Posts tagged spring
Thursday, April 28, 2011

brisket with rhubarb and honey

brisket with rhubarb and honey

Perhaps it’s unfair that I’m writing this mere days after both Passover and Easter have ended. But spring comes late to us this year, after a prolonged winter has delayed spring crops by a few weeks.

For the last few weeks, every time I’ve chatted with the farmers, the consistent complaint has been a late spring harvest. Just last week I spied ramps and asparagus and squealed with delight. I filled my bags to the brim with verdant produce, eager to devour it in the coming days.

Continue reading brisket with rhubarb and honey.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

spring panzanella with asparagus, peas, leeks and sorrel

spring panzanella

Last night, amidst the oppressive heat and a fierce sugar craving, I stole away for some ice cream. I was lamenting to my friend Tina, online, that I wanted some ice cream, but having eaten it all, there was none in my freezer and it was too late to commence making my own. Thus, I was resolved to be wistful and unsatisfied. I might have even pouted, not that there was anyone to witness it. For the record, I pout with distinction. I’m quite excellent at it, but when no one can appreciate the pout, it is a bit of a waste. But this is the thing about friends, dear readers, is that they are great partners in crime and not twenty minutes after I issued my complaint, this friend and I were sitting in our local dessert mecca happily spooning away our desserts: me – with my simple scoop of vanilla and she with her warm brownie sundae. For awhile, neither one of us said anything – we were consumed by our dessert. It hit the spot, for certain.

fresh peas

What I was supposed to have been doing, however, was sitting at home, and writing about this panzanella – and about how you must go ahead and make it. But I’m a creature who is controlled by my food cravings, and as such, I was poking at my keyboard without much success. Who wants to write about day-old bread and asparagus and sorrel and peas and leeks no matter how delicious when a few blocks away, cold and creamy dessert awaits you? Clearly, you see my dilemma.

homemade croutons

The other thing was that I wasn’t really sure what to tell you about this panzanella other than – oh Lord, almighty, this might be one of the most lovely things to come out of the spring kitchen this season, nay period! I made enough for six people and the three of us polished off the whole thing, without nary a crouton left behind. It was a good lazy Sunday supper and we drank some excellent white wine to break the heat and usher in summer weather. This was the same Sunday supper we dug into some awesome cake, so kitchen muses smiled upon me that Sunday afternoon and allowed me to make some good, unfussy food for friends. The day before, I went to the Prospect Park farmers market and went a little crazy scooping up every possible in-season thing I could get my hands on. Asparagus – check! Leeks – check! Fresh sugar peas – also check! And sorrel – I nearly lost my mind. I’ve this soft spot for sorrel and hope that it gains wild popularity in the US. We ate a ton of it in Russia in the summer months – a sorrel soup still happens to be one of my favorite summer meals. If you’ve never had sorrel, I implore you to go and seek it out. It looks like a slightly lighter version of spinach and it’s got a nice sour bite to it.

asparagus from the farmer's market

You can cook it just like spinach too, and when it wilts – it does so beautifully and within minutes. It does turn this shade of rather unattractive brown-green, but it is as delicious as it is ugly. Serve it with some poached salmon and you’ve meal that’s fit for a king. I only see sorrel in these spring and summer months though – so make haste!

asparagus

I had no intention, when I was gathering my ingredients at the market, to make panzanella, but when I got home, splayed everything on my counter and took inventory, the idea sort of just jumped at me. I’ve eaten many a summer panzanella, with thick slices of ripe tomatoes, chunks of onion and slivers of basil strewn alongside toasted, softish bread dampened by the juices and the olive oil. And I always felt like this is the kind of salad I could eat with abandon. I never felt like it was enough. But it’s not quite summer yet, and the vegetables I did have on hand looked like the belonged together in a spring version. And so, since my sourdough bread, delicious though it may be, had lived through better days and needed some reincarnation, I decided that a spring panzanella was the right way to go.

leeks

It comes together fairly quickly, but does take a little bit of time as you cook the ingredients separately. I prefer my panzanella at room temperature with warm sorrel to bind everything together. Don’t cook the peas – they are so sweet and lovely this time of year, you want to preserve that goodness as much as possible. Texture and temperature are important here, I think. I went largely with my instinct and was proven right. A few hours later later, and an empty salad bowl as well, my only regret was that I should have made more. And perhaps that I should get a bigger salad bowl.

Continue reading spring panzanella with asparagus, peas, leeks and sorrel.

Monday, May 24, 2010

strawberry rhubarb buttermilk pudding cake

strawberry rhubarb buttermilk pudding cake

We are, believe it or not, in the full throes of spring. I know, I know, those of us living in the Northeast are still wearing sweaters and can’t leave home without our umbrellas, but spring with its bounty and harvest has certainly arrived. Just look at the offerings at your farmers markets. My eyes (and heart!) leap at mere sight of the bounty: strawberries! rhubarb! sugar snap peas! asparagus! I can’t resist putting an exclamation point behind each of these because I am so excited to finally see these guys in season. Much as I love a good curry or soup, it’s finally nice to have more than just root vegetables in season. No offense to all the turnips and parsnips out there.

strawberries at the market

So when I finally got out to the Prospect Park farmers market this past Saturday (thanks to Jennie for bringing me along!), I nearly lost my mind. The smells alone render you faint with excitement. I pretty much gathered all the produce I could get my hands on. I also bought some meat and leaf lard from these guys as well for some future delicious experiments.

You know how sometimes you read a recipe through and you realize how good it’s going to be when you make it, and then a flash of brilliance goes through your mind and you figure out a way to make it even better. And then you make the recipe, hoping, praying that it does, indeed, deliver fabulous results. Lastly, you taste, worrying that instead of what you’re hoping to be the most winning recipe ever, you have on your hands an epic fail. And then, when you finally taste your creation, you want to dance around your apartment, squealing for joy, because what you made is not only amazing, but happens to be way better than anything you could have even anticipated in your mind’s palate.

strawberries!

This is such a recipe. Words elude me, my dear readers, because this is so breathtakingly good, and so breathtakingly easy, things like this, at least in the kitchen, should be illegal. You almost feel shame, yes shame, for creating something so delicious and yet with so little fuss. In fact, and this is my favorite sentence to write of all today, the whole thing comes together without the use of a mixer. So if you’re lacking one, or want to lessen that carbon footprint, or just want something unfussy to cook for your next Sunday supper, this recipe here is for you.

rhubarb!

The cake name itself is like a great seduction song to my senses. Strawberries! Rhubarb! Buttermilk! Pudding! Cake! Now put these words together and what you get is something that is transcendent: Strawberry Rhubarb Buttermilk Pudding Cake. Like a sweet nothing, a whisper in your ear. Much like the pumpkin bread pudding souffle I keep waxing poetic about Thanksgiving after Thanksgiving (and the most requested holiday dish to date!), this is going to be filed under of “now-why-didn’t-anyone-think-of-this-earlier” or “I’m-going-to-have-to-make-up-for-lost-time-and-eat-lots-of-this”.

stewing the rhubarbfruit, batter, fruit

I’ll claim part genius to this recipe since the buttermilk addition is my idea. The original recipe calls for regular milk, but I had some leftover buttermilk nearing its expiration date, and thought, if anything, it was going to add to the depth of flavor to this cake. And so, I substituted the buttermilk in, and hoped and prayed that it would work. It did. And then some. And what I’ve got now is a recipe that I want to make over and over. I want to serve it straight out of the oven and pour cream over it. I want to serve it at room temperature with some coffee. I want to drop a big dollop of ice cream on top and enjoy it as an afternoon snack. But most of all, I want to share it with you, if not in the physical I’m-going-to-put-a-slice-on-your-plate way, then here, on these pages. It’s not quite as nice as having you over for a Sunday supper, but it’s the next best thing.

strawberry rhubarb buttermilk pudding cake

Continue reading strawberry rhubarb buttermilk pudding cake.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

mascarpone-filled cake with sherried berries

buttermilk cake with mascarpone frosting and berries

I’m torn whether to write to you about my thoughts on cake or spring. Both are tempting. Both are presently on my mind. Both are worthy of discussion. And both are things I love and can’t get enough of.

pour some sugar on me...in the oven!

I mean, who doesn’t like cake or spring? Especially a well-made cake and spring that arrives after a seemingly endless and bitterly cold winter. Almost overnight flowers are blooming and trees are covered in green fuzz and I’m wearing a sun dress. And I kinda like it. I could easily get used to this. Now, cake… Cake is big in my book. People who don’t like cake, or say they don’t like cake (do they even exist?) – I have to do a double-take because, come on, really? Cake? It’s like saying you hate puppies. Or rainbows.

cooling

I think the concept of cake is a marvelous, beautiful thing. It’s the kind of thing that just sounds festive, even if it’s an everyday kind of a cake. In fact, I think the word “cake” should come with a mandatory exclamation point. Like this – cake! There, doesn’t that sound so much more celebratory and decadent? Of course, when you are dealing with things like heavy cream, mascarpone, berries and sherry – decadent is really the only way to describe it. I like to be decadent before a somber mood sets in – like a Sunday supper before Monday morning sets in and it’s business as usual.

buttermilk cake waiting to be frostedgiant dollop of frosting

I’ve been trying to do this Sunday suppers thing with a few friends, and they’re kind of getting used to it and ask what’s on the menu next week. They come over with their kids and we eat and laugh and drink wine and then the kids have a dance-off like you wouldn’t believe. I think it’s partly because they’re so hopped up on sugar and that wee-bit of sherry in the cake, but whatever it is, they have some moves, people! They even try to trash the room like rock stars!

...as does Lev

But cake, dear readers, is a thing either done right or wrong. There’s no such thing as an okay cake. It’s not worth the indulgence unless it really, truly, is fantastic. Either you take a bite and your eyes roll upwards toward the heavens in ecstasy, or you think to yourself, “Eh, cake.” Notice, how lack of the “!” just dampens the whole experience. What you want, what would change everything, of course, is taking that forkful to your mouth and mere seconds later proclaiming, “Mmmm. Cake!

ronya approves of the cake

So many things could make a potentially stunning cake a mediocre one. Either the crumb is too dense, or the frosting too sweet, there’s too much of the frosting on the cake, or something. For me, the danger almost always lies in the amount of sugar that a cake contains. I prefer my cake to be a bit restrained on sweetness. Imagine, if you will, movies that queue dramatic music at particularly poignant parts. That always makes the experience less powerful for me. Letting me figure out that critical moment of heartbreak, without a musical nudge – is where it’s at. Cake and sugar – are sort of equivalent for me analogy-wise.

Which is why I was delighted that this cake had it all – light, moist crumb; delicate and lush frosting; and a tang of berries sweet and full of juice. My friends and their kids loved it as well. And they are very picky dessert people. There was even competition for who gets to lick the mixer whisk – which, in my book, is the highest of praises – no one volunteers for this job if the frosting is bad. In the end, everyone had nothing but praise for cake – even those at the table normally skeptical about dessert. My favorite part – is how simple, unfussy, and unpretentious it is. The cake looks downright messy and that’s part of its charm. I dare anyone not to like it. Especially if flowers are blooming outside. And there are rainbows. And puppies. But even without them – how could you not? After all – it’s not just cake – it’s cake!

buttermilk cake with mascarpone frosting and berries

Continue reading mascarpone-filled cake with sherried berries.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

spring salad with roasted asparagus

spring salad with roasted asparagus

Who else, besides me, was lulled into thinking that spring is swiftly on its way? Is everyone raising their hands? Yep, that was me too, in sandals and tank tops. You know, I even moved my winter clothes into storage and pulled out the summer ones. And then, just like that, the weather decided that it was toying with us and pulled a switcheroo. This weekend, in New York – HOLY COLD! I mean, winter cold. I had to dig in my closet again for the puffer jacket and the Uggs. Oh weather, stop being so fickle, will you? This, of course, now means that my closet has stuff splayed out all over the place. Winter and summer stuff all mixed together in complete disarray. I just don’t know what to do with it all, but the mess is killing me.

asparagus

I know that East Coast folks are waaaaay overdue for their spring. We had a long winter and we’re ready. Ready for summer dresses and flip flops and going outside with our hair wet. We’re ready for picnics in the park, for lazy strolls at night after dinner, for not having to wear a dozen layers. Please. Let. Spring. Come.

asparagus, ready for roasting

In celebration of the false spring (because we know now we’ve been had), but of course believing this was true spring, I made this roasted asparagus salad because what else says spring like asparagus? It was lemony, it was fresh, it had the bite of watercress. And it was the perfect way to usher in the new season, which, of course, turned out to be a cruel joke.

asparagus, ready for roasting

You could make this tomorrow night for the first night of the Passover and omit the cheese if you’re serving a meat course following. Honestly, it works either way. And I often find that what is missing from the Passover table is a healthy dose of greens. Greens I sorely miss and crave right about this time of year. The salad is refreshing and subtle and kind of everything you want a salad to be. Plus the horseradishy bite of the watercress is a bit reminiscent of maror.

watercress, hydroponic


If you’re looking for more Passover ideas, here are a few from the archives:

Chicken Soup with Matzo Balls
Beef Brisket with Merlot and Prunes
Almond Lemon Torte with Fresh Strawberry Puree
Haroset
Citrus Salad with Cilantro & Mint
Wine Stewed Prunes and Mascarpone

And so for those celebrating, I hope your Passover Seder is warm and wonderful; full of joy and introspection.

Continue reading spring salad with roasted asparagus.