Month: May 2011

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

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

 

1.  Bring a big pot of salted, peppered, and herbed pasta water to a boil.  (Fresh herbs only–parsley, if it’s all you have. Parsley’s a perfect herb and quite nutritious.) Lower the heat to low until you need the water in a few minutes.  That is,  unless you’ve timed it perfectly. Ha.
2.  Meantime, in a large, deep skillet, saute in a tablespoon of olive oil a half cup of sliced something(s) from the onion family:  scallions, leeks, ramps (kind of like green onions…sort of between them and lilies of the valley), a mixture…even a bit of garlic, though just a bit–say 1 clove, minced.  I would include fennel here (another half cup if you have it) as it requires a similar cooking time. Do not brown these vegetables, just cook until softened.  A shake of salt and pepper wouldn’t come wrong here.  Remove them from the pan and reserve.
3.  Add a bit more oil, heat it to medium-high, and cook a cup of freshly sliced mushrooms for three or four minutes until golden.  They needn’t be –though they could be!–expensive; button mushrooms will do.  Don’t salt them til later.  Do, however, add a tablespoon or so of fresh chopped herbs to them  and pepper it all lightly.  (I like marjoram, but rosemary or thyme is so good, too.)  Remove them from the pan and add to the onion  mixture.  Note:  Like meat, you must leave mushrooms unmoved for best browning.  Don’t stir until well-browned on one side.  Watch closely!
4.  A little more oil, medium heat, and cook 1/2 cup each new peas (or frozen if you can’t find new), chopped asparagus, chopped haricots verts (very slim green beans), even a bit of zucchini or yellow squash sliced thinly–despite the fact that they are summer vegetables.  We’ll let you slide by with it.  After they’ve cooked a couple of minutes, add 1T cup each of your favorite fresh herbs (basil, rosemary, etc.) and a generous pinch of crushed red pepper.   Throw in the onion-mushroom mixture, taste and adjust seasoning,  and set aside.  These vegetables should be just barely done…not crunchy like a salad, but not granny-done, either.

5.  Cook your pound of  pasta as directed (10 minutes for dried thin noodles like spaghetti or linguine…just a few minutes for fresh), drain it and add it the vegetables.  Mix well.  I do not believe in the ubiquitious addition of pasta water here.
6.  If desired, a 1/2 cup – 1 cup of very fresh ricotta can be included here, as well as 1/2c-1 c fresh baby greens (pea shoots, baby spinach, watercress…).  Serve warm or at room temperature.  (Good cold, too.)
7.  Pass Parmesan (you’ll need 1-2 cups grated), chopped parsley, cherry tomatoes (heirlooms are tasty), and white pepper at the table.

Alternatively, and much more quickly, you might try this method for ease of preparation:  Bring a 10-12 qt (2/3 full) pot of well-seasoned water to boil; add 1 lb pasta and cook 7-8 minutes.  Throw in peas, chopped asparagus, chopped green beans, etc. and continue cooking 2 more minutes.  Drain well and drizzle with olive oil. Add a handful of mixed fresh herbs (parsley, basil, etc.), 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes, and 1/4 c sliced green onions.  If you like ricotta, and have some, stir in 1/2-1 cup.  Season quite liberally with salt and pepper and a pinch of crushed red pepper.  Serve hot and  pass a generous bowl of Parmesan and a grinder for black pepper around the table.  

Nothing like fresh ricotta.

This is a fun meal to make if you like interactive dinners.  Have each guest bring their favorite vegetable, cleaned and chopped.  Someone who doesn’t cook can bring a couple of different rosés.  Let a strong person grate the cheese, a detail-oriented friend supervise the pasta, and definitely get a wino to make sure everyone tastes all the wines.  The ice cream can be put into the freezer (if it’s a small one) when you sit down to dinner.

If you’re a fan of Mark Bittman (NYT), as am I, here’s a link to his recent take (and ideas for variations) on Primavera, which he contends is American.  Who am I to argue with Mark Bittman?  Mr. Bittman also has ideas for pastas that, since they require fewer ingredients (and seldom meat), are pretty inexpensive.  Which is always good.

Well–all that said:

It’s spring.  The flowers are in bloom.  Sit outdoors if it’s not too cold.  Put spring flowers on the table and think loving thoughts. 

Two-Dog Kitchen and Around the ‘Hood

The house is still in process, but crystal is in the china cabinet, boxes are out of the living room, and I am walking, gardening, and practicing again.  

I must be home.  The cream soups are here.

House being prepared for paint.

 St. Paul Farmer’s Market Scallions
Made rhubarb pie yesterday…may blog it!  From…

Farmer’s market rhubarb.

Flowers at the market downtown–a fine way to spend Saturday morning.

Our side yard (south)

Front yard tree.

  Our house from the north.

Our driveway garden becoming a jungle.

I’m planting herbs, columbines, tomatoes, impatiens, pansies, alyssum…and looking for more light in the yard!

 Happy Spring as you sing a new song, my friends!
Alyce

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

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?

 Two-Dog Kitchen and Around the New ‘Hood
  Our 100-year old lilac trees are about to burst the bounds of beauty..two more days til full-bloom.

You always knew I was a Bleeding Heart, right?

 

Just back from walk to the Mississippi River and back.

White Bleeding Hearts

Driveway tulips.

West side tulips and strawberries just beginning to bloom

Going outdoors–my favorite distraction.

Before clearing room for piano

How to put rugs down when the dirty floor is covered with boxes?

 

Who bought all those serving pieces and quiche dishes anyway?

The cookbooks start to go up.

From naturalized front yard

Unpacked books from boxes making way for piano

More cookbooks up

Piano window area cleared for piano delivery

Now you don’t see it, now you do.

The new big mess.

Office furniture delivered and installed…unpacking now

Our hundred-year old lilac trees beginning to bloom.  May 18, 2011.

Joyce Smith visits from Sandpoint

Almost bloomed tiny lilacs on trees.
All the way from Colorado Springs to The Groveland Tap…Sara loved it.

Mother’s Day Weekend in Princeton–Wine-Tasting Luncheon

Sing a new song,
Alyce

Happy Mother’s Day–Prune Quick Bread (Reposted)

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…..
 
 
PRINTABLE RECIPE AT BOTTOM OF POST
 
 
TWO-DOG KITCHEN AND AROUND THE ‘HOOD
 
 
 
 
  As I write, Friar Tuck is over at Dr. Bill’s getting a little nip and tuck done to raise his voice.  Yes, Tucker’s getting neutered, but, you know, it had to happen.   I apologized ahead of time because he’ll be a little groggy afterward.
 
          ….              …..                …..                         …….
 
(Below:   Later this afternoon……Poor baby)
 
 
.)
 
Our sour-cherry tree in bloom.  Pie cherries will be ready about the fourth of July.  Come pick before the birds get them all.  If we get up early to bake before the heat comes, we can have pie for the holiday.
 
Sing a new song; bake a new bread;
Happy Mother’s Day!
Alyce
—–
 
In Memorium…Carol Curtiss..The Quintessential Lutheran Party Girl..
God, Love Her!
 
 

Prune Nut Bread

makes 1 9x5x3 loaf

Ingredients

  • 1 cup prunes chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups orange juice
  • Simmer chopped prunes in orange juice for about five minutes. Let cool slightly.
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter cooled or sub 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 cups unbleached flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chopped nuts

Instructions

  • 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 minutes. 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.

Notes

Can be made into muffins. Pour into greased muffin tins and bake at 400F 15 min. Turn out on to rack to cool.
copyright Alyce Morgan, 2010. All rights reserved.