Celebrate the farmer's market this Earth Day
This coming Monday, April 22, is Earth Day, which for 43 years in the United States and 23 years globally has dedicated itself to building awareness of environmental issues and the role we all can play in protecting our planet and conserving its resources. Everywhere on Monday, and the day before, you'll find all kinds of activities marking the occasion, from parades to teach-ins, petting zoos to outdoor concerts, serious lectures to lighthearted family programs.

I have my own way of celebrating Earth Day. On Sunday, the 21st, as I do every Sunday, I'll take my sons shopping at our local farmers' market. It's the perfect way to build in them an awareness of the wonderful daily gifts we receive when we care for the earth responsibly. We'll walk from stall to stall, looking at and sampling the beautiful fruits and vegetables and chatting with the farmers who grow them.

Often, I don't know what we'll buy until we see what is freshest and best. I let the boys pick out the produce that excites them most, because -- along with cooking those ingredients using simple methods that highlight their natural flavors and textures -- that's the best way to guarantee that my sons will actually eat them. And, of course, before we leave the market we'll stop by the flower stand to pick up a big, beautiful springtime bouquet for their mother.

At this time of year, the vegetables in our shopping bags also look like a beautiful bouquet. There will be pale-green asparagus spears and deep-green young broccoli, little salad leaves in all sorts of shapes and hues, almost neon-colored slender orange carrots and bright red bell peppers. We may also pick up fresh English pea pods or fava beans to shell at home, baby turnips, young artichokes.... The list could go on and on.

Back home, such a harvest can inspire all kinds of recipes, from simple platters of crudites to crisp and crunchy salads, quickly simmered soups to steamed or stir-fried sides. I always encourage the boys to chime in with ideas on what they'd like us to make. The results are always a surprise.

Here's the sort of simple, and simply delicious, dish that very well could come of such an Earth Day farmers' market outing: my recipe for Pan-Seared Red Snapper with Spring Vegetable Vinaigrette. Easily prepared, it transforms a medley of fresh vegetables into a colorful, chunky room-temperature sauce for fish fillets cooked in a little olive oil. Feel free to use other mild white-fleshed fish such as cod, halibut, tilapia, or grouper. And vary the vegetable mixture depending on what's best and what you like the most.

I hope this recipe helps you enjoy this Earth Day -- and make every day a celebration of the earth and its bounty.

PAN-SEARED RED SNAPPER WITH SPRING VEGETABLE VINAIGRETTE

Serves 4

Pan-Seared Red Snapper:

4 red snapper fillets, skin on, 4 ounces each

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 bunch fresh basil leaves, shredded

1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced

Spring Vegetable Vinaigrette:

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons fresh lime juice

1/2 pound tomatoes