Writer Debra Spark at her home in North Yarmouth. The lush plants behind her are  tended by her husband, Garry Mitchell, who cooked the springtime dinner described in Spark’s essay. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

For years, I made a corn, basil, and tomato risotto that I loved in no small part because I could source everything (save the arborio rice) from within a few miles of my home. Indeed, sometimes (because an organic farmer briefly grew vegetables on my land) the items in my dinner came directly from my yard, even though I am no gardener.

Then the organic farm went under, and all that locavore bragging went by the wayside until one evening last spring, when my husband made a dinner out of what we found at the final Brunswick Winter Market for the season: spicy greens, pea shoots, arugula, chives, radishes, eggs and fingerling potatoes.

We added a few items from Hannaford. In the 1960s, when my father headed out to the supermarket, he’d always call, “Bye, kids, I’m off to do a little hunting and gathering.” What he procured from the wilds of Stop & Shop did not appeal to me: chicken livers, canned salmon for salmon croquettes, kasha and noodles for the traditional Jewish kasha varnishkes, which I called bird seed and bowties, and hated as much as I hated most foods in my youth. Or most food out of my preferred food group: the cookie.

Dinner at my house remains a challenge, because I am still a fussy eater, though for different reasons – I have a gluten allergy and am lactose intolerant. For moral, environmental, and pure gross-out reasons, I do not want to eat animals, though I eat some fish. If meat is really disguised as something other than meat, i.e., a spicy ground bit of deliciousness packed into some doughy pastry, then I am a hypocritical pescatarian and willing to risk the stomachache that comes with my eating gluten.

The result of all these distastes on my part (and a general desire to keep my weight down and lower my cholesterol) is that my husband and I eat a lot of vegetables. Our go-to dinner is roasted vegetables and tofu with brown rice and some sort of sauce, or those same roasted vegetables tossed with chickpea or red lentil pasta and parmesan. Good, but a little ho-hum after a while.

Which is why I decided to dip into one of my actual cookbooks — Kimberley Hasselbrink’s “Vibrant Food” (Ten Speed Press, 2014) – to come up with this farewell to the winter market: Roasted Potato Salad with Asparagus and a Boiled Egg. My husband did the actual cooking, and he simplified the roasting of the vegetables, and we served the salad on the greens we bought, but otherwise this is Hasselbrink’s recipe:


Roasted Potato Salad with Asparagus and a Boiled Egg

Serves 4

½ cup finely chopped basil
½ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh tarragon
¼ cup finely grated fresh Parmesan
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon sea salt, or more to taste
7 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds new potatoes (we used fingerlings, sliced lengthwise)
½ pound asparagus
4 eggs, room temperature
2 to 3 radishes, thinly sliced
Chives, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine the herbs, cheese, garlic and salt with 4 tablespoons of the olive oil to make the herb sauce, and set aside.

Toss 2 additional tablespoons of the oil with the potatoes and arrange in single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt. Roast the potatoes in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes.


Meanwhile, toss the asparagus with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and salt to taste. If the stalks are thin, use a separate baking pan for the asparagus and put them in the oven after the potatoes are half done (otherwise you can put it on the same pan with the potatoes). Stir the vegetables halfway through cooking to help them roast evenly on all sides.

While the vegetables are roasting, boil the eggs. The original recipe calls for medium-boiled eggs, so advises gently putting the eggs in simmering water and cooking for 7 minutes (or longer for a firmer yolk), then putting them in an ice water bath before peeling them and slicing in half.

Combine the warm potatoes with the herb sauce. Add the roasted asparagus. Divide the salad among 4 plates, with 1 egg on each plate. Top each portion with radish slices and chives. Serve warm.

Garry Mitchell in his kitchen. Courtesy of Debra Spark/Garry Mitchell

MEET THE COOK, Garry Mitchell

The actual cook here is not the author of this article, but Garry Mitchell, who first cooked for me when we were dating, a delicious ginger-infused vegetable and tofu soup that he cooked for health, taste, color and shape. This surprised me. I mean the notion that you should really pay attention to the shape of the ingredients and the colors in a dish. My husband’s a painter, thus the interest. Even now, instead of saying something like “Needs a little salt,” he’ll say, “Needs something red.” For more on how color plays out in his abstract paintings, see garrymitchell.com.

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