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Category Archives: rhubarb

The majority of Norwegian immigrants lived in the farming communities of the upper Midwest making their homes in the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and North and South Dakota. They settled in cities such as Brooklyn, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Seattle.
Once the first Norwegians came to an area, others often followed, particularly after the Homestead Act of 1862 that made Minnesota land available almost free for the asking. Norwegian immigrants developed commercial fishing along the North Shore, worked in the Iron Range mines and offered trades needed in their areas.

Norwegian immigrants pose for a picture on the passenger and freight steamer America sometime between 1900 and 1910. (Photo courtesy of the Northeast Minnesota Historical Center, Duluth)

Why did Norwegians leave their homeland?

In the 19th century, Norway was a difficult place for the common folk. Its population was increasing and they were squeezed onto the slivers of land that could be cultivated — only 3 percent of the country. Farm mechanization pushed out landless laborers, and a rigid social hierarchy gave them no chance to improve their situation.

So, they left. Starting in the late 1830s, Norwegians came to America.

Those who had a farming background headed to Norwegian settlements in the coulee country of southwest Wisconsin, the bluff country of southeast Minnesota and Iowa and then the fertile Red River Valley of Minnesota and North Dakota. Norwegians who fished headed for the shorelines of Door County and Minnesota’s North Shore. By 1915, Norway had lost 750,000 people to the United States, contributing, after Ireland, the highest percentage of its population to the new country. Norwegians often chose land that reminded them of home.

They also tried to carry on their Norwegian traditions here in America. Each Christmas, Norwegian-Americans headed to the nearest Norsk deli to buy lutefisk that once was a staple for peasants in Norway. They grated potatoes for lefse, a flat peasant bread, and rolled thin butter cookies on krumkake irons for their holiday celebrations. There are more than 4.5 million people of Norwegian ancestry in the United States today. Norwegian Americans actively celebrate and maintain their heritage in many ways. Much of it centers on the Lutheran-Evangelical churches they were born into. Culinary customs, national dress, and Norwegian holidays (Syttende Mai, May 17) are also popular.

Norwegian cuisine in its traditional form was based largely on the natural materials readily available in Norway and by its geography. Norwegian fare had a strong focus on fish and game. A gradual transition to American life weakened immigrant folkways. Some traditions and customs survived and were cultivated, others were reintroduced and given importance as a part of their ethnic heritage. Toward the end of the century, lutefisk became known as a Norwegian American dish. It was served at lodge meetings, festive banquets, and church suppers, most regularly during the Christmas season.

One tank holds about 900=950 pounds of lutefisk ready for packing, at the Olsen Fish Company in Minneapolis, which produces about 450,000 pounds annually from dried cod. (Pioneer Press: Scott Takushi)

Lutefisk is whitefish — which refers to several species of finned fish such as cod, ling, or burbot — that has been air-dried and may or may not be salted. It is first soaked in cold water for five or six days, with the water changed daily. The saturated fish is again soaked for two days in an unchanged solution of cold water and lye. Lye is a substance obtained by leaching ashes and is also known as sodium hydroxide. After this weeklong process, the fish loses half of its protein and gains a jelly-like consistency. At this point, it needs another four to six days of soaking in cold water, refreshed daily, before it is ready to be cooked. Since the saturated fish is quite delicate, a layer of salt is added about a half-hour before it is cooked. This releases some of the water being held in the fish. It is then placed in a sealed pan and steam cooked on low heat for 20-25 minutes, or wrapped in aluminum foil and baked at 435 degrees F for 40-50 minutes. Since Minnesota has a large population of Norwegian immigrants, lutefisk is quite popular in the Twin Cities and their surrounding areas. It can be served a number of ways, but some of the more common ones are with boiled potatoes, green peas, melted butter, small pieces of bacon, horseradish, or cheese.

Aquavit is Norway’s famous exported liquor made from potatoes. Distillers flavor it with spice bags of caraway seeds or star anise. After the warm alcohol passes through the bags, it is aged in wood barrels. Cold-pressed, clear Aquavit isn’t aged but is served slightly chilled with herring, cold meat, and fatty dishes. Norwegians serve dark Aquavit, that has been aged for several years, after dinner.

Here are some Norwegian American style recipes for you to make at home.

Pan-Fried White Fish

Ingredients

1 lb white fish fillets
White pepper
Salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup bread crumbs
6 tablespoons butter
Norwegian Lemon Butter Sauce, recipe below

Directions

For the Pan-Fried White Fish

Check to make sure all the fish bones have been removed. Season the fillets with the salt and white pepper.

Lightly whisk the egg in a shallow bowl. In a separate bowl combine the breadcrumbs with ¼ teaspoon salt.

Dip the fillets in the egg and then dredge in the breadcrumbs.

Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat and add the butter. Fry the fillets until they are golden brown.

Place the fillets on a paper towel. Transfer the fish to a serving plate and drizzle with the lemon sauce.

Norwegian Lemon Butter Sauce (Sandefjords Mor)

Ingredients

1 lemon, juiced
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes
Salt to taste
Cayenne pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley

Directions

Place the lemon juice in a small saucepan over medium heat; bring to a simmer. Add cream; whisk to combine. Continue to cook until the cream reduces and is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 5 or 6 minutes. Reduce heat to low.
Whisk in a few pieces of cold butter, stirring until the butter melts before adding more. Continue adding the butter a few pieces at a time until all the butter is emulsified into the cream. Add salt, cayenne pepper, and chopped parsley. Whisk until well blended. Keep sauce warm until ready to use.

Sour Cream-Chive Mashed Carrots & Parsnips

Norway has a long history with root vegetables. They are grown in many parts of the country and can generally be easily stored. Norwegians have favorites – like rutabaga, carrots, and potatoes – but more and more, others are being used more frequently in cooking, such as turnips, parsnips, and beets.

Ingredients

8 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces (4 cups)
2-3 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces (2 cups)
1/3 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives, divided
2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground pepper

Directions

Place carrots and parsnips in a large saucepan. Add water to cover and bring to a boil. Boil until very tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Drain well and return to the pan.

Use a potato masher or ricer to finely mash the vegetables. Add sour cream, 2 tablespoons chives, milk, butter, salt, and pepper. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring until heated through. Transfer to a serving bowl. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of chives.

Green Beans with Dill Vinaigrette

Ingredients

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1 pound green beans

Directions

Stir together the vinegar, mustard, and salt in a small bowl until the ingredients are combined and the salt has dissolved. Whisking constantly, slowly pour in the oil and continue to whisk until emulsified. Gently stir in chopped dill and set aside.
Steam green beans until tender. Drain. Arrange green beans in a serving dish and season with a little bit of salt. Pour the dill dressing over the green beans. Mix well and leave at room temperature until serving time.

Rhubarb Rolls

For the bottom layer

1/4 cup cold unsalted butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 cups chopped rhubarb (fresh or frozen and thawed)

For the top layer

1/3 cup softened butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
1/2 cup heavy cream

For the bottom layer

In a large bowl mix the butter into the brown sugar with a pastry blender until crumbly. If using frozen rhubarb, dry on paper towels after draining. Stir the rhubarb into the brown sugar and butter. Divide the mixture evenly into a well greased 12 cup muffin pan. Do not use muffin papers. Set this aside.

For the top layer

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl of an electric mixer combine the butter and sugar until creamy. Add in the egg and mix until well combined.

In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg.

Once blended, add to the creamed butter mixture in small amounts alternating with the cream.

Spoon the batter mixture evenly over the rhubarb layer in the muffin cups.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until the top of the batter is golden brown.

Remove from the oven, set on a cooling rack and let cool for 5 minutes.

Place a serving dish on top of the muffin pan and flip the two over so that the bottom of the buns are right-side up.

Serve while still warm.


 

Rhubarb is technically a vegetable, but its culinary use is very much like a fruit. Traditional rhubarb has thick, green stalks while hothouse rhubarb has thinner stalks with bright red and pink colors. The brighter the color, the more tart the flavor seems to be. If you’ve ever wondered why rhubarb seems to be paired with strawberries all the time, it’s because the sweetness of the strawberries helps to balance out rhubarb’s tart flavor.

Rhubarb comes into season in April, peaks in April and May, and is available through summer. When choosing rhubarb, look for firm, crisp stalks, and shiny skins. Avoid stalks that are limp with blemishes and split ends. Look for small leaves, which indicate a younger plant, but don’t eat them — the leaves contain oxalic acid, which is toxic.

Remove the leaves from the rhubarb stalks before you store them. Don’t cut the stalks until you are ready to use them, or the rhubarb will dry out. Uncut stalks can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week when sealed in a plastic bag. If you want to cut the stalks in advance, you can freeze them in an airtight bag or container.

Cut the stalks into whatever size pieces you need for a recipe. For desserts, this is usually between 1/4-inch and 1/2-inch. Avoid cooking rhubarb in aluminum, iron, or copper pans because the acidity of the rhubarb will react with these metals, leading to discoloration of your cookware. Instead, choose pans that are made of enameled cast iron, anodized aluminum, non-stick coated aluminum, or glass.

Rhubarb is good in pies, crisps, and cobblers. We also like it mixed with strawberries.

Strawberry Rhubarb Bars

Makes 16 servings

I like baking bar recipes in a 7×11 glass baking dish because bars seem to cook more evenly. You may also use a 9-inch or an 8-inch baking pan and adjust the baking time. This recipe is easy to adapt to special diets.

Filling
2 cups diced rhubarb
2 cups chopped strawberries
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup coconut sugar, a sugar substitute for baking or regular granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 tablespoon arrowroot powder, cornstarch or 1/4 tsp xanthan gum

Crumb Crust
2 cups finely ground almond flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup coconut sugar, a sugar substitute for baking or regular granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold and diced

Directions

Make the filling first by combining the rhubarb, strawberries, water, lemon juice, sugar and ginger in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently until the mixture boils. Cook until the fruit is very soft. Remove the pot from the heat and sprinkle with the xanthan gum and whisk quickly to combine. Cool the mixture in the refrigerator while you make the crust.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and coat a 7×11 inch glass baking dish with cooking spray.

Make the filling by combining the almond flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Add butter and cut in with a pastry blender until the mixture is crumbly and the butter is cut into tiny pieces. Press half of the mixture (about 1 ½ cups) onto the bottom of the prepared baking dish and bake 15 minutes, or until the edges turn crispy and golden.

Spread the cooled filling over the baked bottom crust and sprinkle with the remaining almond flour mixture.

Press down lightly with the bottom of a measuring cup.

Bake 45 minutes, or until the topping is crispy and the filling is bubbly. Cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until well chilled before cutting into bars.

 


seasonalmarch

Looking forward to spring!

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In my area asparagus, Florida plum tomatoes, celery, artichokes, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, broccoli, arugula, spinach, beets, strawberries, raspberries and herbs are all in season. So, while I was shopping this week, I decided to take advantage of the good prices for the asparagus, artichokes and strawberries. I would have bought beets and carrots also but my friend has a great garden and he shared some of his bounty with me.

Stuffed Artichokes

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This makes a wonderful appetizer that can be prepared in advance.

2 servings

Ingredients

1 lemon, halved
2 large globe artichokes (about 12 ounces each before trimming)
1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 small shallot, minced
2 teaspoons chopped capers
1 tablespoon diced pickled pepper rings
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)
1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

Directions

To prepare the stuffing:

In a large bowl combine the breadcrumbs, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, Parmesan, chopped parsley, rosemary, garlic, peppers, capers, red pepper flakes, ¼ teaspoon salt and the pepper.

Toss and set aside.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Fill a large bowl with water and squeeze juice from the lemon halves into the water. Cut off the artichoke stems and make sure the artichokes are level so they do not tip over in the baking dish..

Use a heavy, sharp stainless knife to cut the top 1 inch off each artichoke. Pull out the pale inner leaves from center. At the bottom, where the leaves were, is a furry bed called the choke.

Use a spoon (a grapefruit spoon works well) to scoop out the choke.

Next, using kitchen shears or a pair of scissors, trim the pointed ends from outer leaves of each artichoke. Wash the artichokes well with running water. Let the water run into each leaf.

I once had an embarrassing moment when I served this dish and a guest had a fly in one of the leaves.

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Rub a lemon half over all the cut parts of the artichoke. Holding the artichokes over the bowl of stuffing, stuff the choke cavity and in between the leaves with the breadcrumb mixture.

Stand stuffed artichokes upright in a baking pan or casserole dish just large enough to fit the artichokes.and generously drizzle olive oil over the center of each artichoke.

Fill the baking dish with water until it reaches 1/4 way up the artichokes. Squeeze the lemon juice from the halves and add it to the water. Cover the pan with foil and poke several holes in the foil.

Bake artichokes for about 11/2 hours, or until tender and a knife slides easily into an artichoke and a leaf pulls out easily.

Remove from the baking dish and set on individual serving dishes.

Bucatini with Spring Vegetables

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2 servings

Ingredients

6 ounces dried bucatini pasta (thick spaghetti)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bunch asparagus
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
½ cup chopped pitted kalamata olives
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Lemon wedges (optional)

Directions

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Trim the woody ends from the asparagus. Weigh the asparagus and set aside 8 oz. Reserve the rest of the asparagus for another recipe. Cut the 8 oz of asparagus into two-inch lengths.

In a large pot cook pasta according al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water and drain. Return pasta to the pot. Add 1 tablespoon oil. Toss until well combined; set aside.

Heat a large skillet over high heat and swirl in the remaining tablespoon of oil.

Add asparagus and garlic and saute for 2 minutes or until bright green. Add cherry tomatoes,olives, basil, salt and pepper and saute for 2 minutes.

Remove pan from the heat and add the cooked pasta; toss to combine. Add enough reserved pasta water to create a sauce. To serve, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Pass with lemon wedges, if desired.

Springtime Pizza

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Serves 4

Ingredients

1 lb pizza dough
24 very thin asparagus
8 oz sliced mozzarella cheese
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 plum tomatoes, sliced thin
1 medium shallot, minced
¼ cup. pitted Kalamata olives, chopped
¼ cup fresh basil leaves, minced.
Salt & black pepper to taste

Directions

Snap off the bottom ends of the asparagus.

Mix the ricotta with the basil leaves and a little salt.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Lightly oil a pizza pan.

Stretch the dough to cover the pan and brush with oil, making sure to coat edges well. Place the mozzarella slices evenly over the dough.

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Scatter spoonfuls of ricotta over the dough and sprinkle with the shallots. Place the tomato slices over the cheese and arrange the asparagus in a spoke pattern over the tomato layer.

Sprinkle with the olives and black pepper.

Bake the pizza until browned, about 20 minutes.

Beet Salad With Blue Cheese

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Serves: 4

Ingredients

4 medium beets
1/2 cup raspberry vinegar, divided
1/4 cup honey, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, minced
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
Zest of 1 orange, minced
Half a cucumber, peeled, seeded and sliced thin
2 thin carrots, shaved
6 cups baby greens
1/2 crumbled bleu cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Remove the tops and tails from the beets.

Place the beets in an ovenproof casserole dish with 1/4 cup of the raspberry vinegar, 1 tablespoon of the honey and 1 tablespoon of oil. Add water until the liquid covers the beets halfway.

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Cover the dish and bake for about an hour (longer if beets are larger). The beets should be tender throughout when pierced with a knife.

For the dressing:

Whisk the shallots, remaining raspberry vinegar and honey and salt and pepper together in a mixing bowl. Slowly drizzle the olive oil in while whisking. Stir in the orange zest.

While the beets are still warm, peel and cut them into eighths.

Cover a serving platter with the greens. Arrange the beets, carrots and cucumber slices on a platter and scatter the bleu cheese on top. Drizzle the dressing over the salad.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

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Ingredients

2 refrigerated pie crust sheets for a double 9 inch pan, at room temperature

In large bowl combine:

2 1/2 cups hulled, sliced strawberries
2 1/2 cups of rhubarb cut into 1/2 inch pieces
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup tapioca flour, all-purpose flour or other pie thickener
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F

Mix the sugar with the pie thickener in a large mixing bowl. Add the fruit, lemon juice and salt. Stir well to combine the sugar and fruit.

Fit one pastry sheet into the pie pan and place pan on a baking sheet.

Pour the filling into the pie shell.

Place the second pastry sheet on a cutting board. With a pastry cutter the sheet into 12 even lengths.

Place 6 strips on top of the pie filling and weave the second 6 over and under the strips on the pie to create a basket weave look.

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Spray the strips with cooking spray and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake 45 to 50 minutes or until golden and the pie juice begins to bubble through the slits.

Let cool on the baking sheet (to catch drips).


celebrating-fathers-ep1-box-cover-mcbc0160517007030206-20160517153551

Father’s Day can be a great day for the whole family. Plan a family event, getting everyone in the family together for a fun day. Since the weather is warmer and the days are longer, why not celebrate Dad’s special day outdoors with a delicious family BBQ?  Of course, you will want to choose foods your Dad enjoys. The recipes I picked for this menu are easy to do and most of the preparation can be done a day before, so you have plenty of time to spend with Dad.

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Beef & Shrimp Kebabs with Italian Salsa Verde

Serves 4 – Recipe is easily doubled.

Ingredients

  • 12 large shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 1 pound filet mignon (beef tenderloin), cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 2 teaspoons steak seasoning, divided (I like Pensey’s Chicago Seasoning)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 4 wooden or metal skewers 6 inches long

Directions

Soak wooden skewers in warm water for 30 minutes before using.

Place the shrimp in one bowl and add 1 tablespoon oil. Toss. Add 3/4 teaspoon steak seasoning and toss again.

Place the beef in another bowl and add 1 tablespoon oil. Toss. Add  1 1/4 teaspoons steak seasoning and toss again.

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Thread the beef and shrimp on the skewers, alternating beef and shrimp.

Prepare an outdoor grill for moderate heat. Oil the grill grates. Place skewers on the grill and cook 6 to 8 minutes or until the steak is cooked medium rare and the shrimp turn pink, turning the skewers over once.

Italian Salsa Verde

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons capers, chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper

Directions

To prepare the salsa verde: combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Set aside to let the flavors develop.

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Summer Potato Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ lbs small to medium red potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup pickle juice from the jar
  • 1/4 cup minced pickles
  • 2 celery stalks, finely diced
  • ½ cup finely diced sweet onion
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley

Directions

Place the potatoes and 1 tablespoon salt in a large pot of water.

Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until the potatoes are barely tender when pierced with a knife. Drain the potatoes.

When cool enough to handle, peel the potatoes and cut them into thick slices. Place in a bowl and pour the pickle juice over the warm potatoes and let sit for one hour.

Add the pickles, celery, onion and mayonnaise. Mix well. Add salt if necessary. Add the parsley and mix. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the salad for a few hours.

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Corn Salad

Ingredients

  • 6 ears corn, husked and cleaned
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 2 celery stalks, finely diced
  • 3 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Cut the kernels off the cobs with a sharp knife.

In a large serving bowl, toss together the uncooked corn kernals, tomatoes, onion, celery, basil, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.

Refrigerate for several hours or overnight to allow the salad to marinate. Serve chilled.

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Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Ingredients

  • Refrigerated pie crusts (or your favorite pie crust mix) for a double 9 inch pan, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • Sugar

In large bowl combine:

  • 2 1/2 cups hulled, sliced strawberries
  • 2 1/2 cups rhubarb cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup tapioca flour or other pie thickener
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Fit one pastry crust into a lightly greased 9 inch pie pan and place the pan on a baking sheet.

Add the fruit mixture and dot with the butter.

Cover with the top crust and flute the edges. Make several slits in the crust with a knife.

Brush the top crust with the milk and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake 45 to 50 minutes or until golden and the pie juice begins to bubble through the slits.

Let cool on the baking sheet (to catch the drips).


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The chart shows what is in season where I live in the south on the Gulf Coast area of the US. We are about two months ahead of the northern states in when crops mature. For example, strawberries are in season here from February until the beginning of May, while in the north, the peak season is June.

This week I am cooking what is in season and sharing the recipes with you for stuffed artichokes, spring peas, golden beets, leftover spring vegetables from the holiday week and strawberry pie. Rhubarb is available mid-April here. The veggie dishes are a little different – time to make a change in flavoring these traditional spring vegetables. We enjoyed the changes.

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Pasta with Spring Vegetables

I grow so much basil during the summer that I have pesto sauce in the freezer all winter long. I had small amounts of vegetables left from the meals I served during the holiday. As a frugal cook, I do not throw anything away. These leftover vegetables can add much flavor to a simple pasta dish without a lot of preparation. I served this pasta with grilled shrimp.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz pasta
  • 1/4 cup homemade or store-bought  basil pesto
  • 2-3 tablespoons cream or half & half
  • 1 cup cooked leftover spring vegetables (carrots, zucchini, asparagus, cherry tomatoes, peas, broccoli)
  • 1 /2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Freshly cracked black pepper

Directions

Cook pasta al dente according to package directions. Drain.

In a medium skillet, combine the pesto with enough cream to thin out the sauce. Add the leftover vegetables and warm over low heat.

Add the cooked pasta and stir until combined. Cover the skillet and heat on low until the mixture is hot. Add cheese and black pepper. Toss and serve.

peasalad

Spring Pea Salad

This salad goes well with BBQ meat or roasted salmon.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 an orange, peeled and fruit segments diced
  • 1/4 of a fennel bulb, chopped fine
  • 1/4 cup minced red onion
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 pound green peas, blanched (if fresh) or thawed (if frozen)
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

Directions

In a medium serving bowl, combine the orange juice, oil, oregano, salt and pepper.

Add the red onion, peas, fennel and oranges and toss gently. Let marinate for an hour and serve at room temperature.

artichokes

Stuffed Artichokes

Ingredients

  • 2 large artichokes, cleaned
  • 1 lemon, cut in half
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 Italian sausage link, casing removed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup Italian seasoned dry bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (chili)
  • 1/4 cup marinara (tomato) sauce
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Directions

Place cleaned artichokes, cut sides down, in a bowl with the water. Squeeze one half of the lemon over the artichokes and place the squeezed lemon half in the bowl.

Thinly slice the other half of the lemon and set aside.

While the artichokes are soaking, prepare the stuffing:

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium skillet. Add the sausage and cook until brown, breaking up the sausage meat with a wooden spoon until crumbly.

Add the minced garlic and marinara sauce and saute for about 30 seconds. Add the bread crumbs and red pepper flakes. Stir for 1 minute while the bread crumbs absorb the sauce.

Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese and parsley.

Take the artichokes out of the water bath and drain.

Spread the leaves of the artichokes open and fill each with the stuffing mixture.

Place the artichokes in a deep pot with water 1/4 of the way up the side of the pot. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt to the water and drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon oil over the artichokes.

Place the lemon slices on top of the artichokes.

Cover the pot and bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook on low for 45 minutes or until tender. (The size of the artichoke will vary the cooking time).

Remove from the heat and serve hot or at room temperature.

goldenbeets

Golden Beets in Walnut Sauce

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 golden beets, trimmed of greens
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves, for garnish

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Wash beets well. While still wet, wrap them individually in foil and place the packages on a cookie sheet or roasting pan. Bake the beets, undisturbed, for 60 to 90 minutes, or until a thin-bladed knife pierces each with little resistance. (They may cook at different rates; remove each one when it is done.)

Place oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. When it is warm, add the garlic and cook until it begins to soften. Add walnuts and continue to cook until they begin to color, about another 2 minutes. Add the orange juice and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

After the beets have cooled, peel off the skins. Thinly slice the beets and arrange them in a serving dish. Pour the walnut sauce over the sliced beets and garnish with parsley.

strawberry rhubarb

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Until rhubarb is in season where you live, you can make the pie with all strawberries.

My family’s favorite pie.

  • Two 9 inch refrigerated pie crusts or you favorite pie crust, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • Granulated sugar for the topping

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

In large bowl combine:

  • 2 1/2 cups hulled, sliced strawberries
  • 2 1/2 cups of rhubarb cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup tapioca flour or other thickener
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest

Fit one pastry sheet into a 9 inch pie pan and place the pan on a baking sheet.

Add the fruit mixture and dot with the butter.

Cut the top crust into 10 even strips on a floured board. Place the strips on top of the fruit and weave them to form a lattice top.

Brush the top crust with 1 tablespoon of milk and sprinkle with granulated sugar.

Bake 45 to 50 minutes or until golden and the pie juice begins to bubble through the slits.

Let the pie cool on the baking sheet (to catch drips).


SICILY — SPRING MORNING by Leonid Afremov

SICILY — SPRING MORNING by Leonid Afremov

Make some healthy, delicious spring desserts with in-season ingredients like lemon, berries, rhubarb, cherries and herbs. A great way to celebrate spring.

These desserts can fit any occasion, whether you are entertaining guests or as a delicious ending to a family dinner.

Olive Oil Cornmeal Cake with Strawberry Sauce

springdesserts1

Ingredients

  • 1 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons finely snipped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon coarse sugar or sparkling sugar
  • Strawberry Sauce, (recipe below)
  • Fresh basil leaves and/or fresh strawberries

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease and flour an 8 x 1-1/2-inch round cake pan; set aside.

In a medium bowl stir together flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl whisk together eggs, granulated sugar, milk and olive oil. Using a wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture and snipped basil until combined.

Pour batter into prepared cake pan, spreading evenly. Sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Bake about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool cake in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes.

Remove cake from the pan. Turn cake, sugar side up. Cool completely on a wire rack.

To serve, cut cake into wedges. Serve with Strawberry Sauce and garnish with fresh basil leaves and/or fresh strawberries.

Strawberry Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of fresh strawberries, hulled
  • 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoons of white balsamic vinegar

Directions

In a blender or food processor, combine strawberries, sugar and 1 tablespoon of the white balsamic vinegar. Cover and blend or process until smooth.

If desired, stir in additional white balsamic vinegar to taste. Cover and chill for up to 24 hours. Stir before serving.

Rosemary and Lemon Cupcakes

springdesserts2

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ¾ cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons lemon extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons finely shredded lemon peel
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Lemon Glaze (recipe below)

Directions

Let butter and eggs stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Line fifteen 2-1/2-inch muffin cups with paper bake cups; set aside.

In a medium bowl combine cake flour, rosemary, baking powder and salt; set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter on medium-high for 30 seconds. Add granulated sugar, lemon extract and vanilla. Beat on medium-high for 2 minutes until light and fluffy, scraping bowl.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Alternately add flour mixture and milk to the butter mixture; beat on low after each addition, just until combined. Stir in the lemon peel and lemon juice.

Spoon batter into prepared cups to three-fourths full.

Bake 22 to 25 minutes, until a wooden pick inserted in centers comes out clean.

(Bake 36 mini cakes 15 to 18 minutes; 6 jumbo cakes 25 to 30 minutes.) Cool in the muffin pan on a rack 5 minutes. Remove muffins from the pan; cool completely.

Spoon Lemon Glaze on cupcakes. Let stand 10 minutes. Makes 15 (2-1/2-inch) cupcakes.

Lemon Glaze

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of powdered sugar
  • 5 teaspoons of lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon of finely shredded lemon peel

Directions

In a small bowl combine powdered sugar and enough of the lemon juice to reach spreading consistency. Stir in lemon peel.

Cherries Poached in Red Wine with Mascarpone Cream

springdesserts3

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups red wine
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1-by-3-inch strip orange zest
  • 2 pounds sweet cherries, halved and pitted
  • 1 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons honey

Directions

In a medium stainless-steel saucepan, combine the wine, sugar and orange zest. Bring to a simmer over moderately high heat. Add the cherries and bring back to a simmer. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the cherries are just tender, about 5 minutes. Pour into a glass or stainless-steel serving bowl.

In a small bowl, combine the mascarpone with the honey. Remove the strip of orange zest from the cherries. Serve the warm cherries and syrup in bowls or stemmed glasses, topped with a large dollop of the mascarpone cream.

Blueberry-Lemon Shortcakes

springdesserts4

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons cold butter, cut up
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons fat-free milk
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons plain fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons finely shredded lemon peel
  • 1 recipe Honey-Yogurt Cream (below)
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 tablespoon honey

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large bowl stir together flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in center of the flour mixture; set aside.

In a small bowl beat egg lightly with a fork. Stir in milk, 2 tablespoons of the honey, 2 tablespoons yogurt and the lemon peel. Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened.

Using a large spoon, drop dough into 8 mounds onto a parchment-lined or lightly greased baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden. Transfer shortcakes to a wire rack; let cool.

To serve, split the shortcakes in half horizontally. Place bottom halves on serving plates. Evenly top bottom halves with the Honey-Yogurt Cream and blueberries.

Top with shortcake tops and drizzle evenly with the remaining 1 tablespoon honey. Serve immediately.

Honey-Yogurt Cream

Ingredients

  • 1 ounce of plain fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 1/2 cup of whipped cream

Directions

In a medium bowl stir together yogurt and honey. Fold in whipped cream.

Rhubarb Buckle

Buckle Is a type of cake made in a single layer with fresh fruit added to the batter. The topping is similar to a streusel, which gives it a buckled or crumpled appearance.

springdesserts5

For the cake

  • Vegetable-oil cooking spray, for cake pans
  • 1 pound plus 10 ounces rhubarb, trimmed and cut 1/2 inch thick on the bias
  • 2 cups sugar, divided
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

For the crumb topping

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup light-brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted

Directions

Make the cake:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, with the oven rack in the center position.

Coat two 9-inch square cake pans with cooking spray and line them with parchment, leaving an overhang on 2 sides.

Stir together rhubarb and 1 cup sugar; set aside to macerate.

Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.

Beat together butter, remaining 1 cup of sugar and the lemon zest until light and fluffy.

Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, then beat in vanilla. Beat in flour mixture in 2 additions, alternating with the sour cream, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.

Make the crumb topping:

Stir together flour, brown sugar and salt. Add melted butter; stir to combine.

Divide batter between the pans. Top with rhubarb mixture and sprinkle with crumb topping.

Bake until golden on top and cooked through, about 1 hour 5 minutes. Let cool completely in the pans on wire racks, then lift cakes from the pans using the parchment overhangs.

Remove parchment. Before serving, cut buckle into 2-inch squares.


springproducecover
Soft, woodsy flavors and aromas are the hallmarks of spring’s earliest produce that include an assortment of mushrooms, bright green asparagus and artichokes.

Savor the peak of asparagus season by roasting fresh, green spears to enhance their flavor and provide for a more tender texture.

Step away from the strong flavors of winter, like garlic and onions, and explore some milder flavoring ingredients, such as shallots and green onions (spring onions).

Leafy herbs become widely available in spring and are great on everything.

Radishes are root vegetables with a distinctive flavor that range from mild to sharp, depending on the variety. To choose the best, pick radishes that are deep in color with solid roots.

All types of leafy greens and lettuces begin to bloom in the spring. With temperatures warming, it is time to replace stews and casseroles with salads at the dinner table.

Although rhubarb is often used as a fruit in sweet pies and jams, rhubarb is actually a vegetable. You can find rhubarb in a range of colors, from green to bright pink and everything in between (color doesn’t indicate ripeness) in the market until June.

Strawberries are at their peak in the spring. Be sure to purchase firm red berries with no soft or mushy spots. Store in the refrigerator, but keep them dry. Don’t wash until ready to eat and serve at room temperature.

springproduce3

Grilled Artichokes with Dipping Sauce

Ingredients

  • 4 medium artichokes
  • 1 lemon
  • Olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce or chili sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1  teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Directions

Cut 1/2 inch off the top of each artichoke. Cut each in half vertically and, using scissors, trim the pointy ends off the leaves. Carefully cut out the fuzzy choke in the center and discard.

Rub the artichokes all over with lemon. Fill a large pot with water and fit with a steaming rack. Place the artichokes on a rack and steam until they are tender and easily pierced with a fork, about 30 minutes. Set aside to cool for 15 minutes.

Preheat an outdoor or indoor grill to high heat.

For the sauce: In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, hot sauce and  honey. Sir well. Set aside.

Brush the cut side of each artichoke with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Grill artichokes, cut side down, until evenly charred, 4 to 5 minutes.

Serve hot with the dipping sauce.

springproduce5

Vegetable and Fruit Spring Salad

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh strawberries
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh tarragon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 8 ounces fresh green beans, trimmed
  • 8 ounces fresh sugar snap peas, trimmed
  • 4 ounces radishes, sliced in thin rounds (about 1 cup)
  • 1 cup sliced or quartered strawberries

Directions

For the dressing: Combine vinegar, oil, chopped strawberries, sugar, tarragon, salt and pepper in a screw top jar. Cover; shake until combined. Set aside.

In a large pot cook green beans and peas in boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain; rinse with cold water. In a large bowl toss cooked beans and peas with dressing. Cover; chill for 30 minutes or up to 4 hours. Stir in radishes and sliced strawberries before serving.

springproduce2

Roasted Asparagus and Wild Mushrooms

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound assorted fresh mushrooms (such as crimini, oyster, chanterelles, morels, stemmed shiitakes), sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 1/2 pounds medium thick asparagus, tough ends trimmed
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 475°F.

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and garlic, sauté until mushrooms are brown and just tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Add lemon juice and parsley, toss to coat. Set aside.

Arrange asparagus on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Roast asparagus until just tender, about 10 minutes. Arrange asparagus on a serving platter and top with mushrooms.

springproduce1

Penne Primavera with Salmon

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces salmon, cut into 2 portions
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt or coarse sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 12 ounces whole wheat penne
  • 1 bunch thin asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 1 cup halved grape tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup crème fraîche
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill

Directions

Preheat oven to 450°F. Brush both sides of the salmon with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place skin-side down on a small baking sheet and roast until salmon is just lightly pink in the center, 8 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add penne and cook until al dente, about 13 minutes, adding asparagus and peas in the last 2 minutes of cooking. Drain pasta and vegetables and return them to the pot. Place over low heat and stir in tomatoes, crème fraîche, Parmesan and shallot. Remove and discard salmon skin; flake salmon into chunks with a fork and toss into pasta along with dill.

springproduce4

Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler

Serve with whipped cream, if desired.

For the filling:

  • 6 to 8 stalks rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 3 cups)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon salted butter
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups sliced strawberries

For the topping:

  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons salted butter, chilled
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 3/4 cup half-and-half
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest

To make filling: 

In a saucepan over medium heat, cook the rhubarb, sugar and orange zest until the rhubarb begins to soften and exude juices, about 2 minutes. Add the butter and flour and bring to a boil while stirring. Cook for about 1 minute. Add the sliced strawberries. Remove from heat and pour the fruit mixture into a deep 10-inch pie dish.

To make topping: 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Cut the butter into small pieces. With a fork or pastry cutter, cut the chilled butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Add 1/2 cup of the sugar and blend. Slowly add the half-and-half with a fork. Spoon the dough over the fruit mixture in the pie dish. Mix together the 2 tablespoons sugar and the orange zest, and sprinkle it over the top. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool slightly and serve with or without whipped cream. Serves 6.


springcover

As the morning dawns, there are some of you who are thinking, spring will never come after, not after all the snow and ice that has fallen in the past few days. The first official day of spring is March 20th, but the promise of warmer weather and brighter days occur all month-long. Go outside and hunt for signs of spring to boost your mood. Here are some “spring things” to look and listen for: budding trees and flowers, crocuses, daffodils, newly arriving bird species, nest-building, caterpillars, ducks flying overhead, rainy days, worms on the sidewalk, baby animals, people cleaning their yards, forsythia, magnolias, windy days, songbirds singing, blooming fruit trees and butterflies.

Spring fruits and vegetables are beginning to appear in my market and soon they will be in yours, so here are a few dinner ideas to get you started.

What spring foods are you most looking forward to?

spring1

Cherry Tomato and Prosciutto Focaccia

Serve with Spring Onion Soup (recipe below)

8  servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb pizza dough, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 pounds cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups baby arugula
  • 8 ounces  mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, cut or torn lengthwise into 1/2-inch strips
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, sliced into ribbons

Directions

Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Roll and stretch dough into a large rimmed baking sheet, at least 15 x 10 x 1 inches. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and bake for 14 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and set aside. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F.

While dough is baking, mix together tomatoes, shallot, garlic, vinegar, salt and pepper in a medium-size bowl. Spread tomatoes in an even layer in a rimmed baking sheet and roast at 325 degrees F for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and gently stir in arugula.

Sprinkle 1 cup of the mozzarella over the dough and scatter tomato mixture over the top using a slotted spoon. Distribute prosciutto slices over tomatoes. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella over the top and bake at 325 degrees F for 15 minutes. Cool on wire rack 5 minutes, then sprinkle with basil.

spring3

Spring Onion Soup

Serves 8

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 bunches scallions—white and tender green parts cut into 1-inch lengths, green tops thinly sliced
  • 4 leeks, white and tender green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • Salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cups half & half
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 ounces cream cheese (1/4 cup), at room temperature

Directions

In a large pot, heat the oil. Add the white and tender green parts of the scallions, along with the leeks, fennel and onion; season with salt and white pepper.

Cook over low heat, stirring, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 15 minutes. Add the wine and boil over high heat until reduced to a few tablespoons, 12 minutes.

Add the water and half & half and bring to a simmer. Cook until the vegetables are very tender and pale green, 15 minutes.

Add the scallion green tops and cook just until softened, 2 minutes.

Working in batches, puree the soup in the pot with a hand blender or in a blender and return it to the pot. Season with salt and white pepper.

In a medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk with the cream cheese. Ladle the soup into shallow bowls, drizzle with the creamy buttermilk before  serving.

spring4

Spring Shrimp Salad

Serve with Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins (recipe below).

4 servings

Ingredient

  • 1  lemon, plus wedges for serving
  • 1 pound (16 to 20 count) large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2  green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 package (6-ounce) baby arugula
  • 2 packages (8 to 9 ounces) frozen artichoke hearts
  • 1/2  cup fresh mint leaves, chopped

Directions

From the lemon, grate 1 teaspoon peel and squeeze 1 tablespoon juice, set juice aside.

In a large bowl, toss lemon  peel, shrimp and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

In a 12-inch skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil on medium. Add onions; cook 1 minute. Add 1/8 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Cook 5 minutes or until golden, stirring. Transfer to plate.

Add shrimp to the skillet and cook 6 minutes or until opaque, turning once. Divide arugula among 4 plates; top with shrimp.

In the skillet, heat remaining oil on medium-high. Add artichokes; cook 2 minutes or until golden. Add reserved lemon juice, 1/4 cup water and 1/8 teaspoon each salt and pepper.

Cook 4 minutes or until artichokes are hot. Remove from heat. Stir in mint. Divide among plates.

spring5

Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup sliced fresh strawberries
  • 1/2 cup sliced fresh rhubarb

TOPPING:

  • 6 small fresh strawberries, halved
  • 2 teaspoons sugar

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, beat the egg, milk and oil until smooth. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.

Fold in strawberries and rhubarb.

Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups three-fourths full. Place a strawberry half, cut side down, on each. Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake at 375°F for 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from the pan to a wire rack. Serve warm. Yield: 1 dozen.

spring2

Farfalle with Peas and Mozzarella Cheese

Serve with Spring Green Salad (recipe below)

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces farfalle pasta
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen peas, do not thaw
  • 1 large red pepper, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch strips
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 bunch chives, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 4 oz mozzarella cheese, cut into small cubes

Directions

Bring a medium-size pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions, about 12 minutes, reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta water.

Add peas and red pepper to the pasta pot for last 2 minutes of pasta cooking time. Drain pasta mixture and set aside.

Meanwhile, stir together cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water; set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic, oregano and red pepper flakes and cook 1 minute. Stir in wine and bring to a boil. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in chicken broth and bring to a boil. Stir in cornstarch mixture and cook 2 minutes or until thickened. Stir in salt.

Add pasta mixture to skillet and stir together with the sauce. Stir in chives, walnuts and mozzarella cheese, adding pasta water by the tablespoonful if mixture appears dry. Serve immediately.

spring6

Spring Green Salad

Ingredients

  • 8 cups (about 1 pound) mixed spring greens (mesclun, mache, watercress, baby arugula, dandelions)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced

Directions

Wash and dry greens, place in a large bowl. Add chives and season with salt and pepper; drizzle with the olive oil. Toss well to coat.

Squeeze lemon juice over the greens and toss again. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve immediately.

spring7

Chicken and Asparagus Skillet Supper

Serve with Herbed Rice (recipe below)

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • 3 slices bacon, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 pound asparagus spears, trimmed
  • 1 small yellow summer squash, halved crosswise and cut in 1/2-inch strips
  • 4 green onions, cut in 2-inch pieces

Directions

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. In a 12-inch skillet, cook chicken and bacon over medium-high heat 12 minutes, turning to brown evenly. Carefully add broth; cover and cook 3 to 5 minutes more or until chicken is tender and no longer pink.

Meanwhile, in a microwave-safe 2-quart dish, combine asparagus, squash and 2 tablespoons water. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover with vented plastic wrap. Cook on 100% power (high) 3 to 5 minutes, until vegetables are crisp-tender, stirring once. Transfer to plates and drizzle with the vegetable cooking liquid; top with chicken, bacon and green onions.

spring8

Herbed Rice

Ingredients

  • 1 ¾ cups low sodium chicken broth or water
  • 1 cup short-grain rice
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup sliced celery
  • 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh herbs (such as basil, oregano, parsley, thyme or parsley)
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh rosemary

Directions

In a medium saucepan bring broth or water to boiling; stir in the uncooked rice. Return to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, about 15 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Remove the saucepan from the heat; let rice stand, covered, for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook and stir onion in hot oil over medium heat for 3 minutes. Add celery, mushrooms, salt and pepper. Cook and stir for 1 minute more or until vegetables are tender. Remove skillet from the heat. Stir in cooked rice, fresh herbs and rosemary just until combined.

spring9

Spring Minestrone With Chicken Meatballs

Serve with Ricotta and Roasted Tomato Crostini (recipe below)

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces ground chicken (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 6 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan, divided, plus more for garnish
  • 4 garlic cloves, 2 minced, 2 thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 1 large egg, whisked to blend
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 leek, white and pale-green parts only, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
  • 5 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup ditalini or other small pasta
  • 1 cup 1/2-inch rounds peeled carrots
  • 1 cup (packed) baby spinach
  • Chopped fresh basil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix chicken, bread crumbs, 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, 2 minced garlic cloves, chives, egg, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl.

Form into 1/2-inch-diameter meatballs (makes about 28).Cover a sheet pan with parchment paper and place the meatballs on the pan. Bake for 30 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned. Set aside.

Heat oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add leek to the pot and cook, stirring often, until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Add 2 thinly sliced garlic cloves; cook for 1 minute. Add broth and 2 cups water; bring to a boil. Stir in pasta and carrots; simmer until pasta is almost al dente, about 8 minutes. Add meatballs; simmer until pasta is al dente and the carrots are tender, about 3 minutes. Add spinach and remaining 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese; stir until spinach is wilted and Parmesan is melted. Season with salt and pepper.

Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with chopped basil and additional Parmesan.

spring0

Ricotta and Roasted Tomato Crostini

Makes 12

Ingredients

  • 12 thin slices baguette (from 1 small thin loaf)
  • 2 cups grape tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 cup ricotta
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

Directions

Heat oven to 400° F. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the tomatoes with 2 tablespoons olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.

Roast until the tomatoes are beginning to burst, 20 to 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the baguette slices on a baking sheet and brush both sides of the bread with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Bake until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes per side.

Dividing evenly, spread the ricotta on the toasted baguette slices, top with the tomato mixture and sprinkle with the thyme.


spring fruit

Now that spring has finally arrived, the focus on food shifts to lighter recipes, with fresh flavors and colors. We crave lighter main dishes and fresh salads. So there are also dessert recipes that are appropriate for spring.

Whether you’re searching for a dessert for Mother’s Day or a shower or birthday, seasonal fruits can often provide spring dessert inspiration, as these ingredients are likely to be of the highest quality because conditions are optimal for their growth. Berries, stone and tropical fruit, as well as some citrus, such as limes or Meyer lemons, can be found in the produce section or farmer’s markets. Choose one or two main ingredients to feature for a dessert that highlights the fruit’s natural flavors. For instance, a berry medley does well with little more than a dash of rum, sugar and chopped mint garnished with a little whipped cream.

Simple ingredient additions or substitutions can make spring desserts stand out. Lime gives sweet dishes more complexity, adding a tart note. Substituting refined sugar with honey or maple syrup also changes a dish’s texture and sweetness. If you have a recipe in mind but want to give it a spring touch, replacing the main ingredient with a seasonal fruit can be effective.

Presentation can substantially affect the appearance of spring desserts. Garnishing with fresh, seasonal flowers or displaying desserts on mismatched antique dishes add color, fragrance and character to your dessert presentation. Simple and sleek dishes can give a gourmet touch and pieces with elaborate designs or patterns can bring to mind homemade and comfort food. Spring colors and motifs also add seasonal flare to the presentation.

Here are some recipes for healthier springtime desserts.

Berry Ginger Shortcakes

shortcakes

Makes: 10 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 cups fresh berries (sliced strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and/or blackberries)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup refrigerated egg product or 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped
  • 1/4 cup light dairy sour cream

Directions

In a small bowl combine the berries and the crystallized ginger. Set aside.
Heat oven 425 degrees F.

For the shortcakes:

In a medium bowl stir together flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Combine buttermilk and egg. Add to the flour mixture all at once, stirring just until mixture is moistened.

Lightly coat a baking sheet with cooking spray; set aside. On a lightly floured surface pat the dough to 1/2-inch thickness. Cut the dough with a floured 2-1/2-inch star-shaped or heart-shaped cookie cutter or a round biscuit cutter, rerolling scraps as necessary.

Place shortcakes on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden. Cool the shortcakes slightly on a wire rack.

To serve:

In a small bowl combine the whipped cream and sour cream. Split the shortcakes in half. Place the bottoms on dessert plates. Divide the berry mixture among the bottoms. Top each with some of the topping mixture. Replace the shortcake tops.

Almond Panna Cotta with Blueberry Sauce

panna cotta

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin (2 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 2 cups reduced-fat milk 
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 4 teaspoons Amaretto liqueur or several drops almond extract
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

For the panna cotta:

In a small saucepan, sprinkle gelatin over the cold water. Let stand for 3 minutes to soften. Cook and stir over medium heat until gelatin is dissolved. Stir in milk, 3 tablespoons sugar and the salt. Cook and stir just until milk is heated through and sugar is dissolved. Stir in Amaretto or almond extract. Pour into four 6-ounce custard cups. Cover and chill about 8 hours or until firm.

For sauce:

In another small saucepan, combine blueberries, orange juice, 1 tablespoon sugar and the cornstarch. Cook and stir over medium heat until slightly thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir for 2 minutes more. Stir in vanilla. Transfer to a small bowl. Cover and chill until ready to serve.
To serve:

Run a thin knife around the edge of each panna cotta; unmold onto individual plates; top with sauce.

Raspberry-Mint Swirl Cheesecake

Raspberry cheesecake

Ingredients

  • 5 cups plain low-fat Greek yogurt
  • 3 3/4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • 1/2 cup low-fat milk
  • 2 sprigs fresh mint
  • 1 cup fresh red raspberries
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 8 ounce package reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel), softened
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Fresh raspberries and fresh mint leaves for garnish

Raspberry Sauce

  • 2 cups fresh raspberries
  • 2 tablespoons honey

Directions
.
In a small saucepan, sprinkle 2 1/2 teaspoons of the gelatin over the milk; let stand for 5 minutes. Bruise mint sprigs by pressing with the back of a spoon; add to the saucepan. Heat and stir milk mixture over low heat just until gelatin is dissolved. Remove from heat. Cool for 15 minutes. Remove and discard mint sprigs; set aside.

For the raspberry layer:

Place the 1 cup raspberries in a food processor or blender. Cover and process or blend until smooth. Transfer raspberry puree to another small saucepan. Stir in the 3 tablespoons sugar. Sprinkle remaining 1-1/4 teaspoons gelatin over raspberry mixture; let stand for 5 minutes. Heat and stir raspberry mixture over low heat just until gelatin is dissolved. Remove from heat; cover and chill for 15 minutes.

For the cheese layer:

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Beat in Greek yogurt, the 1/3 cup sugar and the vanilla until smooth. Gradually beat in the milk/gelatin mixture.

Add 1/2 cup of the cream cheese mixture to the raspberry mixture; stir until well mixed. Set aside.

Spoon half of the white cream cheese mixture into an 8-inch springform pan. Spoon half of the raspberry mixture into mounds over the white cream cheese mixture in the pan. Using a narrow, thin-bladed metal spatula or a table knife, swirl raspberry mixture into white mixture. Repeat layering remaining white cream cheese mixture and raspberry mixture. Cover and chill for 24 hours.

For the raspberry sauce:

Place 2 cups fresh raspberries in a blender or food processor. Cover and blend or process until smooth. Press mixture through a fine mesh sieve; discard seeds. Add honey and mix well. Heat the sauce in the microwave, if you would like to serve it warm.

To serve:

Using a small sharp knife, loosen cheesecake from the side of the springform pan; remove pan side. Cut cheesecake into wedges.
Drizzle some of the Raspberry Sauce on dessert plates. Place cheesecake wedges atop sauce on plates. Garnish with fresh raspberries and fresh mint leaves.

Lemon-Thyme Cookies

lemon cookies

Ingredients

  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh thyme
  • 2 teaspoons finely shredded lemon peel
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • Coarse sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Beat the butter in a medium mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium to high-speed for 30 seconds. Add 1/4 cup granulated sugar and beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in thyme, lemon peel, lemon juice and cardamom. Add in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour with a wooden spoon. Knead until smooth; form mixture into a ball.

Divide dough into three equal portions. Roll each portion into a 6×4 inch rectangle (about 1/4 inch thick) on a lightly floured surface.

Cut dough into 1 1/2-inch squares with a scalloped-edge pastry wheel and sprinkle cutouts with coarse sugar. You can make the cookies into any size you would prefer.

Place on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until edges are just lightly brown. Transfer to wire racks and let cool.

Place cookies in layers separated by pieces of waxed paper in an airtight container; cover.

Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Makes 36 cookies.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp

crumble

Ingredients

For The Fruit:

  • 8 ounces strawberries, hulled and halved (quartered if large)
  • 8 ounces rhubarb, trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

For The Topping:

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter or healthy butter alternative (1/2 stick), melted
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon coarse salt

For The Garnish:

Fresh basil leaves and frozen vanilla yogurt

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine strawberries, rhubarb, sugar, cornstarch and salt. Transfer to a greased 8-inch baking dish.

In a medium bowl, combine oats, flour, melted butter, brown sugar and salt. Stir until combined and slightly crumbly. Sprinkle over fruit.

Bake until juices are bubbling in the center and topping is golden brown, about 45 minutes. Let cool slightly. Garnish with basil and serve with a scoop of frozen yogurt.

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farmers-market-local-produce-520

For centuries all food was farm to table. People grew most of their own food or bought it from nearby farmers. The food that they put on the table was fresh, local and literally farm to table. During the early part of the twentieth century more people moved into urban areas and, along with improved transportation and refrigeration, made it possible for foods to be transported from hundreds, even thousands, of miles away. Food was no longer picked on the farm and served within just a day or so. The longer the time between harvest and your dining room table, the more quality is lost. Nutrients and flavor dissipate quickly.

As we become more concerned with where food comes from and how it is prepared, the term “farm-to-table” has become more prominent. Farm-to-table is more of a movement than a particular cuisine. The focus is on eliminating as many steps as possible between where the food is grown and where it’s eaten. Getting food straight from the farmer cuts out the middleman – like packaging and processing plants and commercial vendors – and assures consumers that their food is fresh, nutritious and locally produced. When you buy locally produced foods, you are being more environmentally friendly, keeping business in the community and supporting the local economy.

Farm-to-table food offerings encompass any type of whole food imaginable, as long as it’s in season. This includes fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, dairy, nuts and even baked goods; just not anything processed – like a bag of potato chips or packaged chicken nuggets. A common fallacy is that the farm to table label means that the ingredients are organic. Sometimes the farmer uses organic techniques but can’t afford to meet the procedures that the government requires for the certified label. Other times the farm may use non-organic fertilizers or pesticides.

Wondering where the nearest farmers markets are to you?

The USDA launched a searchable Farmers Market Directory that includes over 6,000 locations in the United States: http://search.ams.usda.gov/farmersmarkets/default.aspx

In Canada: http://www.farmersmarketscanada.ca/ and in England: http://www.localfoods.org.uk/local-food-directory

After the long winter months of scanty crops, root vegetables and tubers, the farmers markets are reawakening and brimming with bright-colored vegetables, enticing baked goods and delicious jams that make for a full sensory experience. Strolling by the colorful stands of produce, you’ll find fresh field strawberries, crisp green beans, plump artichokes and bright green asparagus. Following are some facts about the spring produce that is emerging and some recipes on how to make use of them.

Asparagus

asparagus

Perhaps because it’s only harvested during a brief six to seven-week period between April and June, asparagus is the one vegetable we most associate with the arrival of spring.

When picking asparagus at the farmers market or at your local store, look for bundles with firm spears whose tips are closed, plump and green. Avoid dry, brownish looking spears. Once you’ve made your pick, it’s very important to store your asparagus properly to keep them fresh, as it is a rather fragile vegetable. Wash asparagus repeatedly in water until clean, pat dry, and cut off the hard stem ends. Then wrap a moist paper towel around the stems and place them in a plastic bag or container in the refrigerator. Or, even better, stand them upright in a couple of inches of cold water. If stored properly, asparagus will keep for 2 or 3 days.

Blanching

To blanch asparagus, drop whole or cut, into a large pot of simmering water and cook for 3 minutes. Then, drain and shock the asparagus by running it under cold water or putting it in an ice bath. When blanched, the texture of asparagus becomes a little softer, but it is still crisp and the color brightens.

Steaming

Steaming is the perfect cooking method for a health-conscious diet because it utilizes very little or no fat. In a large deep pot bring 1 inch of water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Fasten the asparagus stalks in a bundle with a string and place the bundle upright in the water. Cover and steam for 6 to 8 minutes or until tender. Alternatively, use a wide pan or Dutch oven, add a thin layer of water and place a single layer of asparagus at the bottom. Cover and steam.

Stir-frying

Stir-frying is a very quick cooking technique that uses relatively low amounts of fat and very high heat. The secret is to keep the food in constant motion in a wok or sauté pan. Once you’ve cut the asparagus spears in the desired shape (cutting them on a slant is typical for stir-fry dishes), blanch them, then heat a small amount of oil in the pan over high heat. Once the oil is hot enough, add the asparagus and stir constantly until tender but still crisp on the surface, about 2- 3 minutes.

Sautéing

Sautéing asparagus is fairly similar to stir-frying. While stir-frying is more often used in Asian-inspired recipes, sautéing is typical of Western cuisines. It’s the cooking method most often used to prepare asparagus as a side dish to meat or fish entrees or in sauces for pasta. With sautéing, as well as with stir-frying, it’s preferable to use blanched asparagus. In a skillet, heat oil or butter, add the asparagus and cook, tossing occasionally until tender but still firm and crispy, about 3 to 5 minutes.

healthy-for-life2

Roasted Asparagus

This is my favorite way to serve asparagus.

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Half a lemon
  • Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Preheat your oven to 400°F. Snap off the bottoms of the stalks. On a large baking sheet, toss asparagus in the olive oil with salt and pepper to taste. Roast until tender and lightly browned, about 15-20 min (depending on the thickness of the stalks). Squeeze the lemon juice over the asparagus and sprinkle with Parmesan.

Sweet Potatoes

sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes are not yams and vice-versa. They are two totally unrelated botanical species, although the roots can be similar in shape. What’s the difference? The true sweet potato is related to the morning-glory vine and is native to South America; the yam is native to Africa and Asia. All of this is especially confusing because orange-fleshed sweet potatoes have been traditionally referred to as “yams” in parts of the US. In general, true yams have a drier texture, are starchier in taste and are much lower in beta-carotene (but higher in protein) than sweet potatoes.

Sweet potatoes are number 38 out of 53 on the Environmental Working Group’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. The roots are susceptible to a number of different pests and diseases that are controlled with insecticides and fungicides, so check with your local sweet potato farmer, if you’re concerned about this.

Sweet potatoes are in season in most parts of the US from fall through spring and they come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Most are large and football shaped, with a fat middle and tapering ends, although some heirloom varieties are quite small and slender. Their skin can be russet, tan, cream, light purple or red. Sweet potato flesh is just as colorful: it may be orange (like the common Jewel sweet potato), yellow, creamy white (like the Japanese sweet potato) or even purple-magenta (as seen in the Okinawan sweet potato). Sweet potato varieties can also be divided into “dry” varieties (better for frying or boiling, because they hold their shape better) and “moist” or “baking” types. Look for sweet potatoes that are firm, with no bruises, shrivel-y spots (especially common on their tapered ends) or brown bits. Avoid sweet potatoes that have begun to sprout.

Sweet potatoes can be stored for several weeks under the right conditions: cool, dry and away from light. Don’t store them in the refrigerator, as this accelerates their decline — they don’t like to be too cold or too moist. Sweet potatoes that get too warm tend to sprout and become shriveled and mushy.

Sweet potatoes can be baked, roasted, boiled, fried, grilled, mashed or pureed. They are commonly paired with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and other warming spices, along with brown sugar or maple syrup. They also are delicious paired with oranges (juice or zest) and apples. They can be mashed and added to any number of baked goods, like muffins, biscuits and cakes. Cook sweet potatoes in their skin to retain the most nutrients. You can peel them after cooking. An enzyme in sweet potatoes that converts starch to sugar is most active between 135 – 170 degrees (Fahrenheit), so cook sweet potatoes for a longer period of time at a lower temperature to get the sweetest sweet potatoes. Baking sweet potatoes in the oven at 350 degrees or lower will achieve this.

sweet-potato-soup-sl-l

Sweet Potato Soup with Apples 

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 small, tart apple, peeled, cored and diced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 8 small sage leaves or Italian parsley
  • 3 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 ½ cups peeled, cooked sweet potatoes
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • Kosher salt
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1/4 cup sour cream or yogurt
  • Italian parsley for garnish

Directions

In a medium Dutch oven, heat the extra virgin olive oil and butter on medium-high heat until the butter is just melted. Add the onion and cook until translucent (but not browned), about 5 minutes. Add the diced apple, carrot, celery and sage and cook and stir for another 2-3 minutes. Add the chicken or vegetable stock. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, then turn the heat to low. Simmer until the carrots and celery are tender, about 15 minutes. Add the cooked sweet potatoes, cayenne, nutmeg and salt to taste. Stir to combine.  Puree the soup in batches with an immersion blender or food processor. Stir in the lemon juice to taste and swirl a tablespoon of sour cream or yogurt on top of the soup. Garnish with parsley.

Kohlrabi

kohlrabi (1)

Kohlrabi is a member of a group of vegetables that include kale, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, cauliflower, turnips, radishes, horseradish, mustard, arugula and rapeseed. The kohlrabi “root” is actually the swollen stem of the plant that grows above ground, topped by leaves resembling kale or collards. Fast growing and easy to cultivate, kohlrabi is becoming more popular in the US, but its strongest foothold is in Germany, Eastern Europe and India.

Kohlrabi are susceptible to the same diseases and pests as other members of the cabbage family, so pesticides to control fungi and insects may be applied. If you are concerned, the best thing to do is ask your local kohlrabi farmer about his or her growing practices.

Kohlrabi are available in most US markets from late spring through late autumn. In many areas, the vegetable can only be found at farmers’ markets, CSAs and smaller grocery stores (like food co-ops). Kohlrabi prefers cooler weather, so summer-harvested kohlrabi may be woodier than those grown in the spring and fall. In warmer climates, kohlrabi may be available in the winter and may even have two growing seasons. The kohlrabi bulb should be firm with no spongy bits and no visible brown spots. If leaves are still attached, they should be firm, green and free of wilt or mold. Younger kohlrabi are more tender and you can differentiate between young and old primarily by size — younger kohlrabi are smaller, usually between 2-3 inches in diameter. Kohlrabi should be spherical in shape; stay away from kohlrabi that are tapered, as they also tend to be woodier.

Kohlrabi will keep in your refrigerator’s veggie drawer for several weeks. Note that the bulbs tend to become woodier the longer you store them. Remove the leaves before storing. The biggest barrier to frequent kohlrabi consumption is peeling the bulb. The little knobbly bits make using a vegetable peeler virtually impossible, so you’ll have to use a paring knife to get the skin off. The bulb can be quartered and roasted like potatoes, pureed, steamed, grilled or simply thinly sliced raw and tossed with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Kohlrabi also makes a delicious slaw, grated or cut into thin matchsticks.

slaw

Apple and Kohlrabi Slaw 

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 tart apples, cored and grated or julienned on a mandolin
  • 4 small kohlrabi, peeled and grated or julienned on a mandolin
  • 2 shallots, diced (or 1/2 an onion)
  • 4 tablespoons Italian parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all of the above together and chill in the refrigerator until serving time.

Rhubarb

DSCI0013.JPG

A relative of buckwheat, rhubarb is native to Siberia, and it grows best outdoors in similar climes such as northern Michigan, Washington state, Ontario and Yorkshire in the north of England. Rhubarb can only be harvested several years after planting, as it needs time to develop an appropriate root system. While not as popular as it was in the first half of the 20th century, rhubarb is receiving renewed interest in the U.S. as a local, seasonal plant.

Rhubarb is typically harvested in early spring while the plant is at its maximum flavor. Choose medium-sized ruby colored stalks that are firm and crisp. Greener stalks are usually a sign of sourness, while a thick stalk will be stringy. Rhubarb keeps for about a week wrapped in the refrigerator. Rhubarb freezes very well, so stock up during the spring season. I cut the stalks into one inch pieces and freeze 2 cups per ziplock freezer bag. Frozen rhubarb is great for making a fruit pie.

Just like celery, rhubarb has strings. To remove, use a paring knife. The strings will likely break down during cooking, but cooked rhubarb has a smoother texture without them. An easy way to cook rhubarb is to slice the stalk into inch-long chunks, remove all leaves, add sugar and boil until tender, adding a little bit of lemon zest to the mix. As rhubarb is quite sour, it pairs well with foods and ingredients that balance out the acidity. This sauce is good served over ice cream or frozen yogurt.

crumble

Rhubarb Crumble

Combine 1 cup flour, 1/3 cup oats, 3/4 cup sugar and a pinch of salt in a bowl.

Stir in 6 tablespoons melted butter and 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts; with your fingers squeeze into large crumbles and place in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Mix 2 pounds chopped rhubarb, 1/3 cup sugar, 1/4 cup flour, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/2 teaspoon orange zest and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a 8-by-8-inch glass or ceramic baking dish.

Scatter the crumbles on top and bake in a preheated 375 degrees F oven until golden and bubbly, about 45 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Strawberries

strawberries

Locally grown strawberries are available only from Spring to the middle of Summer. Look for glossy fruit without visibly bruising, softness or moldy spots. Strawberries range in size from tiny wild-like, or alpine, varieties, to the fairly enormous Tri-Star type. The berries start out white on the plant, so look for strawberries that are deeply red colored without traces of white at the stem. Strawberries are labor-intensive to cultivate and are susceptible to a variety of diseases and pests. The seedlings must be planted by hand and the berries are still harvested by hand, even in large industrial operations.

Strawberries rank a super high number 3 out of 53  on the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Guide. The EWG recommends buying organic due to the high pesticide use in conventionally grown strawberries. Unfortunately, the pesticides used in conventional strawberry production are some of the very worst – including methyl bromide, which sterilizes the soil and acts as an insecticide. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), methyl bromide is categorized as a “powerful ozone depleting substance.” It was “phased out” in 2005 in the US’s attempt to comply with the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, but the US lobbied for — and won — “exemptions” that include strawberry production, both for seedlings and fruit. In addition to its effects on the ozone layer, methyl bromide is a highly toxic pesticide that can cause neurological, lung and kidney damage and an increased risk of prostate cancer. And it’s not just methyl bromide — a variety of other pesticides are also used in conventional strawberry production. The environmental and health-related impacts of conventional strawberry growing are high, so if you are concerned with these issues, look for locally grown strawberries and ask your local farmer about his or her production methods.

Fresh strawberries deteriorate fairly quickly after purchase. You can keep strawberries fresh by waiting to wash them until just before eating and by storing them in the refrigerator in a paper-towel lined basket or bowl without a cover.

Strawberries are a versatile fruit and perform well under a multitude of cooking methods — they can be roasted (try tossing with a tiny bit of sugar, roast just until caramelized and drizzle with good balsamic vinegar), stewed, baked into a pie, made into jam, churned into ice cream or frozen into an icy sorbet. But strawberries really shine when eaten raw, either completely unadorned or sliced and tossed with a little sugar, orange juice, red wine or balsamic vinegar.

jam

Quick Refrigerator Strawberry Jam

Unlike other jam recipes, refrigerator jams don’t require canning equipment or techniques. The sugar and acid in the jam preserves the fruit, although refrigerator jam keeps for far less time than classic strawberry preserves — only about 2 weeks in the refrigerator. This jam will also be a bit looser than regular strawberry jam, as there is no pectin (a thickening agent commonly used in canning) involved. Adjusting the amount of sugar will also affect the looseness of the jam (more sugar equals less liquid).

Makes about 1 1/2 pints

Ingredients

  • 1 quart ripe, organic strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 3/4 to 1 cup granulated sugar, depending on the sweetness of the berries
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Directions

Place a small plate in the freezer.

Combine the strawberries, sugar and lemon juice in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring the strawberry mixture to a rolling boil, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon and mashing the strawberries slightly. Turn down the heat to medium-low and simmer for approximately 10 minutes.

Put about a teaspoon of jam mixture on the cold plate from the freezer and swirl it around on the plate. If the jam runs, cook for 2-5 minutes longer and repeat the process. (The jam should firm up when it hits the cold plate and should no longer run.)

Transfer to clean glass jars and cool. When completely cool, cover and refrigerate.

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