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Local Chef: Philip McGrath's Farm Fresh Salad

One of the major events on the locavore's culinary calendar is the opening of our local outdoor greenmarkets. Don't get me wrong, the indoor markets of winter are fine, but we soon get a little tired of hearty and robust roots like rutabagas and yams, and start to yearn for mounds of big bright red bunches of spicy radishes, bushels of deep green spinach and the first firm and tangy scallions of the season.

My wife Cathy and I just got back from the Pleasantville's market, which had its ribbon cutting and official opening this morning. We make it a habit of walking our Basset hound Bessie there early on Saturday mornings to peruse the stalls and purchase a few fresh provisions to fill our home larder for the week. Up to 1,500 people can visit the Pleasantville market on a bright Saturday morning so we are assured to meet quite a number of people that we know, and we regularly run into many loyal customers of our restaurant, the Iron Horse Grill. We are lucky that the market is literally in the restaurant's backyard. During our morning shopping sprees, I check out what is fresh and available, start to decide what I can use at the restaurant for the week and plan my menus accordingly. I head back just before the market closes to make a few deals on what the farmers have left. It is a great symbiotic relationship, I get great local products at a fair price and the farmers don't have so much to cart back with them. I also get an infusion of inspiration, coming up with new ideas on how to use the abundant harvest of vegetables, cheeses, eggs, meats and ingredients that are literally outside the Iron Horse's back door.

Obviously Pleasantville is not the only location in Westchester to be so lucky to have a valuable and tasty resource like this every week. From Mamaroneck to Mount Kisco and Rye to Tarrytown, markets operate on different days. You can find out more about just where and when they are open at www.communitymarkets.biz. The website has the full roster, schedule and directions on how to get to the various markets. It also lists the farms and artisanal producers that will be at each venue. Besides the amazingly fresh products that these open air markets supply us with, there is an atmosphere of fun and socialization with other food-focused people, comparing recipes, recounting memorable meals made with this or that ingredient and, what I think is easily one of the best perks, kibitzing with the actual farmers and producers who bring the bounty of their hard work literally to our back yards.

I purchased all of the ingredients for the following salad this morning at our Pleasantville market (except for the salt and pepper). It is a testament to just what you can come up with using a little imagination and great, local products.

SPINACH, RADISH AND SCALLION SALAD

CHEVRE CROUTONS, CIDER DRESSING

Serves 4

1 lb spinach, stemmed, washed and spun dry

1 bunch of radishes, washed and thinly sliced

1 bunch scallions minced

4 discs Chevre

4 slices of baguette cut on the bias

4 tbs. extra virgin olive oil plus a little for brushing

2 tbs. apple cider vinegar

4 basil leaves

Coarse salt and fresh pepper to taste

Place the spinach, radishes and scallions in a mixing bowl. Brush the slices of baguette with a little olive oil and lightly toast. Place a basil leaf on the top of each crouton and top with a disc of Chevre. Warm until the cheese is just soft, season with salt and fresh pepper. Toss the salad with the remaining olive oil, cider vinegar, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Place a mound of salad on each of four plates, top with a crouton and serve immediately.

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Philip McGrath owns and operates the Iron Horse Grill, which is housed the historic former train station building in Pleasantville. He also owns Pony Express To Go, an all natural fast food restaurant just across the park from the Iron Horse. You can learn more about both by visiting their websites at www.ironhorsegrill.com and www.ponyexpresstogo.com .

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