Tag Archives: spring

deviled eggs w fresh herbs

egg plates

Is everyone sick of deviled eggs? Between Easter and Passover, they get a workout this time of year. But if you aren’t, I recommend grabbing some of the super-springy herbs at the farmers’ market and getting to work. While I’m giving out unsolicited advice, I would also recommend trying out those medium-size eggs in the grocery store.

I seriously feel for the medium eggs. No one uses them. I often wonder who, besides me, ever buys them. But when you’re boiling eggs, you want ones that are a week or two old. I figure you get that and more with the mediums. No recipes ever call for them, even though, really, they aren’t that runtish.

cute and medium

Generally I buy my eggs at the farmers’ market—and they’re mostly mediums, with a handful of larges and usually one super-giant egg in each dozen. Using these eggs for baking, I’ve long been used to measuring the cracked eggs to make sure I’m getting the right quantity of fluid in sensitive baking recipes. So, when I’m making deviled eggs, especially for a cocktail party, I like them bite-sized. And they hard-boil in no time. (Nine minutes off the heat after bringing to a boil; then you plunge them into an ice bath. The eggs are still a mite soft in the middle; this makes the filling extra gorgeous in the end. Change the time to 12 minutes off heat for large eggs.)

tarragon

Adding butter to the yolks, just a bit, at room temperature, is a trick we have all by now seen on Food52, where this technique was shared by Virginia Willis in a “genius recipe” feature. It’s pretty clever. The filling is just gorgeous, and handles easily. The chopped herbs get stirred in by hand at the end so as not to turn the filling green. I am partial to the chervil, and add quite a lot, showering the finished eggs with a heavy hand. Its pert citrus flavor livens up the proceedings, and marries beautifully with a nice cocktail like a Negroni.

Do you have an old hobnail or pressed-glass egg plate? Run out and get one! Cheers, it’s spring.

Deviled eggs w fresh herbs

Adapted from Virginia Willis’ recipe at Food52

  • 1 dozen medium eggs
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons room temperature butter
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • a dash of cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, if needed
  • 4 tablespoons chopped tarragon, chives, or chervil, plus more for garnish

1. First, boil the eggs. Place eggs in a pan and cover with water by 1 inch. Place on stove over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Cut off heat just as water boils, place lid on pan. Set a timer for 9 minutes. (This is for medium eggs. For large, time 12 minutes.) When it rings, carefully transfer eggs to a big bowl of ice water and cool thoroughly. At this point you can refrigerate eggs for several days until ready to make deviled eggs.

2. Peel eggs. Slice in half lengthwise. Remove yolk to food processor; add mayonnaise, butter, mustard, cayenne. Pulse until very smooth. Scrape mixture into a bowl. Add chopped herbs. Taste for salt. Add salt as needed.

3. Scrape mixture into a quart-size plastic zipper bag. Push out air, seal bag, snip off corner. Use this to fill eggs, or simply spoon filling into the whites. Garnish with remaining herbs.

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kale pesto

Perhaps it’s the influence of the Emerald Isle, or perhaps it’s just the omnipresence of lacinato kale (elsewise known as dinosaur kale, black kale, Tuscan kale, or cavolo nero) at the markets here in New Haven, but it seems like bright, bright green kale is on a run here in our kitchen. Part of what’s at stake here is that we love and adore the lacinato kale and would happily eat it at every meal. So I admittedly find ways to use it. Especially because it is probably the most cost-effective of vegetables. At $1 or $2 per bunch, it is a financially painless way to incorporate fresh local vegetables into our diet. But it’s also incredibly versatile. I use it as a salad, a stuffing, a side dish, a topping—for a time-strapped cook who is trying to work and get meals on the table in the evening, lacinato kale is the ultimate ally.

Some of the trusty sidekicks of kale are evident here: lemon zest, garlic, peperoncini (crushed red pepper), are the constant companions of lacinato kale in this kitchen. This time of year we’re seeing abundant farm-fresh garlic in our local markets. I beg, plead, and cajole you to try it. The flavor is unlike anything you’ll find in the dusty bin of garlic at your supermarket. In fact, if you skipped everything else in this recipe, super-fresh garlic and kale on pasta are hardly a bad idea. When you make this pesto, though, you realize the intensity of the kale balanced with the piquancy of the lemon zest. You’ll want to taste the pesto to make sure there is enough salt involved to bring the whole thing into balance—it will be hard to tell until after the cheese is added. And use a nice fruity olive oil as well—it makes all the difference.

And if you’re thinking, “what does she mean by fruity olive oil?” just don’t worry about it. Make this anyway, with what you have, the freshest bunch of kale and a head of garlic from the market. You really, seriously, can hardly go wrong.

Kale pesto

Makes enough to dress 1 pound of dried pasta.

  • 1 bunch lacinato kale or curly kale (approximately 10 ounces), washed, ribs removed, torn into pieces
  • 5 cloves fresh garlic
  • juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon (or more) crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 and 1/2 ounce grated parmesan, grana padano, or another hard Italian cheese (this was about 3/4 cup grated on the fine holes of my box grater)
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, pulse the kale a few times to break it up. Add garlic, zest and juice of lemon, crushed red pepper, and salt. Pulse until finely chopped. Add cheese and then leave the motor running while drizzling in the olive oil through the opening in the top of the processor. Scrape down sides of food processor bowl as necessary.

2. Refrigerate or freeze immediately, or toss with hot pasta and serve.

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roast leg of lamb stuffed w olives

We are fortunate to have a farmers’ market brimming with great food, including terrific lamb from Sankow’s Beaver Brook Farm. At the risk of sounding like a hopeless Food Dork, there really is something special about this lamb. It is such a treat to have lamb for supper, and I do overlook it as a simple weeknight meal. Something about lamb seems purpose built for special occasions, but it cooks relatively quickly, pairs well with any number of other dishes, and it makes for some terrific leftovers.

When I find myself n the throes of hot, humid, summer—the days when not having a glass of frosty cold pink wine in the evening seems too much to bear—I turn to the magnificent Lulu Peyraud and imagine what it was like to live just down the rold from the Domaine Tempier in the dusty Provençal summer. I cannot resist Richard Olney’s book of Lulu’s cooking and I comfort myself with the knowledge that the particular but practical Lulu might forgive me for not having just the right olive or the freshest rosemary on hand when supper time rolls around. I do believe that at least having just the right lamb, straight from the farm, would gain her approval. And I know that in her zest for life and food, she would definitely agree that we should not wait for the weekend to enjoy a perfectly roasted lamb.

Roast leg of lamb stuffed w olives

Adapted from Lulu’s Provençal Table by Richard Olney and How to Roast a Lamb by Michael Psilakis

  • 2 lb. leg of lamb, butterflied
  • 3/4 cup Lucques olives (or another mild green olive), pitted
  • 2 plum tomatoes from a can of San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 oil-cured anchovy
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 1/2 cup coarse breadcrumbs
  • fingerling potatoes
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine, or more as needed

1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Dry leg of lamb with paper towels and lay flat on cutting board or work surface. Cut 4 lengths of twine; 3 large enough to wrap around the roast, and 1 to tie it lengthwise. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with metal blade, combine pitted olives, plum tomatoes, crushed red pepper, garlic, rosemary, anchovy, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and capers. Pulse until olives and tomatoes are well chopped into small pieces. Add breadcrumbs and pulse to combine.

2. Dump stuffing onto surface of lamb. Rolling from the short end, roll lamb up into a cylinder, with the stuffing forming a spiral inside. Tie tightly with twine and trim excess, three ties around the cylinder, and one longways. Place roast fat side up in a 9 x 13 metal pan. Surround with potatoes. Drizzle with olive oil to coat potatoes and a little on top of the roast. Pour 1/2 cup dry white wine into the bottom of the pan; it should be enough to cover the bottom.

3. Place roast in oven for 1 hour. Check after 30 minutes and rotate pan, adding more wine if the bottom of the pan has dried up. Reduce heat to 375 F. Continue cooking until meat registers 150 F on a meat thermometer, which is medium. Remove roast to a cutting board and let it rest undisturbed for 10 minutes. Cut into slices, removing strings as you go along. Serve with potatoes on the side.

 

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beets and greens risotto

For at least a couple of years, my friend Erin has gone on and on about beet risotto. Which always mystified me, until recently when my love affair with risotto began. And now that beets are back in season, I could no longer resist the siren song of one of my favorite formats (risotto) combined with one of my favorite things to eat (beets). I found a recipe from Gourmet that looked spot-on, but I adapted it to my usual risotto prep style as well as my method of dealing with beets. To wit, beets are not tolerated long in my house until they are cooked into submission so that they take up less room in the refrigerator. Basically, as soon as I get home from the market, I chop of the greens and wash and blanch them in boiling water, and I put the beets in a pie plate with a bit of water, wrap tightly with foil, and roast them in the oven. Otherwise I find that every time I open my refrigerator, there is a beet explosion. Which is kind of fun the first time it happens, but after that, not so amusing.

Like other recent additions to this blog, beet risotto is not so attractive to photograph. But it looks amazing on the plate. I actually think it would be a wonderful option for Thanksgiving and Christmas as well as in the spring—it is pink and green and festive. Many version of beet risotto call for us to puree the beets, but I like leaving these in demurely sized chunks. The greens should be cut up thoroughly. I often forget how delicate beet greens are—much closer to spinach than to kale. Easy to blanch, squeeze dry, and then store in an airtight container until needed for this dish. What a glorious combination! And I am a big fan of using beets and greens in the same dish. It seems balanced and, well, frugal for such a rich and luxurious combination. This is easily a main dish, even for the most dedicated of meat-eaters. The greens and roots of the beets, as well as the beef stock I used—though you could use vegetable quite easily—give it loads of structure and interest. Make sure you taste this quite well towards the end (after all the ingredients are added) to adjust the salt properly. It really all depends on how salty your cheese is.

If you ever wanted to plan a pink meal (who would want to do such a thing—certainly not me, no never) this would pair well with a lovely rosé, perhaps followed by a nice pink bistecca Fiorentina, and then a few raspberries with a semifreddo. Beautiful stuff!

Beets and greens risotto

Based on this recipe from Gourmet

  • 4 medium beets separated from their greens, beets scrubbed and greens well washed in several changes of water
  • 1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 cups of beef, vegetable or chicken broth
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 oz finely grated hard Italian cheese, such as parmigiano-reggiano or grana padano

1. Roast the beets and blanch the greens. This can be done up to four days in advance. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Place the beets in a pie dish with a half cup of water. Cover the dish with foil and seal it tightly, and place it in the oven. Roast for one hour and remove from oven. Let beets cool to handle. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add beet greens and stir until they are bright green and wilted, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove greens from water to a colander. Drain greens and allow to cool. Use your hands to slip the skins off of the beets, chop them into 1/2-inch dice, and refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to use. Squeeze all liquid from greens, finely chop them, and refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to use.

2. In a saucepan, combine the water and broth and bring to a bare simmer. Maintain at a simmer throughout preparation of risotto. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot (I use a Le Creuset round oven), warm oil and onion over medium heat for about four minutes. Onion should be pale and translucent. Add rice and stir for about 2 minutes, until it is well coated in the oil. Add the wine and stir frequently until it is absorbed and evaporated.

3. Set a timer for 18 minutes. Use a measuring cup to dip the broth bit by bit into the pot with the rice. Start with 1/4 cup of the simmering broth. Stir, stir, stir, cleaning the bottom of the pot thoroughly with the wooden spoon, until all the broth is absorbed. When it has all evaporated, add another 1/2 cup of broth. Stir, stir, stir, cleaning the bottom of the pot, until all broth is absorbed. Repeat this cycle for 18 minutes, when the timer goes off. If you run out of broth in this process, and the rice is not yet done, use water.

4. When 18 minutes have elapsed, begin to taste the rice. It should be tender but firm when you bite it. As it becomes more and more tender, reduce the quantity of stock you incorporate in each addition. You should do this so that when the rice is cooked you do not have to continue cooking it to burn off the additional excess liquid.

5. As the rice is approaching doneness it will be extremely creamy, tender, and yet give some resistance when you bite the grain. At this point, add the beet greens and pepper and combine well. Then add the cheese and roasted beet roots. Stir well. Taste. Add salt as needed, depending on how salty the cheese is. Continue to stir gently but thoroughly until well combined and heated through. Serve immediately.

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chard, bean + quinoa salad w pickled golden raisins

A friend inspired this dish by telling me she had made a similar salad with her CSA haul earlier in the week. We needed to fortify our supper offerings over the weekend with more complete proteins and slow-burning carbohydrates (there were many rounds of golf to be played) and something like this salad seemed just the thing. And it was: the perfect partner to poached chicken, pan-roasted pork chops, and all by itself. The market is currently full of greens that would fit the bill for this salad. You could blanch beet greens, kale, or spinach as indicated for chard below and the result would be a marvelous salad. I have to take an extra-large sack with me to the farmers’ market on Saturdays because even one of the giant bunches of kale or chard I collect while I’m there will fit in a normal tote bag.

Most of my recipes involving chard will use the ribs. In this one, since the chard is barely wilted, I knew the stems would be too crunchy. But I urge you to take my note below seriously. Use them for another purpose! At the very least throw them into your next pot of bones or scraps to make broth. Or do something more exciting. For example, I have been dying to make Lulu Peyraud’s salt cod and chard stem gratin.  Or if you were willing to take a few extra minutes, you could chop the stems separately and add them to boiling, salted water for about 5 to 7 minutes, until they’re tender. They would make a delightful addition to the salad. In any case, try making something with them—they’re flavorful and wonderful.

Let me say that you could easily slice radishes in here, or avocado, or roasted beets (which make poor neighbors in salads, turning everything fuchsia), or serve it with hard-boiled eggs, or poached eggs, or goat cheese. Or any crumbly cheese. Instead of quinoa, you could try this with cooked lentils, or bulgar, or cooked spelt grains, farro, brown rice or wheat berries. These heartier options would probably require a more orthodox stance on dressing. (The way I put this together, with such a light grain as quinoa, didn’t really require any dressing besides the olive oil still clinging to the leaves of the Swiss chard, and the hint of vinegar from the raisins.) Variations on this salad theme—beans plus grains plus vegetables—are a summer staple. Make a double batch of this to last through the week. It’s a true chameleon at the dinner table, and a wonderful partner in the kitchen.

Chard, bean + quinoa salad w pickled golden raisins

  • 3/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 large bunch Swiss chard, roughly chopped, stems removed for another purpose
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 cup red quinoa (or black or white if that is what you have)
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups drained, cooked beans (I used cannellini)
  • salt, to taste

1. In a small bowl, toss together raisins and vinegar and set aside. As you prepare the rest of the dish, stir and toss the raisins in the vinegar periodically.

2. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add Swiss chard and toss until just wilted, about 2 minutes. Add minced garlic and crushed red pepper. Continue to cook only until garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and drain and cool the mixture in a colander until it is cool enough to handle.

3. Meanwhile, rinse quinoa in a fine mesh strainer until very well rinsed. Add to a sauce pan with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until quinoa is done. This takes approximately 10 minutes. (Carefully taste quinoa to ensure it’s done.) Drain cooked quinoa in the fine mesh strainer.

4. Squeeze all the liquid you can from the drained chard. Remove to a cutting board and chop into a chiffonade. Drain any remaining vinegar from the raisins in the bowl. In a large bowl, combine the cooked chard mixture, the drained, cooked beans, the drained, pickled raisins, and the drained quinoa. Mix vigorously with a spatula; taste for salt and add more if necessary. If the salad is dry for your taste, add a drizzle of olive oil. Serve at room temperature.

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semifreddo w rhubarb coulis

This was the final chapter of our dinner party a couple of weeks ago. I was racking my brain trying to imagine how I was going to use rhubarb—until this week, the only spring “fruit” available here in Connecticut—to create a dessert that I could make ahead. I knew I wanted something cold after a meal that was primarily composed of hot dishes. So many of the rhubarb desserts that I typically make are warm: crumbles, pies, tea cakes, and the like. One of my guests mentioned that her grandmother once made her a rhubarb fool, a dessert she’d never forgotten. And that got me thinking—what if you kept the cream and left the cake behind? What would you have? This was an interesting notion to play with, because rhubarb is really never found in creamy desserts. It’s always appearing in crumbly or flaky applications, it seems to me.

So I was leafing through Suzanne Goin’s Sunday Suppers at Lucques and saw that she had actually already figured this out, which is really no surprise. One of her spring menus (the first one, actually) includes a vanilla semifreddo with rhubarb compote. Semifreddo is perfect for a dinner party because you can even make it a couple of days ahead, and it doesn’t require an ice-cream maker. It’s made by lightening three different components with lots of air: egg whites, egg yolks, and cream. You carefully fold these together and freeze. While it takes a lot of mixing bowls and attachments (which you’ll probably have to wash between uses), it is fairly simple to make as long as you can patiently fold the three components together, losing the minimum amount of air, which gives the dessert its incredible lightness, even without churning.

The compote Goin outlines is kind of a chunky affair. I wanted a more elegant presentation, and even though I’m not fussy about that, for this party I didn’t want little strands of rhubarb floating around beneath the elegant semifreddo. I pulled out my food mill and simply made about 50 percent more compote than Goin calls for, because I knew a good bit of the volume would be left behind (in the form of fibers) in the food mill. This made a beautiful, glossy coulis to be poured on the plate beneath the semifreddo. I can’t recommend this dessert to you enough—scented with vanilla, the semifreddo is just like air, and the rhubarb has a tart earthiness that balances the lush and fatty semifreddo just perfectly. It achieves something rare in a dessert: a sweet ending to the meal that still challenges the palate with contrast and complexity.

Semifreddo w rhubarb coulis

Adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques

  • 1 and 1/3 cups whipping cream
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla, divided
  • 1 and 1/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 and 1/2 pounds rhubarb
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 1 heaping teaspoon cornstarch

1. Lightly oil (enough to make the plastic wrap stick) a 9-inch round cake pan with plastic wrap and carefully smooth out the plastic wrap all around the interior edge of the pan. There should be a decent amount of extra plastic hanging over the sides (enough to cover the pan when filled).

2. In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whip the cream at low speed until it begins to thicken. Increase to medium speed and beat until it forms stiff peaks. Do not beat until it becomes dense and chunky. Refrigerate the cream in the bowl if you have an extra mixer bowl, or transfer to another large bowl and place in the refrigerator. Thoroughly wash and dry the used bowl (if re-using) and the whisk.

3. Add egg yolks, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and about 1/4 cup of the sugar to the clean bowl. Whisk at high speed for about 3 minutes, until the mixture is very thick and light in color. It should have doubled, roughly, in volume. Transfer this to a large bowl and set aside, or if you have another extra bowl for the mixer, simply set it aside. If re-using, thoroughly was and dry the used bowl and the whisk.

4. Whip the egg whites at medium speed until frothy, about a minute. Increase mixer speed to high and slowly add another 1/4 cup of sugar. Continue beating on high speed for about 2 minutes, or as many as 4 minutes, until stiff peaks have formed. They should not turn dry, but should be stiff and glossy.

5. Fold the whipped cream into the yolks. Then gently fold in the egg whites about one-third at a time. Fold carefully to create a mostly uniform mixture, carefully folding from around the edges and from the bottom up, taking care not to deflate the mixture. Pour into cake pan and bang the pan on the counter three times. Place plastic wrap over the surface, smoothing it very carefully with your hands so the final product will be smooth on top. Then seal with the extra edges from the plastic wrap lining the pan. Freeze for at least 4, or preferably 8 to 12 hours.

6. Meanwhile, make the coulis. Chop the rhubarb into 1/2-inch cubes. Set aside. Place 3/4 cup of sugar (all that remains) in a heavy saucepan. Add 3 tablespoons of water and turn to medium heat. Do not stir, and cook for about 8 minutes, occasionally swirling the pan, until the caramel is a deep golden brown. (It burns extremely quickly, so watch it intently.) Immediately add half the rhubarb and all of the wine. This will cause the caramel to solidify like bits of hard candy, but fear not, all will be right in the end. Add the rest of the rhubarb and a 1/2 cup of water and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until it attains a jam-like consistency and it is fully cooked.

7. Pass the rhubarb mixture through a food mill into a bowl. Be sure to turn the food mill until all the liquid is extracted from the rhubarb. You should have 1 pint of liquid. Return the liquid to the pan and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir the cornstarch into about 1 tablespoon of water. Pour this into the boiling rhubarb, whisking vigorously. Simmer over medium heat until the rhubarb liquid is slightly thickened and shiny. Set aside and let it cool completely before serving.

8. To serve: remove semifreddo from freezer and cut it into slices. On each plate, pour the rhubarb compote to cover the bottom of the plate; top with a slice of semifreddo.

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roast shoulder of lamb

So you may recall that a couple of weeks ago we had a dinner party. And I still, somehow, have not shared all the recipes with you yet. (Be warned: I am saving the dessert recipe for last.) This was the main course for the party, designed to play nice with the Bordeaux from the 1980s our neighbor was bringing over. (We are pretty lucky in the neighbors department.) I used David Tanis’ concept of flageolet with lamb shoulder from his amazing cookbook A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes. (P.S. Do we love his column in the New York Times? Yes. Definitely an addiction to see what he’s cooking each week.) I figured doing a rack of lamb for 6 people was going to be very unwieldy without an enormous restaurant kitchen to deal with the bones, plus I wanted something a little earthier to go with the wine.

Lamb shoulder seemed right, and Tanis’ treatment is terrific. The main change I made was actually putting a lot of the herbs and the garlic inside the roast, which requires untying it. If you aren’t up for that, you can do as he suggests and just insert the garlic in slits around the roast, and salt and pepper just the outside. The wine in the bottom of the pan is essential to keep the juices from evaporating and burning while the roast is cooked at a moderate temperature. I stupidly did not take pictures of the sliced roast, but you’ll end up with each individual slice composed of lamb alternating with the herb layers. A shoulder has a lot of fat and connective tissue, so you will (for once) really need to use your steak knives. (So often with the predominance of boneless meats, we don’t really need them anymore.) But this is where all the flavor in the meat comes from. All of that fat and connective tissue makes the roast self-marinating. For that reason you really want to give it a good rest (10 minutes at least) when it comes out of the oven.

Use that time to give your vintage Bordeaux some air and sample the last of the crostini.

Roast shoulder of lamb

Adapted from David Tanis, A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes; serves 6

  • one 3.5 – 5 pound boneless lamb shoulder, tied into a roast
  • 7 to 8 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 7 to 8 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 5 to 6 cloves of fresh garlic
  • 1 and 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • a quantity of good, fruity olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 375 F. In a roasting pan just large enough to hold the roast (no lid required), make a crosshatching pattern with 5 or 6 sprigs of rosemary and 5 or 6 sprigs of thyme. Set aside. Cut three or four 24-inch lengths of twine to retie the roast with later, and set these near your work area.

2. Finely chop the leaves from the remaining rosemary and thyme (about 2 sprigs of each), then add the fresh garlic and continue chopping until garlic is just roughly chopped. Untie the shoulder roast, paying careful attention to how it was tied together. (There will be lots of flaps of meat where the butcher worked around the joint.) Drizzle the roast (which is now unrolled and flat and raggedy) with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Grind pepper onto the roast to taste. smear the inside with the herbs and garlic. Re-roll and tie the roast securely. Trim excess string. (If you can do this about an hour before you cook the roast, that’s ideal. You want the flavors to blend and the roast to come to room temperature so it cooks evenly.)

3. Place roast on the grid you’ve made with the herbs in the pan. Drizzle a few more tablespoons of olive oil on top of roast. Pour wine carefully into the bottom of the roasting pan. Place pan into the oven and cook for about an hour. (I cook the roast to 140 F internal temperature; David Tanis says 130 F.) Remove the roast to a platter, cover it loosely with foil and let it rest. This allows the juices to redistribute so they do not escape when you carve it.

4. Remove the herb stalks from the pan, and then scrape up all the brown bits from the bottom. Strain these and combine with any juices that collect from the resting meat and serve with the roast.

5. Slice the roast and serve, carefully removing kitchen twine, perhaps with this flageolet gratin.

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ricotta, baby leek + mint crostini

Last weekend there was a dinner party. From which, I think, we have only just recovered. And now I’ll pass along the recipes to you. The preparation of the meal was quite easy–I just moved from dish to dish throughout the afternoon. Except for a griddled asparagus salad, nothing I was making involved a last-minute preparation, so nearly everything was completed in advance. This crostini recipe, a version of which was on Food52 earlier in the week, was a no-brainer first course. It takes about 10 seconds to make, and it makes use of some of the season’s best ingredients. I passed over the ramps that were called for in the original recipe because next to their ramps, Waldingfield Farm had baby “King Richard” variety leeks, a crisp and peppery leek that adds crunch and punch to this hors d’oeuvre. We’re lucky in that we have some of the best ricotta around here in New Haven, from Liuzzi. And Ty’s mom had recently sent us some gorgeous, fresh mint from her garden.

The other crostini I made was this one, which you’ve seen before, made from chicken livers from Sankow’s Beaver Brook Farm. If you are interested, here is the entire menu. I’ll be posting these dishes throughout the week.

First Course

Crostini
Chicken liver ♦ Ricotta and baby leek

Second Course

Griddled asparagus ♦ Mustard cream ♦ Prosciutto di San Daniele del Friuli

Main Course

Herb roasted shoulder of lambGratin de flageolets, fenouil

Dessert

Semifreddo alla vaniglia Composta di rabarbaro

Fromages

I mostly relied on recipes from David Tanis, “A Platter of Figs,” and “Sunday Suppers at Lucques,” Suzanne Goin’s incomparable cookbook. So if you have these books, look up  the recipes and throw your own dinner party. I hope the company you have was as good as ours was.

Ricotta, baby leek + mint crostini

Adapted from TasteFood’s recipe at Food52

  • 20 thin slices of baguette
  • 1 cup whole-milk ricotta*
  • 1/4 cup finely minced baby leeks (“King Richard” was my variety) or minced chives or garlic scapes
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh mint
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon best-quality extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • juice from half a lemon
  • fleur de sel

1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Place baguette slices on a baking sheet and put them in the oven. Leave until toasted and golden, about 10 minutes. Check them frequently so they don’t become overdone. Remove from oven and cool. This can be done an hour or so before guests arrive. Leave bread on the baking sheet so it doesn’t become soft.

2. Combine ricotta, leeks, mint, zest, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a bowl with a fork. When well mixed, refrigerate until ready to serve.

3. To serve, scoop a couple tablespoons of mixture onto each slice of baguette. Place crostini on a platter. Spritz with lemon juice, drizzle with a tiny amount of olive oil, and sprinkle with additional mint or chives (if using), and fleur de sel, as desired. Serve.

*I use the thick, strained kind sold at our Italian market and cheesemaker here in New Haven, Liuzzi. If yours is watery, you’ll want to strain it before using.

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asparagus hash + poached egg

Today is Easter and so predictably I must write a post involving an egg. I actually spent the day on my own, but wanted some kind of holiday meal that would seem like an official meal—I remind myself that standing over the sink dipping stoned wheat crackers into a container of hummus is not an official meal—without being too difficult to prepare. The eggs at the farmers’ market really are terrific right now. I had a potato, an odd bit of bacon, and some fresh spring asparagus and scallions, and it seemed like this could make something quite delicious.

The recipe I give below can be scaled up to feed any number of people. The rate-limiting factor here is knowing how accomplished you are at poaching eggs. I can’t poach more than four at a time, and I don’t recommend trying to do more than that. Since I was just cooking one for myself, the timing worked out. I like my eggs poached for exactly 3 minutes. So I cut the asparagus into tiny enough slices (1/4 inch) that I knew it would cook during the time the egg was poaching. The idea is that you make the hash with bacon (or olive oil if you want a vegetarian version), cook the potatoes through, and then when you add the asparagus and green scallion to the pan, you slide the egg in to poach and set the timer. You spend the next three minutes alternately nudging the egg(s) from the bottom of the poaching pan and stirring and shaking the hash to crisp up the asparagus. When the egg is finished, so is the asparagus, and everyone’s happy. Add a quick squeeze of lemon to the hash to give it some brightness, stir, and serve.

Instead of lemon juice you could make a very mustardy vinaigrette here and add it at the end. But what I do like about using a poached egg is that it is really the lazy woman’s hollandaise sauce. You know how you’re supposed to serve asparagus with hollandaise? Unfortunately for me, Escoffier’s mother sauce doesn’t generally appear around here at supper time. However, with the hash doused in a bit of lemon juice, and the runny yolk kind of stirred into the hash, it has a pretty similar effect. Seriously. What is hollandaise, anyway, but egg yolk, lemon juice, and butter? And what are holidays for—standing around fretting over your broken sauce? Never. Poach your egg, swish it around in your hash and bon appetit.

Asparagus hash + poached egg

I didn’t base this recipe on anything when I made it this week. But as I wrote this post, I thought, I know this idea came from something I read somewhere. I searched through my Google Reader and found this post from SmittenKitchen, and I think it is probably influential in this recipe.

For every 2 servings as a main course:

  • 1 slice thick-cut bacon, chopped into ribbons across the grain*
  • 1 large (baseball sized) red-skinned potato, cut into 1/4-inch batons**
  • 2 scallions, white and green parts sliced finely, white parts separated from green parts
  • water
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • half a bunch (4 oz.) asparagus, washed, trimmed, cut into 1/4-inch slices diagonally
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • coarsely ground fresh pepper
  • coarse sea salt or lavender + meyer lemon finishing salt

1. In a large nonstick skillet, cook bacon ribbons over medium heat until fat is rendered and they are brown and crispy.Add the potato batons and the white parts of the scallions. Stir and then turn heat to just below medium, letting the potatoes rest on the bottom of the pan to get brown on one side. Then stir gently, nudging batons to get at least another side browned. Cook in this manner until potatoes are cooked through, about 10 to 15 minutes, if all potatoes are in contact with the surface of the pan.

2. While potatoes are cooking, bring water and white vinegar to a simmer in a pan large enough to hold the number of eggs you are cooking, up to four eggs. (If you are making more than four servings, poach eggs 4 at a time.) Water in the pan should be about 3 inches deep. When it reaches a simmer, turn it back so that it remains at a simmer temperature, but no bubbles break the surface. Salt the water as you would for pasta. Crack each egg into 1/3-cup measuring cup or a small ramekin.

3. When potatoes are just cooked and nicely browned, add asparagus and green scallion tops. Stir well and shake down to a single layer to cook.

4. Holding the 1/3-cup measure with the egg just at the surface of the water, tip the egg into the pan of water. Tip the second egg in. Set a timer for 3 minutes. Stir the asparagus mixture periodically to redistribute and shake the pan.When egg white solidifies, use a small spatula to loosen each egg from the bottom of the pan, if they are stuck there.

5. When the egg timer is about to go off, turn off the heat under hash and sprinkle with lemon juice. Stir and then distribute asparagus mixture into plates or dishes. Top each dish with a poached egg, removed from the poaching liquid with a slotted spoon. Sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper. Serve.

* For a vegetarian version, substitute 3 tablespoons of olive oil for the bacon. Warm the olive oil over medium heat and start the recipe by adding the potatoes and white parts of scallions.

** To get potatoes that cook quickly, I cut each potato in half lengthwise, then place the flat sides down on the board. Then I cut across the short way into 1/4″ slices, then rotate the board and cut long way into 1/4″ slices. You get 1/4″ batons that are as long as half the potato’s depth.

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