Very Lemony Lemon Bars

Bring a ray of sunshine to your plate with these bright and puckery lemon bars:

Lemon Bars with Sea Salt

‘Tis the season for lemons. Late winter offers up bushels of citrus, which transform into light and lovely desserts, such as these lemon bars. Whether you are knee deep in snow or lucky enough to live where lemons grow on trees, these lemon bars will bring a ray of sunshine to your plate.

The key to a good lemon bar, in my book, is that the filling must be intensely lemony, packing a wallop of tartness with just enough sugar, but not so sweet that it’s cloying. Picture a zingy, sweet and tart filling rippled with lemon zest, anchored to a buttery shortbread crust. The final touch is a smidge of sea salt, which keeps the sweetness in check and allows the pucker-y lemon to shine through. These bars are thoroughly addictive and guaranteed to brighten your day. One bar will never be enough.

Lemon Bars with Sea Salt

Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Makes 32 (2-inch) square bars

Shortbread:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup unsalted butter, slightly softened but still cool, cut into cubes

Filling:
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Garnish:
Confectioners sugar
Sea salt flakes, such as Maldon

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9 by 13-inch baking pan, then line the pan with parchment and butter the parchment.
2. Combine the shortbread ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix until the dough resembles coarse lumps and just begins to come together. Dump the dough into the prepared pan and, with your fingers, evenly press the dough to cover the bottom of the pan.
3. Bake the crust until it just begins to turn golden, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven, but do not turn off the oven heat.
4. Whisk the filling ingredients together in a large bowl until blended, then evenly pour over the crust. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the filling is set but not coloring, about 25 minutes. Remove and cool completely on a rack.
5. Cut into bars. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and lightly sprinkle with sea salt flakes before serving.

Chicken Vegetable Soup with Green Garlic

Chicken Vegetable Soup with Green Garlic

green garlic veg soup

In this in-between time of winter and spring, a chicken vegetable soup is appropriately light and soothing. In this recipe, the comfort of chicken stock is enriched with carrots, fennel, and green garlic.  Green garlic is unique to spring. Resembling a thick scallion, the green stalk and bulb of young garlic is harvested before the plant matures and the bulb divides into cloves. In its raw state green garlic has a pungent aroma, yet when cooked it grows tame, providing a mild, sweet and herbaceous backdrop to the chicken stock.

Chicken Vegetable Soup with Green Garlic

Serves 4 to 6

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped green garlic, white and pale green parts
Salt
2 large carrots, thinly sliced
1 medium fennel bulb, fronds trimmed, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 cup orzo
2 heaping teaspoons fresh thyme
1 1/2 cups shredded cooked chicken meat
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley

Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the green garlic and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Sauté until the garlic softens and its aroma loses its pungency, about 5 minutes. Add the carrots and fennel and continue to sauté until the carrots brighten in color and the vegetables begin to soften, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the stock, orzo, thyme, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, partially covered, until the orzo is cooked through and the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if desired. Stir in the chicken and parsley and continue to cook until the chicken is warmed through.

Rhubarb Compote with Lemon and Sage

rhubarb sage tastefood

They say what grows together goes together and that certainly applies to this springtime compote. Green rhubarb stalks, flowering sage leaves and spring lemons comprised the latest bag of loot I came home with from the farmers’ market. The green rhubarb was stunning, it’s puckery astringency melding beautifully with bright citrus and, yes, sage leaves. Serve this compote straight as it is or add a drizzle of heavy cream. Vanilla ice cream wouldn’t be bad either.

Rhubarb Compote with Lemon and Sage

Serves – 2 to 3 (or never enough depending whom you ask)

1 1/2 pounds rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3/4 cup sugar
2 to 3 fresh sage leaves
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Finely grated lemon zest for garnish

Combine the rhubarb, sugar and sage in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar begins to dissolve. Cover and simmer over low heat until rhubarb softens, 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.. Remove from heat and discard the sage leaves. Stir in the lemon juice. Cool. Serve garnished with lemon zest.

 

Rosemary and Porcini Crusted Lamb Loin Chops

Lamb tf

A rub of crushed dried porcini mushrooms and finely chopped rosemary creates an umami-rich crust for lamb. I use a food processor to blitz the mushrooms before continuing to chop them by hand with the rosemary, resulting in a coarse rub. A spice grinder will create a finer crust.

Lamb cru tf

Porcini and Rosemary Crusted Lamb Loin Chops

Serves 4.

8 lamb loin chops, each about 1 inch thick
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup finely ground dried porcini mushrooms
1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary leaves

Season the lamb with salt and pepper. Combine 2 tablespoons oil and the garlic in a bowl and smear all over the lamb. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Thirty minutes before roasting, remove the lamb from the refrigerator. Combine the mushrooms and rosemary in a small bowl. Coat both sides of the lamb with the rub and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat in a large ovenproof skillet. Add the lamb to the pan without overcrowding. Cook until brown on both sides, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer the skillet to oven. Bake until cooked to your desired doneness, about 10 minutes for medium-rare. Remove from the oven, tent with foil, and let rest 15 minutes before serving.

Spring Peas and Shoots with Pancetta and Orecchiette

pea shoots pasta tastefoodSpring Peas and Shoots with Pancetta and Orecchiette

I hope you like peas, because I have a few pea recipes coming your way. The first is this pasta recipe which I like to make when English peas first appear in the market in March. It’s the essence of early spring, a season which brings a mixed message of cool rain and gentle sunshine. Crispy pancetta swathed in cream and cheese provides winter warmth, while sweet peas and delicate pea tendrils add earthy fragility, an early hint of the garden awakening from its winter slumber. No worries if you can’t get your hands on pea tendrils, which are the wispy shoots of the snow pea plant. This dish is equally delicious simply with pancetta and peas. And for that matter, if you can’t get your hands on fresh peas, then frozen are just fine, too.

Orecchiette with Spring Peas, Pancetta and Pea Shoots

If you are using defrosted frozen peas, add to the sauce in the end to warm through. Serves 4.

1 pound orecchiette
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
6 ounces pancetta, finely diced
2 cups fresh peas (or defrosted frozen peas)
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups pea shoots, loosely packed
1/3 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus extra for garnish
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add orecchiette and cook until al dente according to package instructions. Drain.

While the pasta is cooking, heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add pancetta. Sauté until light golden, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel. Drain all but 1 tablespoon fat from the skillet. Add fresh peas (if using), garlic and red chili flakes. Sauté until fragrant, 1 minute. Return pancetta to the pan. Add cream, stock, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Simmer until cream is slightly reduced and thickened, and peas are tender, 8 to 10 minutes. (If using defrosted frozen peas, add to the cream after it is reduced and thickened and simmer until peas are heated through). Remove from heat and add the orecchiette to the skillet.  Stir to combine. Add the pea shoots, the cheese, and mint and stir again. Serve immediately with additional cheese for garnish.

Lemon Mint Risotto

Lemon Mint Risotto TasteFood

~ Lemon Mint Risotto ~

Here is what I think about risotto: A good risotto should be creamy, but not soupy. The rice should be tender, but not mushy. Its accompanying ingredients should be minimal without overwhelming and reflect the season. This recipe  for Lemon Risotto with Mint is firmly planted in spring. Redolent with lemon and mint, the puckery citrus cuts the inherent creaminess of the risotto, while flecks of fresh mint add freshness and aroma. I like to serve small plates of this as an elegant first course to a nice meal.

Lemon Risotto with Mint
Serves 6

6 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion
2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano cheese, plus extra for garnish
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons lemon zest, plus extra for garnish
4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves, divided

Bring stock to a simmer in a medium saucepan. 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 without coloring, 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 cheese, lemon juice and lemon zest. Add 2 tablespoons mint leaves. Serve immediately in bowls garnished with extra cheese, zest and mint.

You might also enjoy these recipes from TasteFood:
Fregola Sarda with Asparagus and Lemon
Greek Couscous Salad
Farro Pilaf

Chilled Pea Soup with Crème Fraiche, Lemon and Tarragon

Chilled Pea Soup with Crème Fraiche, Lemon and Tarragon

~ lovely bowls by Lorin K. ~

If it’s possible for a soup to evoke a dessert, then this chilled pea soup does just that. I blame the crème fraiche and lemon. When paired together they are sublime, one degree of sweet separation from the makings of an ethereal dessert. The sugar in the peas completes this imagery, and while this soup is decidedly savory with the sharp and licorice notes of radish and tarragon, one can’t help but feel just a little naughty with each billowy spoonful of luscious soup.

Chilled Pea Soup with Crème Fraiche, Lemon and Tarragon
Serves 4

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large shallot, finely chopped, about 1/4 cup
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

2 cups shelled English peas, about 2 pounds in the pod

1/2 cup crème fraiche
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Fresh tarragon
Sliced radishes

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute until translucent without browning, 3-4 minutes. Add the broth, ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper and simmer 2 minutes. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
While the stock is cooling, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the peas and cook until peas are tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water or shock in ice water to prevent further cooking.
Combine the half of the cooled stock and peas in the bowl of a food processor. Process until very smooth. Add additional stock a little at a time and process to achieve desired consistency. (The soup should be a little thick and not too runny). Transfer to a bowl, and taste for salt and pepper. Whisk the crème fraiche and lemon zest together in a small bowl. Gently stir into the peas, leaving light traces of the cream visible. Carefully divide among serving bowls. Garnish with snipped or whole tarragon leaves and sliced radishes.

If you like this, you might enjoy these recipes:
Spring Pea Hummus from Simply Recipes
Orecchiette with Spring Peas, Pancetta and Pea Shoots from TasteFood
Beef with Snow Peas from The Pioneer Woman
Linguine with Morels, Peas and Asparagus from TasteFood
Carrot, Pea and Mint Salad from Steamy Kitchen