Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Pasta Primavera with New Peas, Ramps, Leeks, Asparagus, et al or I Guess I'm Home Because the Cream Soups are Unpacked

If you have a yard surrounded by old lilacs, spring is a good time for a dinner party.
And, if it's spring, it's a good time for Pasta Primavera (Spring Pasta).
And, if it's time for Pasta Primavera, it's a good time for pink wine.  French rosé.  Or Oregon rosé.

You needn't be picky about the wine, though it must be dry and young (2010).  It shouldn't cost much--not more than $15 and often much less.  Just make sure you have enough.  A variety of choices would be a kind gesture to both you and your guests.

And if you were really loving that day, you might make an appetizer platter of tapenade and local goat's cheese blended with fresh basil and grated lemon rind.  Some proscuitto and tiny tomatoes make the plate.
The rosé will be quite stunning with that goat's cheese.  Promise.

I'm sold lately on lemon ice cream.  In fact, it's a perfect solution to dessert.

Picture taken later after the ice cream had been in the freezer.
I used a recipe from epicurious. com (Gourmet, 1993), though I didn't use as much sugar.  I thought 2/3 c was plenty and it was.  The brightness and/or sourness of the lemon can easily be overwhelmed by too much sugar. (Click on the purple recipe.)  Note that the mixture must be made ahead, cooked briefly, chilled very well, and have more half and half added right before freezing.

About the Primavera... you could look up twenty recipes for Primavera and they'd all be different, except that they should all have spring vegetables of some sort (leeks, ramps, scallions, peas, asparagus, baby greens, fennel, etc.).  If you go to the farmer's markets now (when you think there'll be nothing), you should find some spring vegetables.  If not, pick up your favorites at the grocery and use those.

A gorgeous fennel bulb..use the fronds for garnish.  There's a core here much like in cabbage.  Cut it out and slice the fennel into half moons.

Fresh pea shoots--leaves, shoots, and tendrils from pea plants.  Yummy greens.
 The basic directions (serves 4) that would include your choice of vegetables  would look like this (and I don't think the Primavera police are out tonight if you want to change the process):

Ramps--quite like scallions

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

It's Spring and a Girl's Thoughts turn to.... Lamb and Lilacs

   A couple of weeks' spate of travel, moving trucks, and unpacking have denied me blogging time, but I'm back.  As I write, the books are still stacked, the dishes are in disarray, the painters are scraping merrily and loudly, and the most recent house guests just took off for the interstate.  The crazy life has left us reaching into our back pockets for meals we can fix blindfolded, and here's an easy, elegant supper for a cool spring evening...

Grilled Lamb Chops and Roasted Carrots, Potatoes and Red Onions serves 4

12 carrots, peeled, trimmed, and cut into 1-2" pieces on a decided angle
12 small red potatoes, scrubbed and cut in half or quarters
2 large red onions, cut into eights (trim so blossom end is barely cut off- so onion pieces hold together)
4T fresh rosemary, minced
1t kosher salt; 1/2 t freshly ground pepper
1/4 c olive oil (Plain old oil is fine--needn't be extra virgin.)

Heat oven to 400 degrees F.  Place vegetables on a large, rimmed baking sheet.  Toss with olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper.  Roast for 30-40 minutes until tender and crispy at edges.

8 lamb chops ( I like loin chops, but shoulder chops would do!),
3T olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat grill pan over high heat.  Meantime, brush lamb with oil and season liberally with salt and pepper.  Place lamb chops on hot grill and cook 2-4 minutes each side, depending on how done you like your lamb.  2 minutes will be rare, 3 medium, etc.  You can also choose to grill for 1 minute and finish cooking the chops in the oven.  Whichever way you choose, you might want to test the temperature of the chops.  Not everyone will agree, but I think 130 degrees F is about medium...still pink, but not rare and not done.  Try 120 for rare and 140 for medium-well done.  Let meat rest 3-5 minutes before serving.

 Need something green?    Asparagus, of course.  Grill or steam--your choice.  It's that time of year.
Taken last May at Pike Place Market in Seattle.
 Wine:    We drank an Aussie Shiraz with this meal.  Forefathers makes their McLaren Vale Shiraz moving toward spicy, but not terribly peppery.  Ours was an 05 and ready to go.
Dessert:  I hate to admit I made apple-raisin bread pudding, topped with a baby-sized slug of Asbach-Uralt (German brandy...Weinbrand, actually.) and a spoonful of ice cream.  What else do you do with old baguette?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Happy Mother's Day--Prune Quick Bread (Reposted)

A bread for Jacque Franklin, who broke bread for me so many times.  Thank you and be well, my friend.

Before the quick bread post, click on the link below to send a Mother's Day Card that will work toward ending hunger...  from THE WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME--BLOGGERS AGAINST HUNGER.  HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY, FRIENDS...

                                                NOW ON TO THE BREAD!!

My husband loves this bread.
But, when I mentioned to him (before he tasted it)  that I was working on a recipe for prune bread, he made a face, rolled his eyes and laughed.  Sometimes, we never escape third-grade humor.
I don't cook a lot with prunes, but have remembered a couple of great recipes  lately...one was from THE SILVER PALATE.  I want to say it was Chicken Marabella and it was famous.  The other is a pork roast with prunes that's to exhale repeatedly over. French recipe. OOOOh.  It's lovely. So different.  So smooth.   So company friendly.  Reheats like a champ over the weekend after a Friday night dinner party.

Back to the bread.  I made this bread when I was working on an article called, "Quick Bread 101,"  in which I attempted to work out a basic quick bread recipe that let you add whatever you had on hand ...say bananas, apples, blueberries, etc.  I think I got it right, but this variation is my absolute favorite.  It would be a sweet Mother's Day gift, a great addition to brunch. 

I've been gone a few days to a funeral, so thought it was a good time to bring out the prune bread recipe and share it on the blog.  If you tried it from examiner, sorry.  I have re-written the recipe specifically for prunes.  It makes stuperous muffins!!  (stuperous is my word for something between stupendous and super)

Alyce's mom and nephew Michael.....

Prune Nut Bread        
makes 1 9x5x3  loaf
1 c prunes, chopped
1 1/2 c orange juice 
     Simmer chopped prunes in orange juice for about five minutes.   Let cool slightly.

4T melted butter, cooled, or canola oil 
1 egg (you might want to use 2 at altitude)

     Mix cooled butter/oil and egg and add to orange juice and prunes. 
     Set aside.

21/2 c unbleached flour
1 c sugar
3 1/2 t baking powder
1 t salt
1 c chopped nuts

     In a large bowl, mix well all dry ingredients.  Add wet ingredients and stir just until well-mixed.
Spoon into greased and floured 9x5x3 loaf pan.  Bake about 50 minutes until bread is firm to the touch, is pulling away from the sides of the pan, and a toothpick inserted in the middle of the bread comes out with just a few moist crumbs.  Let cool in pan 5 min.   Bang pan on counter or board and turn out onto rack to cool completely before slicing.  Keep well-wrapped on counter for 1-2 days or freeze for up to 2 months.

Can be made into muffins.  Pour into greased muffin tins and bake at 400F 15 min.  Turn out on to rack to cool.