” are available in the spring. They are slightly sweeter than larger leeks and exhibit a buttery flavor when cooked, which is a perfect complement to light and fresh spring dishes (think brunchy egg dishes, tarts and fish). In this recipe, the leeks are softened in wine and stock with fresh tarragon to create a buttery and fragrant bed for oven-roasted salmon.
- 8 new leeks, white and pale green parts only
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 1/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon, plus more for garnish
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 4 salmon filets, each 6 to 8 ounces, skin and pin-bones removed
- Finely chopped chives
- Finely grated lemon zest
- Discard any tough outer layers of the leeks. Halve the leeks lengthwise, and then thinly slice them in half-moons. Place in a colander and rinse under cold water to remove any grit. Pat dry with a kitchen towel.
- Melt the butter with 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks and the salt. Sauté until the leeks are bright in color and slightly soft, about 4 minutes. Pour in the wine and simmer until the wine is nearly evaporated, about 2 minutes, stirring up any brown bits. Add the stock and continue to cook until the leeks are soft and sludgy, about 4 minutes more, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat, stir in the tarragon and season with black pepper. Keep warm.
- Heat the oven to 350° F.
- Place the salmon in a baking dish. Rub it with olive oil and season with salt and black pepper. Transfer to the oven and bake until just cooked through, about 25 minutes, depending on the thickness of the salmon.
- Divide the leek compote between serving plates. Arrange the salmon over the leeks. Sprinkle the chives and lemon zest over the plates and garnish with fresh tarragon sprigs.
Meyer Lemon Eton Mess
Makes 6 servings; 1 1/2 cups lemon curd
Citrus rules in early spring, and Meyer lemons are king (or queen). This recipe goes all in with lemon in an Eton Mess, a classic British dessert that is a sumptuous and forgiving trio of whipped cream, meringue and fruit, unabashedly folded together and dolloped into a glass. In this version, Meyer lemon curd stands in for the fruit, brightly rippling through the cream and cutting the sweetness with a jolt of puckery citrus. Eureka lemons can be substituted for the Meyer lemons.
- 4 large egg yolks
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup fresh Meyer (or Eureka) lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon powder sugar
- 2 ounces prepared vanilla meringues (about 6 2-inch meringues)
- Meyer lemon slices for garnish
- Fill the bottom of a double boiler with 1 to 2 inches of water. Bring it to a boil over medium-high heat, and then lower the heat to a bare simmer.
- In the bowl of the double boiler, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest and salt. Place over the bottom of the double boiler and cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the curd thickens and coats the back of the spoon (about the thickness of hollandaise sauce), 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring until it melts before each addition. Transfer the curd to a glass jar and place a piece of plastic wrap on the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours (or up to 1 week).
- Beat the cream and sugar until soft peaks form. Add 1/4 cup curd and, using a spatula, gently fold it into the cream, leaving some streaks of the curd visible. Crumble half of the meringues into the mixture.
- Spoon a thin layer of curd into the bottom of six (4- to 5-ounce) glasses or mason jars, and sprinkle a thin layer of crumbled meringues over the curd. Divide half of the cream between the glasses. Add a drizzle of lemon curd to each glass, and then top with the remaining cream. (If making in advance, at this point refrigerate the glasses for 1 hour or freeze for up to 4 hours. If freezing, let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.)
- To serve, top each glass with a dab of lemon curd and a few pinches of crumbled meringues. Garnish with a lemon segment. Serve immediately.
Shopping Guide: Marin County Farmers’ Markets
Pick up provisions at one of the county’s many farmers’ markets that are brimming with fresh, seasonal, locally grown produce.
Agricultural Institute of Marin (AIM)
AIM operates the year-round Thursday and Sunday markets at the San Rafael Civic Center, as well as the seasonal San Rafael Summer Market, which runs May–Oct. downtown, and the Point Reyes Farmers’ Market, which operates mid-June–Oct. next to Toby’s Feed Barn in Point Reyes Station.
Marin Community Farmer’s Markets
These open-air markets can be found in the parking lot at Corte Madera Town Center on Wednesdays and in the CVS parking lot in Mill Valley on Fridays, year-round.
Tomales Farmers’ Market
This market is seasonal and typically runs from May–Sept.
Agricultural Community Events Farmers’ Markets
Agricultural Community Events runs markets in Sonoma and Marin counties, including the seasonal markets on Tuesdays in downtown Novato and Wednesdays in Fairfax.
The Marin Country Mart, Larkspur
Hosts a Saturday market year-round.
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Lynda Balslev is an award-winning food writer, editor and recipe developer based in the San Francisco Bay area. She authors the nationally syndicated column and blog TasteFood, and co-authored the cookbook Almonds: Recipes, History, Culture (2015 Silver Medal Winner Independent Publisher Awards). She is the 2011 recipient of the Chronicle Books Award (Recipe Writing) to the Symposium for Professional Food Writers, and a 2018 Fellowship Award recipient to the Symposium for Wine Writers at Meadowood, Napa Valley. Lynda’s writing and photography have been recognized by the New York Times Diners Journal, the Los Angeles Times, The Huffington Post and more.