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Fighting crime and saving the world is all well and good, but if I were in charge of superheroes, I'd throw in at least one or two whose job was to make things taste better. Captain Delicious or Dr. Delectable perhaps. Their superpowers would be twofold:
Ability 1: Season manipulation that would allow them to create perpetual spring/early summer conditions
Ability 2: The ability to conjure forth salted boiling water from their fingertips
With these two powers combined, they would have an endless supply of perfectly blanched green spring vegetables, which are essentially a cheat sheet to deliciousness, whether you're serving them in risotto, over grits, or in a simple salad with a crispy poached egg.
Fortunately during certain times of the year, we don't need Dr. Delectable to help us win the battle against blandness. All we need is some good green spring vegetables from the market, and some very basic knowledge about how to blanch green spring vegetables. The deliciousness practically takes care of itself after that.
Take, for instance, this salad, which I threw together when emptying out the fridge the day before my wife, Adri, my baby, Alicia, and I left for a vacation. Most other times of year, those fridge scraps would be half a brown avocado, perhaps some wilted lettuce, a stray onion or two, and a few dozen different hot sauces. But in spring it's blanched peas, asparagus, fava beans, snap peas, and broccolini, along with some arugula from the garden, a cucumber, a red onion, and some fresh mozzarella cheese.
When I opened the fridge and saw that, I took a moment to silently thank my past self for always blanching more spring vegetables than he needs for any given recipe. Blanched spring green vegetables will stay vibrant, bright, and flavorful for several days in the fridge.
To put together the salad, I started by salting the cucumbers and letting them sit to drain while I soaked some sliced red onions in hot water and whipped up a quick dressing of olive oil and lemon juice. Salting and draining cucumbers concentrates their flavor while soaking sliced onions in hot water will draw out their pungent, tear-inducing sulfurous compounds, leaving behind their sweeter flavors.
After tossing all the vegetables together with arugula, mozzarella, and the dressing, I tasted it and thought that it needed just a couple touches to round out the flavors. Some toasted sunflower seeds added a nutty crunch, and a spoonful of dip-as-you-eat Labne on the plate drizzled with olive oil added richness and tang to tie it all together (Greek yogurt would work just as well).
As I sat with my family and ate this delicious salad, I couldn't help thinking to myself, These are my leftovers? What has California done to me.
The good news is that this salad will be equally delicious when you go out and get the ingredients fresh. Just make sure you buy and blanch more of the vegetables than you need so that future you can also be blessed with a bounty like this. Superhero cape not required.
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