Chilled Pea Soup with Tarragon and Cream

Cool Soups Are Not Just For Summer. This light and luscious pea soup is a lovely spring teaser:

Chilled Pea Soup with Tarragon and Cream

With warmer days on the way, chilled soups are a bright and refreshing alternative to a steaming bowl of soup. And while cool soups are certainly a solution to the heat of summer, they are also delicious year round. In fact, the slightly chilled temperature often amplifies the flavor and freshness of the ingredients, especially when the soup is as elegantly simple as this pea soup.

I prefer the savory flavor of the chicken stock in this recipe, but additional water may be substituted for a vegetarian version – in which case, be sure to taste and adjust the seasoning accordingly. The soup may be served slightly chilled or at room temperature. Serve as a light first course for 3 to 4 people, or divvy it up between 6 to 8 demitasse cups for a pretty appetizer.

Chilled Pea Soup with Crème Fraîche, Lemon, and Tarragon

Active Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes, plus cooling time
Makes about 2 1/2 cups

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large shallot, finely chopped, about 1/4 cup
3 cups shelled English peas
1 cup chicken stock (or water)
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup crème fraîche (or plain whole-milk Greek yogurt)
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Sliced radishes and fresh tarragon leaves, for garnish

1. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté until translucent without coloring, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the peas and sauté until bright and crisp-tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the stock, salt, and pepper and simmer until the peas are very tender, 3 to 4 minutes.
2. Carefully transfer to a food processor and process until smooth. Add 1 cup water, 1/4 cup at a time, until you reach your desired consistency. (The soup should be a little thick and not too runny.) Taste for seasoning and transfer to a bowl to cool to room temperature.
3. Whisk the crème fraîche and lemon zest in a small bowl.
4. Divide the soup between serving bowls or small cups. Add a spoonful of the cream to the soup and gently swirl, leaving light traces of the cream visible. Garnish each serving with 1 to 2 radish slices and sprinkle with snipped tarragon leaves.

Condiment Spotlight: Green Olive Tapenade (with Oven Roasted Salmon)

The Green Olive Tapenade is a keeper.

Green Olive Tapenade Topping on Roasted Salmon

I’ll be honest. The real star of this salmon dish is the green olive and almond tapenade. No offense to the salmon, which is sublime as always and a no-fail simple, healthy meal. But, frankly, it’s the tapenade I want to talk about: it’s positively addictive with a briny brightness that complements the buttery rich salmon. It’s also versatile. Not only is the tapenade a worthy accompaniment to grilled fish (halibut is also a good contender), it’s a great stand-alone starter spooned on crostini or sprinkled over pizzas, pasta, and grains. The good news is that this recipe makes a generous amount of tapenade, so you can refrigerate the leftovers. Then you will have extra to smear on a slice of bread or swipe a carrot stick through. You might even find yourself eating it straight up from a bowl with a spoon. I’m speaking from experience.

Recipe: Roasted Salmon with Green Olive Tapenade

Active Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: about 40 minutes
Serves 4; Makes about 1 1/2 cups tapenade

Tapenade:
12 ounces pitted green olives, such as Castelvetrano
1/2 cup almonds, toasted
2 anchovies, drained
1 large garlic clove
2 teaspoons capers
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Salmon:
4 (6 ounce) salmon fillets, pin bones removed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for garnish
Juice of 1/2 lemon, plus 4 lemon wedges for serving
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Make the tapenade: Place all of the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process to a coarse paste, without letting it get mushy. (The tapenade may be stored in the refrigerator for up to three days.)
2. Heat the oven to 350°F. Arrange the salmon in one layer in a roasting pan, skin side down. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons oil and the lemon juice. Lightly season with salt and pepper. Bake in the oven until the salmon is just cooked to your desired doneness, about 25 minutes for medium, depending on the thickness of the filets.
3. Transfer to serving plates and top each filet with about 2 tablespoons of the tapenade. Serve with a lemon wedge.

Summer Pizza with Squash Blossoms and Sweet Peppers

Decorate your summer pizza with flowers – squash flowers, that is:

Grilled Pizza with Squash Blossoms

Squash blossoms might make this pizza sound pretty fancy, but it really isn’t. Delicate squash blossoms are everywhere at the farmers market at this time of year. I’ve been eyeing them, and contemplating ways to easily incorporate the floppy, sunny flowers into a meal. I’ve eaten blossoms fried and stuffed, but to be honest, I find them time consuming to prepare and often oily and rich. So I decided to simply layer them, with no other preparation, on a white pizza – or a pizza with no red sauce – and see what happened. The results were resoundingly good and a unanimous hit at the dinner table. The flowers shriveled and crisped while cooking, which concentrated their subtle and nutty flavor, which was nicely rounded out by sweet Jimmy Nardello peppers, onions, and a kick of heat from crushed red chili flakes. These fragile squash blossoms may be delicate, but it’s clear that they are no shrinking wall-flower.

For this recipe, you can make your own dough or purchase a good quality fresh dough from your supermarket, which is a simple shortcut for an easy meal. This recipe stretches one pound of fresh dough into a large rectangle, but you can also shape it into 2 smaller pizzas.

Squash Blossom Pizza with Sweet Peppers, Onions and Pecorino

Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Makes one (10 x 15-inch) pizza

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt
1 pound homemade or prepared fresh pizza dough
1 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced, about 1/2 cup
1/2 cup thinly sliced sweet red peppers, such as Jimmy Nardello peppers
8 squash blossoms, quartered lengthwise
1 (8 ounce) fresh mozzarella ball, patted dry and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1/4 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the grill for indirect cooking over high heat (about 500°F for a gas grill) and preheat a pizza stone for at least 15 minutes. (Or preheat the oven to 500°F. Place a pizza stone on the lowest oven rack and preheat for at least 15 minutes).
2. Whisk the oil, garlic, and a pinch of salt in a small bowl.
3. Stretch the dough out as thinly as possible and lay on large pizza peel (or rimless baking sheet lined with parchment). Lightly brush with the oil. Sprinkle half of the Pecorino over the pizza. Top with the onions and peppers. Arrange the squash blossoms over the vegetables, and then place the mozzarella around the squash. Sprinkle the oregano, chili flakes and pepper over the pizza and lightly season with salt. Top with the remaining Pecorino.
4. Slide the pizza onto the pizza stone. Close the grill lid and grill until the pizza is golden brown, about 15 minutes. Remove and brush the crust with some of the oil. Drizzle any remaining oil over the pizza. Cut into serving pieces and serve immediately.

Beet Ricotta Bruschetta

Beet Crostini

Open-faced sandwich are unfailingly pleasing. When a sandwich is open, its filling becomes the topping, which is a lovely reflection of the sum of its parts and a visual tease, beckoning a bite. While the sandwiches vary, often these tasty bites creatively incorporate simple ingredients, or leftovers layered over a smear of olive oil or soft cheese on sturdy or day-old bread refreshed on the grill or in the oven. The presentation is fresh, minimal, and artful, with a few fresh leaves or sprigs for garnish.

These bruschette include fresh ricotta topped with roasted beets and a spoonful of garden pesto. I call it a garden pesto because I use handfuls of the fresh new herbs that have popped up in my garden at this time of year. When the garden isn’t ready, I simply combine the supermarket herbs I’ve collected in my refrigerator. This can include any combination of parsley, mint, chives, dill, chervil, and oregano. The idea is that there is a mix of at least 3 to 4 herbs, so that one flavor doesn’t overwhelm the others. The result is a brightly green and herbaceous coulis that is delicious served with vegetables, fish, chicken, or mixed with rice and pasta. In this case, it’s a vibrant garnish to these bruschette.

Ricotta Beet Bruschetta with Garden Pesto

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Serves 6

Garden Pesto:
3 cups (packed) fresh herbs, such as parsley, mint, dill, chives, chervil, plus extra for garnish
1 small garlic clove
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra as needed
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

6 slices ciabatta or levain bread, each about 1/2-inch thick
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
6 to 8 roasted and peeled baby beets, cut into wedges
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Make the pesto: Place the herbs and garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Process until finely chopped. With the motor running add the oil in a steady stream until blended. If too thick, add extra oil to your desired consistency. Add the lemon zest, salt, and pepper and pulse once or twice to blend. Taste for seasoning.
2. Heat the oven broiler or a grill. Lightly brush the bread slices with oil. Broil or grill, until toasted golden on both sides but still tender in the center, about 2 minutes. Remove and cool the bread for 5 minutes.
3. Smear the ricotta on the bread, then drizzle some of the pesto over the ricotta (You will not use all of the pesto. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for another use for up to one day.)
4. Top the bruschette with the beets. Brush the beets with a little oil and lightly season the bruschette with salt and pepper. Garnish with fresh herb sprigs and serve whole or cut in half for smaller bites.

Lean into Winter with Root Vegetable Fries

Roasted Root Vegetable FriesRoasted Roots

When it’s cold and gray outside, it’s the season for root vegetables. We can count on our not-so-fair weather friends to usher us through the frigid months, gracing our tables and fortifying our diets with their sweet, nutrient-rich roots. These winter work horses are storehouses of energy, flavor and natural sugar – guaranteed to brighten up your plate and palate on a dreary chilly day.

In this recipe, root vegetables replace the ever-popular russet potato, and while they are called “fries” they are, in fact, oven roasted, so you can feel virtuous while you scarf down a batch. Mix and match your favorite roots and spices to your taste. If you can get your hands on purple sweet potatoes, give them a try – they have a slightly spiced and earthy flavor, and remain firm while roasting. As for peeling, I prefer to leave my organic root vegetables unpeeled, and simply give them a good scrub, since their skins are a wonderful source of nutrients and flavor. Roast one root vegetable or choose a variety for striking color. I like to use a combination of parsnips, carrots, celery root, rutabaga, and sweet potato.

Roasted Root Vegetable Fries

Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Serves 4 to 6

2 pounds root vegetables, such as parsnips, carrots, celery root, rutabaga, and sweet potato
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Dipping Sauce:
3/4 cup Greek whole milk yogurt
1 tablespoon Sriracha
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Heat the oven to 425°F. Cut the root vegetables into 2-inch batons, about 1/3-inch thick. Place in a large bowl. Add the oil and generously season with salt and pepper; toss to thoroughly coat.
2. Spread the vegetables in one layer on a large rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment. Roast on the lowest rack of the oven until golden brown on the bottoms, about 15 minutes. Move the baking sheet to the top rack of the oven and roast until tender and golden brown on top, about 15 more minutes. (If desired, turn on the broiler for the last few minutes of roasting.)
3. While the vegetables are roasting, whisk dipping sauce ingredients in a small bowl.
4. Serve the fries warm with the dipping sauce.

Caramelized Onion and Gruyere Tart


This tart is a vehicle for two winter-friendly ingredients – caramelized onions and Gruyère cheese. Caramelized onions are sweet, savory, and slick. A lengthy cooking time coaxes out their abundant natural sugars and releases their juices, resulting in a squidgy heap of golden brown onions. Gruyère cheese is a nutty, piquant Swiss cheese, and a favorite melting cheese in fondue. Combine the two ingredients, and you have the makings for a richly savory and rustic winter meal, guaranteed to spark visions of snowflakes and crackling fires in your imagination (at least in mine, since I live in California!)

There are few ingredients in this simple creation, so every ingredient counts. Take the time to properly brown the onions, about 45 minutes in all, and choose an authentic Gruyère cheese, preferably aged for deep flavor – and you will be rewarded with this simple and seductive tart. Serve it as a light meal, or cut into thin slivers and pass around as an appetizer.

Caramelized Onion and Gruyère Tart

Serves 6 to 8

Dough:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
3 tablespoons ice water

Filing:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons Calvados (apple brandy)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 ounces finely grated Gruyère cheese
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, plus extra for garnish
1 egg, slightly beaten

1. Prepare the crust: Combine the flour and salt in a food processor and pulse once or twice to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the dough resembles coarse meal, with some pieces of the butter visible. Add the water and pulse once or twice – just until the dough comes together, adding another tablespoon of water if necessary. Dump the dough onto a work surface and form it into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
2. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
3. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a deep skillet or pot. Add the onions and salt and cook the onions, until they are golden brown, soft and squidgy, 35 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the Calvados and black pepper and cook until the liquid evaporates, 1 to 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and cool while you roll out the dough.
4. Roll out the dough to fit in the bottom and up the sides of a 10-inch round tart tin with a removable bottom. Sprinkle half of the cheese over the bottom of the tart. Spread the onions in the shell and sprinkle the thyme over the onions. Brush the exposed crust rim with the egg wash. Sprinkle the tart and crust with the remaining cheese.
5. Bake the tart until the crust is firm and golden and the onions are deeply colored without blackening, about 30 minutes. Remove and cool slightly. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature garnished with additional thyme.

Roasted Carrot Hummus

Carrot Hummus

Move over chickpea hummus, there’s a new ingredient town.

Who doesn’t like a good hummus? Mild, nutty, and agreeably versatile, this creamy Levantine dip is a go-to for snacks, spreads, and party dips. It’s also a wonderful starting point for variations, such as carrot hummus.

Carrot hummus, you say? You bet: Picture your favorite Middle Eastern hummus – the ubiquitous blend of chickpeas, sesame paste (tahini), olive oil, lemon, and garlic. Then, send it further west to North Africa, picking up a few more ingredients along the way, such as coriander, mint, and harissa, a fiery Moroccan chile paste. Now, add the carrots, but before you do, roast them first, softening the carrots to a blending consistency, coloring them with a little char, and coaxing out their ample natural sugars. Give it all a good long blitz with the usual hummus ingredients in a food processor until thick, creamy, and smooth. Take a taste – it will be mildly sweet, slightly nutty, and a tad smoky, vividly colored and bright with citrus. Scrape it into a bowl and lick the spoon, then decorate the top with a shower of chopped crunchy pistachios and fragrant mint. Chances are you will never go back. 

Roasted Carrot Hummus

Makes about 2 cups
Active Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

Carrots:
1/2 pound carrots, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Hummus:
1 (15-ounce) can chick peas, drained and rinsed
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons tahini
1 to 2 tablespoons harissa
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for garnish

Garnish:
1/4 cup coarsely chopped shelled pistachios
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped

1. Heat the oven to 400°F. Place the carrots in a small baking dish. Add the oil, salt, cumin, and black pepper and stir to coat. Roast in the oven until the carrots are tender, 25 to 30 minutes, stirring once or twice. Remove and cool slightly.

2. Transfer the carrots and any pan juices to the bowl of a food processor. Add the remaining dip ingredients and process until smooth. If too thick, add additional olive oil or warm water to your desired consistency. Taste for seasoning.

3. Transfer the hummus to a serving bowl and garnish with the pistachios, mint, and extra black pepper. Serve with pita wedges, baguette, and/or cruditées.