Spring on the salad!

This weekend I'll attend Passover dinner on Saturday and Easter brunch on Sunday. My family is Catholic so Passover is relatively new for us, a gift, if you will, from my mother's Bronx born and raised Jewish husband, Marty. He loves a good opera and a good sandwich (quite possibly in equal measure), celebrates Christmas with us enthusiastically (especially the tree) and makes handmade wooden toys for all the grandkids. He is without Midwestern reserve and often blurts out what's on his mind. Scared us a little at first until we got a gander at his heart—which is huge and hangs off his sleeve for all to see. So on Saturday we'll all put on the little pita bread hats and take turns reading from worn booklets reciting passages from the Torah that Marty explains to us, eat the matzo, the bitter herbs and all the rest. The kids groan when I tell them we're going to Passover dinner at Grandma and Papoo's but it always ends up being a good time with plenty of laughter and tasty food. We're always glad we went.

Easter brunch will be ham, buns and cheesy potatoes at my brother-in-law's house. I'm assigned the salad, which I often am because I make a good salad. I'm not bragging because it's not hard—hunt for really high quality fresh lettuces and vegetables (which usually means not going the pre-bagged or washed route) and make dressings from scratch. I know a Caesar or Greek or straight up spinach would be a hit but I feel like showcasing some spring flavors so here comes raw asparagus, pea pods, pea shoots and spinach and roasted artichoke hearts* and fennel and the ever-Easter-present hard boiled eggs. Serve with lemon juice and olive oil, salt and pepper or this lemon vinaigrette.

Leftovers make a fantastic egg salad sandwich—just chop up, add mayonnaise, a bit of fresh lemon juice and a big pinch of salt.

* The idea for roasting canned artichoke hearts came from Ina Garten. I guess she uses frozen but I'm so bad about defrosting that I used canned. Delicious.

Spring Salad 

Serves 4-6

1 can artichoke hearts
1 large fennel bulb
1 bunch asparagus
2 cups pea pods
1 cup pea shoots
6 cups spinach
2-3 hard boiled eggs
Lemon and olive oil

Preheat oven to 350ยบ

Drain artichoke hearts, halve and pat dry. Trim fennel bulb and cut into eighths. Toss both with 1/4 cup olive oil and a pinch of salt and roast for 40 minutes until fennel is softened. Cool to room temperature.

Peel thorns off asparagus stalks using a potato peeler and chop all but tough bottom third into small dice. Cut pea pods in half and tear spinach leaves into bite-sized pieces. Dice eggs. Arrange all vegetables on platter or in bowl and drizzle with lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper or lemon vinaigrette (or put vinaigrette on the side for people to help themselves).


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