May is the month we usually circle with a fat red crayon in our appointment diaries. It is The Turning Point, the month where buttery sunshine, freshly lacquered toenails, and placid cross-breezes in otherwise stuffy apartments lure one away from indoor obligations in favor of outdoor frolicking. It is a just reward for slogging through the harsh wallop of winter and insulting slush of early spring.
May is meant to be camping season.
Assuming that the sky simply could not--wouldn't dare--unleash one more torrent, we determined last weekend would be the season's inaugural firepit lighting. Dismissing dismal weather reports, we cockily hatched plans for Dutch oven stews and improved-upon baked beans and spring-worthy champagne cocktails. We even hoped to squeeze in a rousing round of badminton. So much optimism--and all of it dashed against the cold, entirely unmoved, slate-gray sky. But as the rain continued unabated, so did the beckoning of the outdoors. Finally, we pulled on galoshes, piled a platter high with spring edibles, and set up a campsite beneath the (somewhat leaky) overhang of our front porch. From this vantage point, we had a lovely vista of Brooklyn's alternate-sides parking, the untrammeled expanse of a newly laid speed bump, and the neighborhood's stray cat wrestling with a squirrel.
But the cool, damp air refreshed and the food more than satisfied. We were in the mood for a ploughman's platter kind of meal, but lighter: whole smoked trout (procured at the farmer's market, but tasting of campfire nonetheless); a lemony, hazelnut-studded salad of spring vegetables that requires no blaze, just one's trusty vegetable peeler; crumbled aged cheddar; crusty bread; and the first strawberries of the season. Naturally, we included a frequently topped-off carafe of rose wine.
In the event that you, too, are flushed with a cabin fever that ought to be spring fever, we present this delicate, no-cook salad of shaved asparagus, carrots and parsnips. It is perfect for drizzly May dining, comes together awfully quickly, and will probably have you gazing longingly at your macintosh in a week or two. Just be sure to dig up the smallest and crispest vegetables you can find, as those will be the sweetest and most tender.
A mound of leftover carrots and parsnips also provides an opportunity to practice one's whittling skills.
SHAVED SPRING VEGETABLE SALAD WITH TOASTED HAZELNUTS
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 pound small, crisp parsnips, trimmed and peeled
1/4 pound small, crisp carrots, trimmed and peeled
1/4 pound medium, crisp asparagus, ends trimmed
1/4 cup toasted, coarsely chopped hazelnuts
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
Crumbled cheese, such as aged cheddar or feta
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and salt. Whisk in the oil.
2. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the vegetables, head to toe, into long pretty ribbons. Continue ribboning until the vegetable is just a stub of its former self. Transfer them to a bowl, then toss with the vinaigrette, hazelnuts, and chives.
3. Arrange salad on a rustic-looking platter that wouldn't be out of place in wild environs. Garnish with cheese and black pepper and serve.