No reservations needed for this dinner! Sometimes it is just nice to have a special dinner with your partner in your own home. I try to have this special kind of evening every once in a while. Come up with a menu that is elegant but easy to make and the evening will be memorable. The salad and main dish recipes below are easy and come together quickly. The dessert takes a bit longer but eclairs and cream puffs are not difficult to make. You can certainly make anything you like for dessert, as long as it is special to you. Keep romance alive.
Blue Cheese and Dried Cranberry Tossed Salad
1 hearts of romaine lettuce, chopped
1/4 of a cucumber, sliced
1/4 of a red onion, sliced thin
1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup crumbled bleu cheese
3 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste
For the dressing: Whisk vinegar and honey in a small bowl until blended. Whisking continuously, slowly add oil. Season with salt and pepper.
Layer the romaine lettuce with the cucumber, onion, almonds, cranberries and bleu cheese on two individual salad plates. Dress the salad with the vinaigrette just before serving.
Filet Mignon with Leek Sauce
2 Filet Mignon steaks, about 7 oz each and 2 inches thick
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1 large leek, finely chopped white and light green sections of the leek
1/4 cup red wine (such as Cabernet)
1 tablespoon capers
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Preheat the grill or broiler. Lightly oil the grill rack or broiler pan. Rub the steaks with the salt, then press the pepper into both sides of the steaks.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and cook the leeks for 6 minutes, or until very soft. Add the wine, capers and tarragon.
Simmer for 3 minutes, or until well blended and heated through. Keep warm.
Grill or broil the steaks about 5-6 minutes on each side or until a meat thermometer inserted in the center registers 135°F for medium-rare. Place the steaks on individual serving plates.
Top with the leek sauce and sprinkle with parsley.
Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes
1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
1/4 – 1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook for 15 minutes, or until tender. Drain and place in a large bowl.
Mash the potatoes, adding the buttermilk until moist. Add the chives, cover and keep warm.
Chocolate Filled Eclairs
Makes 12 medium-sized eclairs
3/4 cup water
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
Heat the oven to 425 degrees F; line a baking sheet with parchment paper or use an eclair pan.
Put the butter in a saucepan with the salt and water; bring it to a boil over medium-high heat and stir until the butter is melted.
Reduce the heat to medium and add the flour; continue to cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture pulls away from sides of the pan and forms a ball, about 30 seconds.
Remove the pan from the heat and let cool for 3 to 4 minutes.
Add the eggs to the slightly cooled flour mixture one at a time, beating well with the wooden spoon after each addition — the batter will come apart after each egg is added but will reunite as you stir.
Mound dough about 1 inch high and 1 to 2 inches in diameter on the prepared baking sheet, leaving about an inch of space between each one. If using an eclair pan simply fill the indentations.
Bake until puffed and golden, about 25 minutes. Remove the puffs from the oven and pierce the bottom of each puff once with a skewer, to keep them from getting soggy.
Return to the oven; prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon and let the puffs crisp up for about 5 minutes. Cool on a rack.
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 tablespoons powdered sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
Place cream, vanilla extract, sugar and cocoa powder into a large bowl. Stir to combine the ingredients. Cover and chill the bowl and the beaters for at least 30 minutes.
When chilled, beat until stiff peaks form.
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a double boiler over hot, but not boiling water, combine the chocolate chips, butter and corn syrup. Stir until the chips are melted and the mixture is smooth; then add the vanilla.
To assemble the éclairs:
Cut the eclairs in half lengthwise. Pipe or spoon the filling into the pastries, then dip the tops of each one into the glaze.
For best results, serve immediately or refrigerate and serve within several hours.
Note: Puffs can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days; freeze unfilled eclairs for longer storage. If the eclairs soften in storage, they can be crisped up in the oven before filling and serving. To re-crisp; bake uncovered in a 300°F for about 5 to 8 minutes. Cool completely before filling.
How many folks still hold with tradition and have “Sunday Dinner”? Growing up in my house, a big dinner with family members occurred every week. Family time and lots of good food are Italian American traditions. Once I was married and had children, we didn’t always live near family members. I think this is a common factor today. As a small family we always had dinner together, weeknights and weekends, but they were not the typical big feasts of old. Sunday meals were not much different from weeknight meals, usually. I thought this week I would make a traditional Sunday dinner featuring seasonal ingredients and a roast – a pork roast. The only thing missing from this dinner is the first course pasta dish that we always had in the old days.
Herb-Crusted Pork Roast
One 3 pound top loin, bone-in pork roast, fat trimmed
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tablespoon coarse or kosher salt
¼ cup minced herbs (I used sage, rosemary, tarragon, oregano and basil)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup dry white wine
Freshly ground black pepper
Pat the pork loin dry with paper towels. Place the roast on a platter or in a baking dish. Rub the roast with the olive oil and press the herbs and salt onto all the sides of the roast.
Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (up to 24 hours). Bring to room temperature for 1 hour before roasting.
Preheat the oven to 450°F.
Place the roast on a rack that has been placed inside a roasting pan and cook for 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, turn the roast over and baste with 1/4 cup of the wine.
Return the roast to the oven and reduce the temperature to 325°F. Cook for 60-75 minutes longer, turning the roast and basting it with wine every 20 minutes; reserve 1/4 cup of wine for the sauce.
Check the roast after it has been cooking for 60 minutes. Place a meat thermometer in the roast to determine if it has reached 150 -155 degrees F.
If not, continue cooking until the temperature is reached.
Transfer the roast to a platter and pour the pan juices into a measuring cup.
Place the roasting pan over moderate heat on the stove-top; when it starts to sizzle, add the reserved 1/4 cup wine and cook for 2 minutes, scraping up the drippings from the bottom of the pan.
Add to the pan juices in the measuring cup; let the fat rise to the surface, about 5 minutes. Skim off the fat and season the sauce with black pepper.
Carve the roast into thin slices and arrange the meat on a platter. Serve the pan juices on the side.
Roasted Butternut Squash Puree
I prefer to cook the squash whole. Uncooked butternut squash is a difficult to cut through, however, after baking, it is very easy.
This recipe makes about 2 1/2 cups.
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Wash a 2 to 2 1/2 pound butternut squash and place it on a parchment lined baking sheet.
Bake for about 90 minutes or until soft all over, turning the squash halfway through the baking time.
Cool slightly and cut the squash in half and remove the seeds. With a spoon, scoop the flesh into a bowl and mash the squash.
Stir in 2 tablespoons butter, 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, salt and black pepper to taste.
You can make this early in the day or the day before. Reheat before serving.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 celery stalk including the leaves at the top, finely chopped
10 ounce package of frozen peas (or 2 cups fresh peas)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat; add the onions and cook until tender. Add celery and peas.
Cook until peas are heated through (about 6 minutes). Stir in salt and pepper and serve.
Apple Rosemary Tart
One 9 inch refrigerated pie crust, at room temperature
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 pounds baking apples, such as Granny Smith or Golden Delicious
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary (do not substitute dried) or 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
2 teaspoons confectioners’ sugar
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
In a small bowl, combine the flour with 1 tablespoon of the brown sugar; reserve.
Peel and core the apples. Slice them into ¼ inch-thick slices. (You should have about 3 cups.)
Place the apples in a bowl and toss them with the lemon juice, the remaining 3 tablespoons brown sugar and the rosemary or cinnamon.
Place the dough on a parchment lined baking sheet and sprinkle the reserved flour/sugar mixture evenly over it, leaving a 2-inch border uncovered.
Arrange the apples evenly over the flour mixture. Fold the edges of the dough over the apples. Moisten your fingers lightly with water and gently press the creases so that they hold together.
Dot the apples with the butter.
Bake the tart for about 40 minutes, until the crust is golden brown, the apples are tender and the juices syrupy.
Cover the tart with foil halfway through the cooking time, if the crust is browning too rapidly. Let cool for 10 minutes, then slide the tart onto a serving platter.
Just before serving, sift the confectioners’ sugar evenly over the crust.
February is not quite spring and the market selections still look like winter in most areas of the US, unless you like to buy produce from South America. However, that is not eating what is is season. So still plentiful are winter squashes, celery, leeks, fennel, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, citrus fruit and apples. Since I live in the south, spring vegetables are starting to appear but I try to keep in mind what most readers can find seasonally at this time of the year. Here are some recipes for what you can cook with these seasonal ingredients.
Stuffed Acorn Squash
To make this dish into a main entrée add a 1/2 cup cooked rice or quinoa to the filling ingredients before the second baking. This makes a great side dish for pork chops.
1 large acorn squash, halved and seeds removed
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 cup fresh or frozen and thawed cranberries
1/4 cup pecans
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Coat a shallow baking dish with olive oil and place the squash halves in the baking dish, cut side down. Place the squash in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.
Remove the baking dish from the oven and turn the squash halves upright and sprinkle with the salt and pepper.
Drizzle the maple syrup over the squash and divide the cranberries and pecans equally and fill the squash. Add 1/2 an inch of water to the baking dish and cover tightly with foil
Return the squash to the oven and bake for 50 minutes more or until tender.
Easy Skillet Potatoes
This side dish goes well with just about everything. I like to make extra because I can use the leftover potatoes in an omelet.
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lb small new potatoes, unpeeled and thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fried Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat the butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Arrange the potato slices across the bottom of the skillet.
Cook without stirring for 5 minutes, or until the potatoes begin to brown on the bottom. Turn the potatoes over with a wide spatula and spread them out in the skillet.
Sprinkle potato slices with the garlic, dried Italian seasoning, salt and pepper to taste. Continue cooking about 5 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender and lightly brown on the bottom.
Marinated Greek Vegetable Salad
This salad is very refreshing, especially in the winter. It has great flavor and we like it served with fish.
2 celery stalks, cut on the bias
Half a cucumber, peeled, sliced into quarters and cut on the bias
Quarter of a red onion, diced
Half a green bell pepper, sliced and cut on the bias
2 plum (Roma) tomatoes, cut on the bias
8-10 Kalamata olives
¼ cup crumbled Feta cheese
2-3 tablespoons of your favorite Greek or Italian salad dressing
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
Combine all the vegetables in a serving bowl and mix. Add the olives, feta cheese and salad dressing; mix well.
Sprinkle the top of the salad with the oregano and refrigerate for several hours or until serving time.
Agrodolce is a traditional sweet and sour sauce in Italian cuisine. Its name comes from “agro” (sour) and “dolce” (sweet) and the recipe comes from the Venetian-Jewish culinary tradition. Agrodolce is made by using sour and sweet elements, traditionally vinegar and sugar. Sometimes, additional flavorings are added, such as wine, fruit (raisins) or even chocolate.
This dish goes well with grilled meats.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.
10-12 oz carrots, peeled
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
2 tablespoons minced onion
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh herbs (optional)
Cut the carrots in half crosswise, then slice into lengthwise sticks, stack the carrots on top of each other and finely slice into matchsticks or shred on the large holes of a grater.
Place the carrots, olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and 1/3 cup water in a large saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil and cook until the water has evaporated, about 7 minutes.
Stir in the onion and cook for 1 minute. Add the honey and mix. Add the vinegar, pepper and remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt and stir until there is a glaze coating the carrots, about 30 seconds.
Remove from the heat and stir in the herbs, if desired. Place in a serving dish and serve at room temperature.
Sautéed Fennel and Leek
This side dish goes well with oven roasted chicken, grilled fish or sausage.
If you want a heartier side dish, add one peeled baking potato, sliced thin, to the fennel in the skillet and cook along with the fennel before adding the remaining ingredients.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 fennel bulb, top removed cored and sliced thinly
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1 large leek, tough greens removed cleaned and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon butter
Heat the oil in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat; add the fennel (and potato slices if using), cook, stirring occasionally until translucent, about 10 minutes.
Add leeks and Italian seasoning. Season with salt and pepper to taste; cook 10 minutes more.
Stir in lemon zest and butter; adjust seasonings and serve.
A new month as turned the corner and you will start to find less of the warm weather foods and more of the items that grow well in cooler weather at your market. The produce that seemed most abundant to me at the market this week were carrots, sweet potatoes, pears, leeks and broccoli. Here are a few ideas on how to serve them.
Purchase sweet potatoes that are a uniform in size so that they cook evenly.
Scrub them under water and dry them with a paper towel.
Spray or rub them with oil.
Use a metal fork to poke a few holes in each potato. (This keeps them from exploding when they cook. Don’t do this too far ahead of baking or the fork holes will oxidize and turn dark.)
Put them on a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees F for 50-60 minutes, until soft.
Cheese: shredded cheddar/jack, crumbled feta, grated Parmesan, ricotta.
Fresh herbs and seasonings: chopped fresh basil, cilantro, oregano, chives or dill.
Meats: chili, taco meat, fajita chicken or beef, pulled pork, bacon, chopped ham, salami, mini meatballs.
Vegetables: chopped scallions or red onions; steamed broccoli, green beans, snow peas or asparagus; grilled corn; chili beans; chopped fresh tomatoes or sun-dried tomatoes; sauteed spinach, mushrooms or onions; roasted red peppers; jalapenos; thawed frozen peas; chopped avocado or guacamole; coleslaw
Sauces & dressings: salsa; barbecue sauce; gravy; nacho sauce; ranch salad dressing; peanut sauce, marinara sauce; pesto.
Sweets: brown sugar, honey, maple syrup
Toasted Nuts: sunflower seeds, pepitas, pecans, almonds, walnuts, pine nuts, peanuts.
Tuna, Pear and Gorgonzola Salad
- 1 small head Romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
- 3 pears – cored and diced
- 6 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
- 12 ounces tuna, packed in water, drained
- ½ cup peeled, grated carrots
- 1/2 cup pecan halves, toasted
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons honey
- 1 1/2 teaspoons prepared mustard
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Fresh ground black pepper to taste
For the dressing: blend the oil, vinegar, honey, mustard, garlic, salt and pepper.
In a large serving bowl, layer lettuce, pears, blue cheese, tuna, carrots and onions. Pour dressing over the salad and toss, Sprinkle with pecans and serve the salad with a slice of the carrot bread (recipe below).
Creamy Shrimp and Vegetable Pasta
I prefer to saute the vegetables separately, so that they do not overcook before adding them to the sauce.
- 8 oz short pasta, like rotini or penne
- 12 large shrimp (16-21 size)
- 1 large leek, white and light green parts, sliced thin
- 1 medium zucchini, diced
- 1 large tomato, seeded and diced
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 4 teaspoons butter, divided
- 1 cup cream
- 1 cup grated Parmesan
Put a large pot of salted water on to boil.
In a medium skillet, heat 1 teaspoon of butter, add the leeks and garlic and cook until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Remove the leeks and garlic to a bowl and set aside.
Add another teaspoon of butter to the skillet, add the diced zucchini and cook until tender, about 3-4
minutes. Remove the zucchini from the skillet and add it to the bowl with the leeks.
Add another teaspoon of butter to the skillet, add the tomatoes and cook about 2 minutes.
Remove the tomatoes from the skillet and add them to the bowl with the leeks and zucchini.
Add the remaining teaspoon of butter to the skillet, add the shrimp and saute them just until they turn pink, turning them over once, about 5 minutes. Add the cream and Italian seasoning.
Bring to a simmer. Add the cooked vegetables and heat gently.
When the water boils, cook the pasta al dente. Drain and add it to the skillet with the shrimp mixture.
Add the grated cheese and stir gently. Serve immediately
Carrot and Spice Quick Bread
Makes 1 loaf
- 1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/3 cup butter softened to room temperature
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup milk or almond milk
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon orange extract
- 1 1/2 cups shredded carrots
- 1/2 finely chopped walnuts
Combine the first 4 ingredients in a mixing bowl. Set aside.
Using a mixer, cream the butter and sugar, beating well. Beat in the milk, egg, vanilla and orange extracts.
Stir in the carrots and walnuts.
Add the reserved dry ingredients. Mix well.
Spoon the batter into 2 1/2-by-4 1/2-by-8 1/2-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray.
Bake at 375 degrees F for 50 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean.
Cool in the pan 10 minutes. Remove the bread from the pan and let cool completely on a wire rack.
All summer long, I save the bones from grilled steak and keep them in a plastic bag in the freezer. Come the fall I have plenty of bones to make a rich homemade beef stock.
The stock can be used for soup or freeze it in smaller containers to use over several months, whenever you need beef broth for a recipe.
Rich Brown Beef Stock
- 4-6 pounds beef bones
- Beef seasoning ( I use Penzey’s)
- Half a sweet onion
- Handful of celery tops
- 1 whole large carrots, halved
- 1 large bay leaf
- 1 large garlic clove, unpeeled and halved
- 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the bones in a baking dish and sprinkle them with beef seasoning. Place the baking dish in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.
If using uncooked bones increase the baking time to an hour. The bones should be nicely browned.
Place the browned bones in a large Dutch Oven. Add the remaining ingredients and cover all with water. Bring to a boil and simmer partially covered for 3-4 hours.
Strain the broth in a colander lined with cheesecloth. Reserve some of the broth for the soup and discard the bones and vegetables.
Beef, Mushroom and Barley Soup
Olive oil cooking spray
- 1 ½ lbs beef stew meat, trimmed and diced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cups chopped leeks
- 2 cups chopped carrot
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 8 cups beef stock
- 2 cups water
- 1 thyme sprig
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large bay leaf
- 1 cup uncooked pearl barley
- 1 cup diced mushrooms
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven and add the diced beef; cook until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes.
Add the leek, carrot and garlic. Saute 4 minutes or until lightly browned. Add broth, water, thyme, pepper and bay leaf.
Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 45 minutes. Add the mushrooms and barley; cook another 45 minutes or until the beef and barley are tender.
Discard the bay leaf. Add the parsley.
Winter, spring, summer and fall each offer their own unique fruits and vegetables for distinct seasonal flavor. The recipes below can be adapted by whatever ingredients are in season without changing the recipe. In the summer you can make the quiche and fish packets with summer squash, corn and/or peppers. In the fall, use kale, butternut squash and/or Brussels sprouts. In the winter, use broccoli, cauliflower and/or celery.
1 (9″) refrigerated pie crust, at room temperature or make this easy, healthy 9″ no-roll pie crust.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 7 tablespoons oil: (canola, vegetable, olive, peanut, your choice)
- 1/4 cup cold water
Whisk together the flour, salt, sugar and baking powder in a medium mixing bowl.
Whisk together the oil and water in a measuring cup and then pour over the dry ingredients.
Stir with a fork until the dough is evenly moistened.
Pat the dough across the bottom of a 9 inch pie pan and up the sides. A flat-bottomed measuring cup or glass helps smooth the bottom.
Crimp the edge or flatten with the tines of a fork.
Follow directions below for completing the quiche.
- 2 1/2 cups of sliced seasonal vegetables, such as asparagus or spinach for spring, zucchini and corn for summer, etc.
- 1/4 cup fresh chopped chives
- 1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) grated cheese (Swiss, Parmesan, Asiago, Cheddar or a combination)
- 4 large eggs
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (8 ounces) buttermilk or half & half
For the crust:
After shaping the pie crust in the pan, prebake the crust for 10 minutes at 425°F.
When you take the pie shell out of the oven, turn the heat down to 375°F.
For an asparagus filling:
While the pie crust bakes, cut the asparagus into 1-inch pieces on the diagonal.
Set aside 12 asparagus tips.
Beat together the eggs, salt, flour and buttermilk or half & half.
Pour ¼ cup of the egg mixture onto the bottom of the prebaked crust to seal it.
Over that, arrange the asparagus pieces and chives.
Sprinkle the cheese over the asparagus. Pour the remainder of the egg mixture over the vegetables.
Arrange the asparagus tips, in spoke fashion, around the outside edge of the quiche.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the custard is firm and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Cool about 10 minutes before cutting.
Fish Fillets Baked with Spring Vegetables
Use any vegetables and herbs that are in season with the fish.
- 1/4 of a fennel bulb, cut into matchstick-size strips
- 1 large carrot, cut into matchstick-size strips
- 1 medium leek (white and light green parts only), halved lengthwise, each half cut lengthwise into matchstick-size strips
- 4 fish fillets, 4 ounces each and 1 inch thick, patted dry
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- 4 thin slices of lemon
- 4 teaspoons olive oil
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Cut eight 15-inch-long sheets of cooking parchment or aluminum foil.
Divide the fennel, carrot and leek equally on each of four of the parchment sheets. Place the fish on top of the vegetables. Sprinkle each with salt and pepper.
Top each fish fillet with 1 tablespoon of chives and a slice of lemon. Top with 1 teaspoon of olive oil on each piece of fish.
Fold all the edges toward the center and fold several times to seal securely. Transfer the packets to a large rimmed baking sheet.
(The packets can be made up to 6 hours in advance. Refrigerate until baking time.)
Bake for 12-15 minutes. Using the tines of a fork, carefully open a packet away from you (to prevent steam burns). If the fish flakes easily when tested with a fork, carefully open the remaining packets and serve.
If the fish isn’t cooked enough, reclose the open packet and bake for 1 to 2 minutes more. Serve the fish and vegetables in the packets.
Eating seasonally means buying produce that can be grown locally, in their natural weather and climate conditions. Less energy and less transit time means a cheaper price tag. Eating seasonally also means that every few month or two, we’re trying something new, and that’s a good thing for our taste buds and our health.
Looking for seasonal food ideas or some new spring recipes? Now’s the time for fresh vegetable soups; crunchy green salads using fennel, peas, parsley, asparagus and new potatoes. Rhubarb and berries are in season for some delicious desserts.
Here is a handy interactive chart to see what produce is in season in your area.
Breakfast or Lunch Crostata
This is a great brunch recipe, also.
- 1 (9″) refrigerated pie crust, at room temperature
- I tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup red onions, diced
- 1/4 cup roasted red peppers, diced
- 5 large eggs
- 1/4 cup half & half
- 2 tablespoons cream cheese
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
- 2/3 cup fresh baby spinach leaves, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 Roma (plum) tomato, diced
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a large cookie sheet with olive oil cooking spray.
Heat the olive oil in 7-8 inch skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and peppers; saute for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
In a medium size bowl, whisk together the eggs, half and half, cream cheese and chives.
Reserve 1 tablespoon of the chopped spinach for the topping and stir the remaining spinach, salt and pepper into the eggs.
Pour the egg mixture into the skillet and allow to cook, over medium heat, just until the eggs are set. Remove the skillet from heat and allow to cool 10 minutes.
Unroll the pie crust and place it in the center of the prepared baking sheet. Using a spatula, slide the omelet onto the center of the crust. Sprinkle the cheeses over the filling.
Fold the edge of the crust over the filling forming pleats as you go around the filling, press down slightly.
Bake about 25-30 minutes or until the crust is light golden brown. Transfer to a serving platter and garnish with reserved spinach and the diced tomatoes.
Blueberry Cinnamon Banana Bread
- 1 cup low-fat buttermilk
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup mashed ripe banana, about 2 medium
- 2/3 cups packed brown sugar
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 cups fresh blueberries
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Coat a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with cooking spray and dust lightly with flour.
Whisk buttermilk, eggs, mashed bananas, sugar and oil in a large bowl until well blended.
Combine flour, oats, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda in a separate bowl.
Stir flour mixture into the buttermilk mixture, mixing just until combined. Gently fold in the blueberries.
Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Combine the topping ingredients in a small bowl and sprinkle evenly over the top of the batter.
Bake about 1 hour, or until browned and crackly on the top and a pick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool in the pan 15 minutes. Remove and cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.
Braised Spring Vegetables
These vegetables look beautiful served on this Tuscan platter given to me by my friend, Nancy. This is a terrific way to cook vegetables. They taste fantastic after simmering in olive oil.
- 1/2 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 pound (4-5 oz) carrots, each cut into 1 inch pieces on the diagonal
- 1/4 pound (4-5 oz) medium potatoes, cut into thick slices
- 1 fennel bulb, trimmed & cut into 1 inch pieces on the diagonal
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 6 scallions, trimmed, each cut into 1 inch pieces on the diagonal
- 1/2 pound asparagus, trimmed and each cut into 1 inch pieces on the diagonal
- 1 lemon, cut into eight wedges, de-seeded
- 1 large fresh thyme sprig
Pour the olive oil into a large, deep skillet (with a cover) and heat over medium-low heat. Layer the vegetables in the order of how long they cook.
On the bottom place the potatoes in one layer, followed by the fennel and then the carrots.
Add salt to the pan; reduce the heat to low and cook for 20 minutes. Stir the vegetables after 10 minutes.
Add the asparagus, scallions, black pepper, half of the lemon wedges and the thyme to the pan. Cook just until the vegetables are tender, about 5 – 10 minutes more; avoid overcooking.
Remove the pan from the heat and remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon to a serving bowl. Serve with the remaining lemon wedges.
Note: save the oil and any leftover vegetables to add to pasta for another meal. See recipe below.
Spring Pasta Salad
This pasta salad is delicious for lunch.
- 12 oz orecchiette or small shell pasta
- Leftover spring braised vegetables, chopped
- 2 celery stalks, sliced thin
- 1 cup grape tomatoes, cut in half
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, or to taste
- Leftover olive oil from the spring braised vegetables
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, chopped
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain well.
Whisk together the leftover oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Add pasta, leftover vegetables, celery, tomatoes and basil and toss to combine.
Serve at room temperature or chilled; refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Italian Style Asparagus Soup
- 2 ¼ lbs asparagus
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 medium onions, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 8 cups vegetable stock or low sodium chicken broth
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
- Truffle oil or olive oil
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium. Add the onions and garlic and cook until softened, about 10 minutes.
Cut the tips off the asparagus spears and set them aside. Cut the stalks into 1/2-inch pieces and add them to the pot, along with the stock, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
Bring to a boil, then cover and turn the heat down to low.
Simmer for about 45-60 minutes until the vegetables are very tender. Turn off the heat.
Purée the soup with an immersion blender until completely smooth and return the soup to a simmer. Add the reserved asparagus tips and cook for a few minutes until tender-crisp.
Stir in the lemon juice, basil and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Ladle the soup into serving bowls and drizzle with truffle oil before serving.