Prosciutto Roll-ups with Arugula, Fennel and Parmesan

Prosciutto Roll-ups with Arugula, Fennel and Parmesan

Prosciutto roll-ups are the perfect appetizer. Salty strips of prosciutto wrap around leafy arugula sprigs, crispy fennel spears and nutty Parmesan shavings, binding the vegetables together in an edible cocoon basted with lemon and garlic infused oil. This is the best kind of finger food – healthy, fresh and seasonal.

Feel free to fiddle with the ingredients and take advantage of the season’s produce.  Be sure to include a leafy green, a crisp vegetable and cheese for a variety of textures. Other suggestions would include a combination of basil or mint leaves, blanched asparagus spears or crispy pear slices, and pecorino, gorgonzola or manchego cheese.

Prosciutto Roll-ups with Arugula, Fennel and Parmesan
Makes 24 roll-ups

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
12 slices of prosciutto, halved lengthwise
2 cups baby arugula leaves, washed
1 large fennel bulb, fronds removed, sliced in half lengthwise, each half thinly sliced, lengthwise
4 ounces Parmegiano-Reggiano cheese, thinly shaved
Freshly ground black pepper

Whisk oil, garlic, lemon juice and zest together in a small bowl.
Place one prosciutto slice on work surface, long side parallel to the edge. Place several arugula leaves at one end. Top with several fennel slices and a few shavings of cheese. Drizzle with a 1/2 teaspoon of the oil. Sprinkle with pepper. Starting at the filled end, roll up the prosciutto. Place seam-side down on a platter. Repeat with remaining slices. Brush the roll-ups with a little of the oil. (May be prepared up to 4 hours in advance. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature to 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
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.

Baked Salmon with Baby Fennel, Mustard and Tarragon

Salmon Fennel tf

I love it when I can go to the farmer’s market on a Sunday and come home with …. fish. And not just any fish, but fresh-off-the-boat fish that tastes of the sea. Call me provincial European or mentally land-locked, but fresh fish on a Sunday?  At a Farmer’s Market?

Mind you, this is no ordinary farmer’s market. The San Rafael Farmer’s Market is one of the largest open air markets in California.  Each Sunday, farmers, purveyors and artisans gather in the shadow of the Marin County Civic Center, a stunning Frank Lloyd Wright construction, and sell their goods. Open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. you can easily pack a full day into several hours. Arrive early before the crowds, and enjoy a cappuccino or latte with an authentic Belgian Waffle or flaky French croissant. Then wander through the stalls and purchase seasonal vegetables and fruit, local cheese, meat and, of course, fish. It’s easy to overload on purchases and nibbles, freely offered throughout the market. Feeling tired? Take a break and listen to live music and enjoy a mid-morning snack of dim sum or artisanal pastry. Kids antsy? Give them a pony ride or a jump on a bouncy castle. If that’s worked up another appetite, finish with pizza or grilled organic sausages, falafel or panini. Then head home with your goodies, and plan your dinner.

Dinner on Sunday is always fun. Inspired by our purchases, a meal is created, usually simple, always seasonal and fresh. Which brings me to the fish. In the past 2 weeks we have twice been served gorgeous salmon filets by friends who have also been to the farmer’s market. Each time it has been so delicious and fresh that this Sunday we craved more and made a beeline for the fish stall. The salmon we purchased was so pristine, I didn’t even want to grill it and introduce any charred flavor to its buttery flesh. When we came home, I decided to marinate and bake it with fresh tarragon and baby fennel, which I also bought at the market. So, yes, we can get fresh fish at the Sunday Farmer’s Market. And, yes, we are very lucky.

Baked Salmon with Fennel, Mustard and Tarragon

The licorice flavors of the tarragon and fennel combine beautifully with fresh salmon in this easy and elegant spring dish. This recipe can easily be expanded to feed a crowd. Serves 4-5.

1 garlic clove
1/4 cup tarragon leaves
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

2 pounds salmon filets, pin bones removed
2 to 3 baby fennel, bulbs thinly sliced

Smash the garlic clove with the salt in a mortar with a pestle. Add the tarragon and bruise with the pestle. Whisk in the olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, zest and a small bunch of the reserved fennel fronds. Arrange salmon filets in one layer in a baking dish. Place fennel halves around the salmon. Pour the tarragon oil over the fish and fennel and spread to cover evenly. Cover and refrigerate 1-2 hours. Remove from refrigerator 20 minutes before baking. Bake in a preheated 350 F. (180 C.) oven until fish is just cooked through, about 25 minutes. Serve immediately.

Playing with My Food

Playing with My Food


Playing with food 009


This morning I brought home my usual overstuffed shopping basket from the farmer’s market.  It tumbled over with relief when I placed it down on the kitchen counter, and a few eager ingredients escaped the crowd and rolled before me.  These included some sweetly perfumed white nectarines, a floppy bunch of intoxicatingly aromatic mint, and a snow-white fennel bulb crowned with frizzy green fronds.  As I reached for them I stopped and thought: What a wonderful combination of color, texture and fresh flavor.  The leaves of mint were enormous, begging to be left intact.  Obligingly, I gathered one and cupped the leaf realizing it would make a perfect vessel.  I sliced the nectarine thinly and did likewise with the fennel, reserving its dill-like tips as garnish.  I imagined the crunchy, juicy, fresh and bright textures and taste. Now to balance this combo, a little salt and a little bite were needed.  I knew exactly what to dig for in my cheese drawer: a chunk of Pecorino Romano Pepato I had purchased the previous week at my favorite Italian specialty store.  If you do not know this fantastic cheese it is a Pecorino Romano studded with whole black peppercorns.  The combination of the salty sheep cheese and the sharp bite of black peppercorn is addictive.  I shaved a few slivers off, collected any wayward black peppercorns and combined them with the other ingredients cupped in the mint leaf.  To pull it together, I reached for a lemon on my window ledge and cut a wedge of it, squeezing the fresh citrus juice over the mint, followed by a light drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.  And suddenly I had a perfect summertime amuse-bouche. If you prefer more substance to your bite, this would go nicely on top of crostini.