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SPRING IS HERE!

The calendar definitely says Spring...so where are my local farmers' delicious asparagus spears???

There are so many foods that conjure up Spring ...... not just my favorite food in Spring of locally grown asparagus but artichokes, and other foods that, to me, say "Spring is here" such as salmon and lamb.  As is my habit,  I think it's always best to enjoy certain produce that come to market in season and locally grown or grown as close to where you live as is possible!

Do you know what's depicted in the photo on the left?  Those are really the first sign of Spring - they are Ramps - or wild leeks. I like them simply sautéed in a bit of olive oil, salt & pepper and used as a side dish - leaves and all.  Leaves and white bulbs can also be used in a stir fry or added to soups or a salad coarsely chopped.

That's one of the many reasons why shopping at a farmer's market is my favorite activity to look forward to in the Spring. It's just glorious to be able to buy and eat asparagus spears cut that morning or at the latest the day before; bunches of ramps; peas in their pods ready to be eaten raw or shelled and just briefly blanched in boiling salted water. I'm fortunate to be able to shop at the famous Union Square Greenmarket in Manhattan that provides New Yorkers with a bounty of locally grown produce and other foods. 

SPRING MENU

Pea and Asparagus Risotto
Grilled Salmon with Balsamic Glaze with Mesclun Greens & Pea Sprouts
Baby Carrots, Baby Pattypan squash, Haricots Verts
Lemon Curd in Nut Tarts

More Than Gourmet    
     
   

PEA AND ASPARAGUS RISOTTO

6 cups chicken stock, organic
3 Tbls. olive oil
18 asparagus spears, cut into 1-inch pieces
½ cup peas, preferably freshly shelled
¼  cup shallots, chopped
2 cups Arborio rice
½ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
3 Tbls. Flat leaf parsley, chopped
  Freshly ground white pepper

In a large pot, bring chicken stock to a simmer; reduce heat and keep on low. Heat olive oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add asparagus pieces and sauté for 3 minutes; remove asparagus to a plate and reserve.  Add peas and sauté for 2 minutes; remove peas and reserve with asparagus.  Add more oil if pan looks dry and sauté shallots until they are softened.  Add rice and coat with the oil and shallots.  Begin adding hot stock 1 cup at a time and stir constantly until liquid is absorbed with each addition of stock.  Rice should  become tender, yet still firm to the bite and the mixture should be creamy.  Cooking time should be approximately 25 minutes.  With the last addition of stock to the rice, add the reserved asparagus and peas. When the last addition of stock has been absorbed, stir in grated cheese and parsley.  Taste and adjust seasoning with ground white pepper and salt if desired.   Yield: 6 servings 
Recipe adapted from the Bearfoot Bistro in Whistler, British Columbia.

     
   

GRILLED SALMON FILLETS WITH BALSAMIC  GLAZE

For Glaze

½ cup balsamic vinegar
½ cup dry white wine
2 Tbls. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbls. dark brown sugar, packed
 6 6 oz. wild caught salmon* fillets with skin, brushed with olive oil

Combine glaze ingredients in a medium saucepan. Boil until reduced to 1/3 cup about 15 minutes. Season glaze to taste with salt & pepper.

Prepare a charcoal, gas or stovetop grill to medium heat and brush salmon with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Grill salmon flesh side down first until just opaque in center; turn and grill on the other side about 5 minutes per side. Transfer salmon  fillets to a platter and drizzle glaze over salmon.
 

*If wild caught salmon is not available, my next choice is Norwegian or Irish  farmed salmon.

Yield: 6 servings

     

BABY CARROTS AND BABY PATTYPAN SQUASH

Allow 3 baby carrots per serving (18) and 3 yellow baby pattypan squash per serving (18) and allow 6 Haricots Verts green beans per serving (36).  Peel baby carrots and trip the ends leaving some of the green stalk for appearances.  Baby pattypan squash should not need any trimming, but if the ends and tips are dried, trim them.  Trim the stem end of the Haricots Verts beans leaving the pointed end for presentation appearances. 

Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil.  Add enough sea salt or kosher salt to season the water.  Have a large bowl of ice and water ready to "shock" the vegetables when they are finished cooking.  Add the vegetables one variety at a time  to the boiling water- boil baby carrots for approximately 3 minutes; remove carrots and dunk into the ice water.  Add baby pattypan squash to the boiling water and cook for approximately 3 minutes - test for doneness and add 1 minute to cooking time if necessary.  Transfer cooked pattypan to the ice water.  Next add the Haricots Verts to the boiling water and cook for approximately 3 minutes - test for doneness and add 1 minute to cooking time if necessary.  Transfer cooked green beans to the ice water.  When all vegetables have been cooled in the ice water, remove them to a strainer lined with paper towel.  Remove as much of the water from the vegetables as you can. Transfer blanched vegetables to a holding platter. Cover with plastic wrap. 

To re-heat vegetables, melt two tablespoons of butter in a large skillet.  When butter is hot and foaming, add the blanched vegetables and sauté until just heated through. 

Yield:  6 servings

Note: Vegetables cooked in this manner can be prepared in the morning.  Store in a covered dish in the refrigerator until needed and re-heat as directed above.

     
   
     

LEMON CURD

(You will need to double the recipe to have sufficient lemon curd to fill six 4-inch tart shells) 

6   Tbs.  butter
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 2 lemons
1 cup plus 2 Tbls.    sugar
2    eggs

Heat butter with lemon zest in top of a double boiler over hot water. When butter has melted, stir in sugar and strained juice of 2 lemons and heat gently, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Remove double boiler pot from the hot water.

Beat eggs in a bowl and gradually whisk in the hot butter/eggs/lemon juice mixture; strain mixture into the top of the double boiler and stir over moderate heat until the mixture thickens to the consistency of soft whipped cream. Pour into a clean jar or deep dish and let cool before eating.

Yield: approx. 1 pound - Source: English Country Cooking at Its Best, Caroline Conran Villard Books 1985

     

NUT TART CRUST

(double the recipe to make enough dough for 6 individual tart shells)

1  cup All Purpose flour
2 Tbls. granulated sugar
¾  cup almonds, finely chopped (walnuts or hazelnuts can be also be used)
1 egg, beaten
7 Tbls. unsalted butter
Powdered sugar and small strawberries (or other berries) for garnish.

In the bowl of a food processor, mix flour and sugar with chopped nuts using 2 or 3 on/off turns. Cut in the butter using the steel blade, again using the on/off button for 5 - 6 turns. Add the egg and mix again until the egg is incorporated. Remove dough mixture fit one 10-inch tart pan or 6 individual 4-inch tart pans with removable bottoms, evenly spreading and  molding the dough to the bottom and sides of the 6 tart pans.

Blind-bake tarts on a cookie sheet at 350 degrees for approximately 20 minutes. Check to see how crust is browning at about 15 minutes and continue cooking if tarts are not yet lightly browned. Remove from oven and allow tart shells to cool on a rack in their pans and then remove the tart shells to individual serving dishes. 

Spoon prepared and cooled Lemon Curd into each tart shell.  Dust with powdered sugar if desired.  You can also garnish each lemon curd tart with a thin slice of fresh lemon, a sprig of mint or a candied violet.

Yield:  6 servings

 

 

 

 
 
           
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