Hengelo, the fairly small Dutch city where we live, boasts one restaurant awarded 1 Michelin star. The restaurant, as is customary these days, claims to be using seasonal, locally sourced ingredients in their menu.
Almost exactly one year ago, when my parents came to visit, we emptied the huge jar in which we’d been collecting coins of 5, 10 and 20 cents for 2 years, and took my parents out for dinner at Hotel Lansink.
The food was good (it better be at that price), though a little too much of the “landscape cookery” kind, but: in what universe is zucchini in early May seasonal here? At this time of the year, zucchini is a small plant still living on the windowsill or just getting acquainted with the outside. Having grown my vegetables for more than 10 years around here, I know exactly what vegetables are seasonal and the menu did not feature any of them.
So, dear mister chef of a fancy restaurant, if you want to know what cooking with seasonal ingredients really means, I would like to invite you over to have a look in my garden.
As I was thinking about seasonality, I got the idea to make a salad that represents my garden at this exact point in the year. Right now we are harvesting radishes, leaf mustard and asparagus. There was also this red onion that I forgot to harvest last year that behaved like a shallot, forming several small bulbs and sending out vigorous green shoots.The thing about vegetables that grow together, is that they often taste good together too. And this salad, that is only possible in May, when the harvests of radishes and asparagus coincide, with a robust dressing fragrant with lemon zest and fruity olive oil that matches the vigour of spring plant growth, is so very good, right now, right here.
May garden salad
450 g (1 pound) green asparagus
150 g ( one bunch) radishes
3 spring onions
150 g (5 ounces) mixed mustard leaves such as rocket, mizuna, osaka red purple
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest (from an untreated lemon)
1 tsp Dijon mustard
4 tbsp good olive oil
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
Trim the tough ends of the asparagus and slice the spears diagonally in pieces of about 3 cm (a bit over 1 inch), leaving the tops whole. Bring water to boil in a medium pan. Add salt and drop in the asparagus pieces. Boil until just tender, about 6 minutes. Drain and let cool a bit.
Meanwhile, thinly slice the white parts of the onions and mix them with the vinegar and grated zest in the bottom of a large bowl, let marinate for at least 10 minutes.
Add mustard, olive oil and lemon juice and whisk everything until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Add the asparagus, thinly sliced radishes and thinly sliced green parts of the onions. Stir to coat the vegetables with the dressing and leave for a bit for the flavors to marry. Just before serving, gently stir in the mustard leaves.