Fregola Sarda with Asparagus and Lemon

Fregola Sarda with Asparagus and Lemon

fregola tastefood

If you have never tried Fregola Sarda, then you should. Fregola (also known as fregula) is a semolina pasta hailing from Sardinia, Italy. It’s quite similar to pearl couscous which is made of wheat. It consists of tiny rolled balls which have been sun-dried then toasted, lending a satisfying and unique nutty flavor and mottled texture. Fregola is delicious on its own, served simply with olive oil, sea salt and a dusting of cheese, in  soups, or combined with vegetables and fresh herbs as a side dish or light meal.

Fregola Sarda with Asparagus and Lemon

Serves 4

1 pound fregola
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Salt
1/2 pound thin asparagus
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup finely grated Pecorino cheese
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the fregola and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes or per package instructions. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, the lemon zest and 1/2 teaspoon salt and toss to coat.
Cut the stalks of the asparagus into 1/2-inch pieces while keeping the tips intact. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot and saute until softened, about 2 minutes.  Add the garlic and chili flakes and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the asparagus stalks and tips. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Saute until asparagus brightens in color, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken stock and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until asparagus are crisp tender and most of the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat and add to the fregola. Add the Pecorino and toss to combine. If the fregola are too sticky, add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Serve warm with additional black pepper. 

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.

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

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.

Lemon Bars

Citrus is winter’s gift, so why not put this gift to use and make lemon bars? Bright and zingy, Lemon Bars will bring a ray of sunshine into your kitchen. Whether you are knee deep in snow or lucky enough to live where lemons grow on trees, this is one pick-me-up everyone will enjoy at this time of year. Cool creamy custard bursting with zest rests on a firm bed of shortbread. Each bite is a balance of sweet and tart. The recipe is simple and quick to make – the only caveat is that the results are dangerously addictive. Be forewarned: One will never be enough.

Lemon Bars
Makes 16 two inch bars

1 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled, cut in 1/2 inch pieces

3/4 cup superfine sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest, plus extra for garnish
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter an 8 inch square baking pan. Line with parchment and butter parchment.
Combine flour, sugar and salt in bowl of food processor. Pulse to blend. Add butter and pulse until the dough resembles rough cornmeal. Dump the dough into the prepared baking pan. Press evenly over the bottom. Bake until light golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven without turning off oven.

Whisk sugar, flour and salt together in a small bowl. Whisk in eggs. Add lemon zest and lemon juice. Pour over crust. Return to oven and bake until the filling is just set, 12-15 minutes. Remove and cool completely on a rack. To serve, dust with sifted confectioners’ sugar. Garnish with lemon zest.

Roasted Lemon Cilantro Chicken

Roasted Lemon Cilantro Chicken


Cilantro Lemon Chicken

The grill is on. Every day. And at least once a week this involves a whole chicken for a family dinner. In the winter we do it in the oven, and in the summer we do it on the grill. Both methods are similar, while grilling adds a smokier flavor to the chicken meat, especially when using a charcoal grill. Cilantro is also a family favorite, and the marinade for the chicken is chock-a-block full of it. For those who are faint of heart when it comes to cilantro, you can substitute rosemary or thyme with great results (be sure to omit the saffron from the paste). 

Roasted Lemon Cilantro Chicken
Serves 4-5

2 large garlic cloves
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro sprigs
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 teaspoons sea salt, divided
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 whole 3-4 pound chicken
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Make the paste:
Combine garlic, cilantro, lemon juice, 2 teaspoons salt, lemon zest and saffron in a mortar with pestle or bowl of a food processor.  Smash or grind to a paste.  Stir or pulse in 2 tablespoons olive oil.  Rub chicken between skin and breast meat and inside cavity with the paste. Rub the outside of the skin with one tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and black pepper. Place on tray or platter, breast-side up and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to 6 hours.  Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before roasting.

Prepare Chicken:
Prepare grill for indirect medium heat or preheat oven to 450 F. (225 C.)
 Place chicken, breast-side up on the grill with a pan below to catch it’s juices. (If roasting in the oven, place chicken in a roasting pan). Close the lid of the grill and roast for 20 minutes. Carefully turn chicken over with tongs. Roast, covered, another 20 minutes. Turn chicken over once more, breast-side up. Continue roasting, covered, 20 minutes. Check to see if chicken is done by carefully cutting skin between breast and thigh. If meat is pink, continue roasting additional 10 – 15 minutes. Chicken is cooked when meat is no longer pink, and clear juices run from the thigh when pierced with a knife. Remove from heat, cover loosely with foil and let rest 15 minutes before carving.

Roasted Red Potatoes with Garlic, Lemon and Mint

Roasted Red Potatoes

Do not underestimate the power of the side dish. Roasted potatoes are meat’s best friend and a dependable side kick in any season. I serve these potatoes frequently when it’s summer and fresh mint is abundant. The grill is always going, these potatoes are a perfect accompaniment to grilled meat, chicken and fish. The fresh mint and lemon elevate the mild red potato and perfume it with flavor. Be sure to toss the potatoes with the garlic, lemon and mint when they are warm from the oven, so the heat will coax out the aroma of the garnishes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Roasted Potatoes with Mint, Lemon and Garlic
Serves 6-8 as a side dish

2 pounds (1 kg.) baby red potatoes
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped

Preheat oven to 375 F. (190 C). Toss potatoes with 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper. Arrange in one layer in a baking pan. Roast in oven one hour. Transfer potatoes to serving bowl. Toss with 1 teaspoon olive oil, garlic, lemon zest and mint. Serve immediately or cool slightly.