The Local Ingredient: Microgreens, a healthy garnish and more

Crostini with goat cheese. — Photo by Catharine Walthers

Microgreens can offer a beautiful garnish for an appetizer, a decorative splash on a fish dish, or sparkle of green on a winter braise. Previously available only to restaurant chefs or caterers, microgreens are now easy to find with a trip to the supermarket or a local CSA.

The Island Grown Farm Hub has started raising greenhouse microgreens in addition to lettuce and other produce throughout the winter. They can be found at Cronig’s or through Island Grown Farm Hub’s winter CSA. Right now, they are growing arugula, kale, and red mustard microgreens, according to farm program leader Keith Wilda.

These tiny and delicate greens — leaves are usually just ¼ of an inch — are harvested in less than two weeks, but have the color and taste, and possibly more nutrients, of full-size greens.

“They are grown hydroponically under our other grow tables to utilize space, as they do not need as much sunlight as mature plants,” explains Mr. Wilda. He finds them great on salads and sandwiches, and adds, “They are packed with nutrients.”

Microgreens can also jazz up soups or holiday-table dishes and appetizers: A small pinch can make a smoked fish on a cracker or a deviled egg look more elegant. Or pair them with ruby pomegranate seeds for a seasonally appropriate red and green holiday garnish, as in the goat cheese and caramelized onion appetizer below.

Crostini with Goat Cheese

Makes 30 crostini

The sweet-tart red pomegranate seeds and arugula microgreens with goat cheese and caramelized onions give this appetizer a festive holiday hue. Prep can be done ahead of time.

3 medium-large onions (about 5 cups), sliced thinly

5 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 French baguette, cut into 30 ¼-in. slices

6 to 8 ounces goat cheese

Fig spread (Dalmatia brand is a good one)

Pomegranate seeds

Local microgreens, arugula or another green

Make the caramelized onions. In a large, heavy skillet, add sliced onions and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Start on a medium-high heat; when the onions start to stick, turn flame to medium or lower. Sauté for about 30 minutes, stirring the onions often, and scraping up any brown bits sticking to the bottom of the pan. If needed, add another tablespoon of olive oil and two or three pinches of salt to flavor and draw out the moisture. The onions are caramelized when they are golden brown, soft (no crunch left), and sweet tasting. They will cook down to about 1 cup.

Make the crostini while onions cook. Preheat the oven to 350°. Thinly slice the baguette. Place as many slices on a baking sheet as fit. Brush each with the remainder of the olive oil and a light sprinkling of salt. Bake until lightly crisped, 10 to 12 minutes. Repeat with another round of bread, if needed.

To assemble: Add a smear of goat cheese (about 1 teaspoon) to a crostini, top with a teaspoon or so of the caramelized onions, and about ¼ teaspoon of fig spread. Garnish with four to five pomegranate seeds and some microgreens.