Lemon Risotto with Mint

Lemon Risotto with Mint

I have an opinion about risotto. A good risotto should be creamy, but not soupy. The rice should be tender, but not mushy.  The ingredients should be minimal without overwhelming. My ideal risotto reflects the season, and elegantly plays a role in a meal as a first course or side to a main. Lemon Risotto with Mint accomplishes all of this. It’s planted firmly in spring, redolent with lemon and fresh mint. It’s not too heavy, but creamy and rich enough to keep you coming back for more.

Lemon Risotto with Mint
Serves 6

6 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion or 2 spring onions, white and pale green parts only, finely chopped
2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus extra for garnish
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons lemon zest, plus extra for garnish
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves, plus extra for garnish

Bring stock to a simmer. Reduce heat to lowest setting and keep warm.
Heat 1 tablespoon butter and oil in a deep skillet or pot over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until softened, 2 minutes. Add rice and stir to coat. Add wine. Cook, stirring, until the wine evaporates. Add stock 1 cup at a time, stirring until nearly all of the liquid is absorbed before adding the next cup. Continue until the rice is tender but not mushy. Remove pan from the heat. Stir in 1 tablespoon butter, 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, lemon juice and lemon zest. Add mint leaves and serve immediately in bowls garnished with extra cheese, lemon zest and mint.

Linguine with Morels, Asparagus and Peas

Linguine with Morels, Asparagus and Peas

Morels, asparagus and peas team up in this quintessential springtime pasta dish. Earthy mushrooms marry well with astringent asparagus and sweet peas. Famously delicious in sauces, risottos and pasta, these ingredients require little else except a nap of cream and a sprinkling of cheese to bind them all together, resulting in an easy yet elegant seasonal meal.

Linguine with Asparagus, Morels and Fava Beans
Serves 4

1/2 ounce dried morel mushrooms or 1/4 pound fresh morels, cleaned, sliced
1 pound asparagus, ends trimmed, cut in 1″ pieces
Salt
1 pound linguine
1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 cup heavy heavy cream
1/2 cup shelled sweet peas
Freshly ground black pepper
Grated Parmesan cheese

Prepare morels:
If using dried morels, place in a small bowl and cover with boiling water.  Let sit 20 minutes.  Drain and gently squeeze out any extra liquid.  Cut in half lengthwise and set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add asparagus and blanch until crisp-tender and bright green without overcooking, 1 minute.  Remove with slotted spoon and refresh under cold water.  Set aside.
Add linguine to same pot and cook until al dente or firm to the bite according to package instructions; drain.
Heat olive oil and melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic, morels and 1 teaspoon salt.  Sauté until garlic is fragrant and morels are tender, about 2 minutes.  Add chicken stock and cream.  Simmer until thickened and reduced by about half, 5-7 minutes.  Stir in peas and simmer until brightened and crisp tender, 1 minute. Stir in  the asparagus.  Add pasta to the skillet and toss to combine.  Season with lots of freshly ground black pepper. Serve with a generous spoonful of grated cheese for garnish.

Spring “Tabbouleh” – Bulgur Salad with Lemon, Radishes and Snap Peas

Spring “Tabbouleh” – Bulgur Salad with Lemon, Radishes and Snap Peas

Try this salad on for spring: Bulgur Salad with Lemon, Radishes and Snap Peas is packed with fresh herbs and greens, studded with radishes and sugar snap peas. It’s a refreshing version of tabbouleh, milder in flavor and bursting with seasonal vegetables.

What is tabbouleh? An addictively delicious Middle Eastern salad featuring bulgur wheat, steeped in water or stock, then tossed with an abundance of fresh parsley, mint, lemon and seasoning.  Its name translates to “little spicy” which is probably the tipping point for those of us who can’t get enough of this healthy salad.

As a concept I love playing with variations of tabbouleh. This recipe is inspired by the spring vegetables I purchased at the farmers’ market today. Kale flowers, radishes, sugar snap peas and red spring onions are tumbled with bulgur infused with lemon and olive oil. The spicing is gentle, in deference to the mild sweetness of the vegetables, without ignoring the “little spicy” contingent. Delicious and satisfying, enjoy this as a healthy salad, side dish or light main course.  I served it with pita bread and hummus for an easy vegetarian dinner.

Spring “Tabbouleh” – Bulgur Salad with Lemon, Radishes and Snap Peas

The bulgur should be tender but firm when cooked. The kale flowers are optional yet lovely as a bright garnish. Serves 4.

1 cup bulgur
1 1/4 cups water
Salt
1/4 cup olive oil
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
2 spring onions, thinly sliced
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/4 pound sliced sugar snap peas, cut on the diagonal, about 1 cup
1/4 pound sliced radishes, cut in slivers, about 1 cup
1 cup baby arugula leaves
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley leaves
1/4 cup chopped mint leaves
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese, or to taste

Combine bulgur, water and 1 teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil; remove from heat.  Cover and let sit until the bulgur absorbs all of the liquid, about 20 minutes. Uncover and add 1/4 cup olive oil and lemon juice, fluffing the bulgur with a fork. Cool to room temperature. Add 1 teaspoon salt and all the remaining ingredients, gently tossing to combine. Taste for seasoning. Serve on a bed of greens or in pita pockets.

Strawberry Ricotta Bruschetta with Lemon and Arugula

Strawberries are not just for dessert. They are also stunning in salads, lending sweet acidity to the peppery earthiness of greens. In this case, strawberries are jumbled with arugula as a topping for bruschetta. Creamy, lemon flecked ricotta anchors the salad to the bread, while a balsamic vinaigrette dresses the dish. Hello Spring!

Strawberry Ricotta Bruschetta with Lemon and Arugula

Be sure to use a fresh ricotta for this recipe. A creamy, mild goat cheese may be used in place of the ricotta. Makes 2.

2 large strawberries, hulled, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 slices peasant or levain bread
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
1/4 cup fresh ricotta or mild goat cheese, room temperature
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 cup arugula leaves, washed and dried
Freshly ground black pepper

Toss the strawberries and balsamic vinegar together in a small bowl; set aside. Preheat oven broiler. Brush bread slices with olive oil. Sprinkle with a little salt. Broil in the oven until golden brown, turning once.
Smear the ricotta over the bread slices. Sprinkle with lemon zest. Pile arugula on the bruschetta. Remove the strawberries from the vinegar, shaking off excess liquid, and arrange over the arugula. Whisk 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a pinch of salt into the remaining vinegar. Drizzle over and around the bruschetta. Garnish with black pepper.

Roasted Chicken and Vegetables with Mustard and Tarragon

Roasted Chicken and Vegetables with Mustard and Tarragon

There is something intrinsically satisfying about roasting a chicken. Versatile, economical, forgiving, and consistently delicious: a roast is perfect family dinner fare, and also worthy of casual entertaining. Expecting guests? Roast 2 chickens and double up on the ingredients. Variations abound.  In our case, roast chicken often involves a rub, as minimal as simply salt or more embellished with olive oil, garlic, lemon, mustard. Add an Asian twist with grated ginger, or head to north Africa with coriander and cumin. A favorite preparation is to roast the bird nestled in a pan with seasonal vegetables. As the chicken cooks, the vegetables brown and baste, adding to the flavor to the pan juices.

Roast Chicken and Spring Vegetables with Mustard and Tarragon
Serves 4-6

This recipe takes advantage of spring’s new vegetables. Feel free to mix and match with what’s available. I used thick purple spring onions, white carrots and baby turnips. Onions, fennel and potatoes are also a sure thing. For a rustic family-style presentation, return the carved chicken to the skillet in which it roasted, amidst the vegetables and pan juices.

1  3-4 pound whole chicken
Salt
Juice of one lemon
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup fresh tarragon sprigs, coarsely chopped, plus extra for garnish

1 pound (6-8)  baby turnips, ends trimmed, halved
1/2 pound baby carrots, ends trimmed
6-8 thick red spring onions, ends trimmed, halved crosswise

Preheat oven to 400 F. Rinse and pat dry the chicken outside and inside the cavity. Whisk lemon juice, olive oil, mustard, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper together in a small bowl. Stir in the tarragon. Rub the 3/4 of the marinade all over the chicken – inside the cavity, outside, and between the skin and breast meat.
Place turnips, carrots and onions in a bowl. Toss with remaining marinade. Dump the vegetables into a large cast iron skillet or roasting pan. Nestle the chicken, breast-side up, in the middle of the vegetables. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove; using tongs turn chicken over, breast-side down. Return to oven and roast 20 minutes. Remove; turn chicken one more time. Continue roasting until chicken is cooked through and juices run clear when a knife is inserted in the thigh, 20-30 minutes. Transfer chicken to a cutting board and tent with foil. Let rest 15 minutes. Carve the chicken and return to the skillet with the vegetables and juices. Serve.

Spring Chicken and Vegetable Soup

Spring Chicken and Vegetable Soup

Here is another soup recipe that sings spring. Spring Chicken and Vegetable Soup is filled with seasonal vegetables including green garlic. Appearing in the markets right now, green garlic is the younger rendition of the ubiquitous papery garlic bulb. Like any youngster, this version  is sassy, sharp and full of swagger. But with a little heat, all of that bravado fades away. The green garlic softens, mellows and loses its pungency, resulting in a smooth aromatic backdrop to this light and healthy soup.

Spring Chicken and Vegetable Soup

Serves 4 to 6

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped green garlic, white and pale green parts
Salt
1 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced
2 large carrots, thinly sliced
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup orzo
1 tablespoon fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
1 1/2 cups shredded cooked chicken meat (optional)
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

Heat oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add green garlic and 1 teaspoon salt. Sauté until garlic softens and its aroma loses its sharpness, 5 minutes. Add fennel and carrots and continue to sauté until the vegetables brighten in color and begin to soften, 2 minutes. Add stock, orzo and thyme. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer, partially covered until orzo is cooked through and vegetables are tender, 15 – 20 minutes. Taste for salt. Stir in chicken and parsley; continue to cook until the chicken is warmed through. Serve immediately in warm bowls.

Asparagus Soup

Asparagus Soup

Nothing says spring to me more than the arrival of asparagus in the markets. Their green stalks fill the shelves, upright and dignified, like silent soldiers adorned with purple-tinged crowns. I can’t help myself: I grab one bunch, then another, heaping them in my basket, while eyeing others for even firmer, taller, more deeply colored specimens. If I see them, I’ll take them.

Once home, they need to be put to use – steamed with lemon and olive oil, oven-roasted for a little char, shaved raw into salads, and, of course, in soup. This recipe is simple and relatively minimal, as an asparagus soup should be. Too many flavors will overpower their subtle grassy flavor. A little cream is added to the soup for body and richness, and a sprinkling of Pecorino cheese for garnish adds that extra umami quality, begging for seconds.

Asparagus Soup

Serves 4-6

1 pound asparagus spears
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
Salt
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Trim and discard the woody ends of the asparagus. Cut and reserve 4-6 asparagus tips, 2 inches in length. Slice remaining spears in 1/4 inch pieces.
Melt butter with the oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Sauté onion until translucent without browning, about 2 minutes. Add asparagus pieces and sauté until brightened in color and beginning to soften, 2 minutes. Add stock; bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until asparagus are very tender, about 20 minutes.
While the soup is simmering, blanch the reserved asparagus tips in salted boiling water until bright in color, 30 seconds. Drain and rinse under cold water; set aside.
Purée soup with an immersion blender or carefully in batches in a food processor. Return to soup pot. Add cream and black pepper and heat through to serving temperature. Taste for seasoning. Serve in bowls or glasses, sprinkled with pecorino cheese. Garnish with asparagus spears.