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Spring-Table

Whoops – thought this went up before I left for vacation, but apparently it did not.  Well. enjoy while I sort out a few photos from Mexico… xx

If it is not yet apparent, friends & dinner is my favorite thing ever – and I particularly love the combination at home.  On Saturday, we had a few friends over and did another version of spring favorites.  You may notice that the many of the ingredients below mimic those found at the first “spring dinner” – some in a new way, some the same.

It was much warmer this time around, so the overall feel was a bit lighter, but definitely just as good.

Farmer's-Market-Bounty

We started with ...

Fresh Pea & Fava Puree and Ricotta with Lemon Zest
Great with grilled bread - eaten solo or piled together for the perfect bite.  This is the same Jamie Oliver version as before (and several other dinners in the meantime), but with favas too, as they were available at my farmer’s market.  Good ricotta doesn’t need much, but a little sprinkling of lemon zest and a drizzle of good olive oil takes it over the top!

Pea-Puree-and-Ricotta

And for dinner ...

Little Gems with Pickled Green Strawberries
I saw the green strawberries at the market, and decided to attempt the same method from a recent salad at Cotogna – with a quick pickle.  I used the same recipe as when I pickled grapes, and added roasted beets and goat cheese to the little gems.  As for the vinaigrette, I added a few smashed ripe strawberries in place of honey for sweetness, and love the ying and yang of it.

Spring Risotto with Preserved Lemon
When looking around for different versions of spring risotto, I found one on Food 52 that added chopped preserved lemons at the end.  I loved that idea, and used it myself — I didn’t follow the whole recipe (which called for Pernod instead of the usual white wine) and just did a fairly traditional version with asparagus and spring peas, but I did sub green garlic and fennel for onions, which made it particularly “springy” too me.

yet, the pièce de résistance (in my book) was the ...

Whole Roasted Brazino with Caper Butter
I have never roasted whole fish before (grilled once) and must say, I am hooked. Super simple but so tender and delicious!  I stuffed it with lemon, fresh rosemary & oregano and followed this technique.  Served it with caper butter and it was perfect!  Added bonus it comes across as quite a showstopper.

Spring-Dinner

Roasted-Branzino

And for dessert ...

Yogurt Panna Cotta with Fresh Berries
A truly perfect dessert for spring and summer.  In fact, it was such a hit that I had to make it again on Sunday when some friends dropped by.  Suffice it to say, we will be following up with our own post on this one.

Yogurt Panna Cotta with Strawberries

Have you had a chance to capture spring yet.  What are your favorties?  And can you believe that summer is almost here?

Catie's Spring Salad

As salads go, spring versions tend to be lighter, showcasing baby lettuces or the new harvest of the season.  This salad does both, but in an amped up way that nods a bit to the winter right behind us.  This one was made by my friend Catie, and it may be my favorite yet.

First in are carrots (go for the thinner, new carrots if you can) and asparagus, roasted until golden, but still crisp, followed by pickled pink beets and shaved fennel.  Lots of baby spinach and a big handful of dill add body to the mix.  It all comes together with a mustard seed vinaigrette (or rather, a mustard-shallot vinaigrette with coarse ground mustard).

Added bonus is with all those vegetables, it doubles as a salad and a side – which hits a nice note in my book.

When we had this at Catie & Jimmy’s, she served it with herb roasted pork and duck-fat potatoes (crazy-good), but I think it would be equally at home with roast chicken or grilled salmon, on a weeknight or for dinner with friends.

But either way, you may need to finish it off with chocolate-chip bread pudding – she did, and plus, we gotta balance those veggies some how!

Catie's Spring Dinner

Spring Bounty

This past Saturday, we had a few friends over for an early Easter dinner.  After a few busy weekends with work, it was my first foray into the kitchen since spring goodies started to pop up at the markets.

And seeing has how it had been almost a year since we last saw English peas, baby artichokes, and the like, I may have gone a bit overboard.  But, truthfully, I hardly need such an excuse!

We started with ...

Fresh Pea & Mint Crostini
I essentially used this version from Jamie Oliver, but without the favas, as the one booth at my Farmer’s Market that had them this early sold out fast.  Also, he recommends keeping the peas raw, which I find to be a bit starchy, so I blanch half and keep half raw to keep it super fresh.

and for dinner...

Fried Baby Artichokes

Spring-Dinner-Delicousness

Roasted Leg of Lamb
It was studded with bits of garlic and chopped anchovy — a tip I saw in a cookbook while buying the lamb [alas, I cannot remember the name] and from this Food 52 recipe — and a rosemary, parsley, lemon zest crust.  I am not sure if it was the anchovy or just Fatted Calf’s superb meat, but it was some of the best lamb any of us had ever had!!

Fried Baby Artichokes
So good – I rarely fry because it seems super decedent and what to do with all that oil – but wow, these were such a hit!  There were six of us and 8 baby artichokes since there was a full menu, but I should’ve done 12 for sure.  We could’ve all gone for more.  This step-by-step from Food 52 (of course) also makes them super easy.

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes
Made simply with olive oil and flaky salt (I skipped the rosemary, as there was plenty with the lamb), but with a trick I picked up from GOOP – first boil, then drain and shake with the lid on, to fluff up the outsides, which allows for the perfect little crust once you roast. 

Asparagus Mimosa
This traditional method keeps asparagus super simple but the additional of grated eggs and capers makes it particularly springy.  You could wing it, but I used the recipe from Plenty (a favorite veg-centric cookbook).

Little Gems with Lemon Vinaigrette
This dressing from April Bloomfield is crazy good – and super puckery, which is a great balance to all the richness above. 

Spring-Dinner

and for dessert...

lest you think we ended there, in addition to the copious amounts of wine, dessert was a riff on this Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble from 101 cookbooks.  I didn’t think we needed a whole baked option, and rhubarb hasn’t shown up quite yet, so I turned it into a sundae of sorts.

Vanilla Ice Cream with Balsamic Strawberries & Black Pepper-Pine Nut Crumble
I baked the crumb topping on its own from the recipe, and used it in place of nuts for the crunch in the sundaes, and the ice cream was my favorite vanilla from David Lebovitz

Spring Dinner Table

Such a feast, combined with good company (and perhaps an impromptu dance party) made for the perfect night!

Spicy Pork Lettuce Wraps

If spring has sprung for you anything like it has in San Francisco, I would recommend calling up your friends and having an impromptu dinner party tonight!  And maybe have platters around for lettuce wraps.

This version is a simple adaptation of an old Gourmet recipe, Cellophane-Noodle Salad with Roast Pork.  I first made it a few years ago, and when ripe mangos popped up in the market here, I knew it needed to be on the menu again soon.

This time, I used brown rice noodles instead of the cellophane (or mung bean) and loved the change.  A mandoline makes quick work of all the chopping, but I have done it by hand as well, and it’s really not too bad.  Also, to fit the warm weather, I grilled the pork this time — and didn’t miss turning on the oven.

The sweet, spicy, crunchy and cool combo is just perfect – and the hands on makes for a fun presentation.  It also goes particualrly well with a few cold beers!

Hope you have a great weekend and there is some sunshine your way!

 

fiddlehead ferns

Spring in New York is full of all kinds of goodies that I couldn’t have dreamed of in Los Angeles – things like tulips in every street-side planter box.

But what I have really been loving are the Eastern Spring specialties like ramps and fiddlehead ferns. I have made ramp pizza and ramp pasta with varying degrees of success, and think pickled ramps are up next.  They were the hit of my most recent pot of pickles at The Spotted Pig.

As for fiddlehead ferns, I have had them in restaurants, but had never made them myself.  So when I saw them at the market recently, I couldn’t help but grab a handful or two.

fiddleheads-washed and blanched

Problem was, I didn’t know quite what to do with them.  I did a few searches online, and nothing seemed to really excite me. And then things came up and the fun little fiddleheads languished in crisper.

Thankfully before I completely abandoned the little buggers, I had read that they should be cooked within a few days, and so I knew I needed to figure something out – they couldn’t be left for days (weeks?) like carrots and the other things in the back of the drawers.

Fiddleheads taste a bit like a cross between asparagus and green beans, so I decided that a simple preparation would be best, but something with enough umph to be a meal – not just a side.

fiddlehead-pancetta

I cooked them simply – blanched first and then sautéed with garlic in the rendered fat of pancetta (a little pork goes a long way) and finished simply with lemon, spaghetti and parmesan.

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charred-favas

Some of the great vegetables that pop up in spring are a bit like the season itself – bright and colorful (a nod to the sunshine that is beginning) but still require a bit of time to prepare or at least prep (like the slow dishes of winter).

Take fava beans – they need to be shelled twice.  Once to remove the outer pod, and then once to removed the casing? membrane?  little fitted jacket?  And they are totally worth the effort, especially when mixed with some mint and maybe onion or fennel for a salad that tastes like the best part of a new season.  Or pureed and served on toast – coming together for a perfect creamy/crunchy bite.

But sometimes you don’t want that much work, but you still want the flavors of the new gems popping up at the market.  That is where these charred favas are perfect!

Think of them as a love child between edamame and blistered shishito peppers, in other words…Heaven!

I first read about these on 101 Cookbooks and thought that I had to give them a try. A quick google search found this method mentioned lots of places – NY Times Food Section, Food and Wine Magazine, Saveur, etc. – but they all had one thing in common.  Grill the pods.

Which sounds perfect, but I don’t have a grill.  Or even a grill pan (here anyway).

And so decided to would try in on my trusty frying pan – figuring it could get hot enough to char the outsides and steam the insides.  But just in case it didn’t work (and the air pockets on the grill/grill pan were really necessary), I only did a few this way – making the rest of the bunch in the more traditional method.

Big mistake!!

They char up just fine on a regular old pan, so there is no excuse not to make these as soon as you see the fresh favas in the market.

I only seasoned them with salt, but next time I will definitely add some chili flakes and maybe lemon juice.  The options are endless … assuming you can wait long enough to season them before you tear them apart.

Did I mention that they are like a cross between edamame and blistered shishito peppers?  Otherwise known as the perfect snack!  (Uh-oh popcorn…you may be safe for the season).

charring-fava-beans

Recipe…

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teaparty

I hope you don’t mind, but I am in a bit of a tea frenzy. With Alice and Wonderland opening this week, helping my mom and aunt with an afternoon tea for my grandmother’s birthday, and dreams of spring garden parties, well, let’s just say it’s tea time around here. And so while I am tweaking recipes for some updated tea sandwiches in with the old favorites, and mastering a mean linzer cookie, I figured I better get all the accessories together that we will need.

We need lots of plates for the crustless nibbles and scones – I like to mix and match … grandma’s china with some flea market finds is the way to go here, plus a bit of my own china too.  For a spring tea, breakout the florals and butterflies if you have it.  We also need plenty of tea cups, for the tea itself and they also work as great vessels for small floral arrangements throughout the party.

Same goes for tea pots – the more the merrier!  It’s not a tea party without several varieties to choose from – for daily cups my favorite is green tea kombucha, but for tea parties, pots of your favorite loose-leaf is the way to go.  In addition to china and porcelain tea pots, this is the perfect time to bring out my grandmother’s vintage tea service. Extra teapots can also be used to hold larger floral arrangements.

Tea Time

But since we cannot subsist on tea and sandwiches alone, we better add in some cake plates and tiered servers – we need to showcase the macaroons, petit fours, and other confections we whip up.  And we need make sure we have plenty of condiment dishes for jam, clotted cream and all the traditional accompaniments.

And because it is a party, we may need a few other beverages on hand.  I am thinking a raspberry lemonade in glass dispenser, and a silver jigger to spice up the spiking!

If your cabinets or grandmother’s pantry isn’t quite as ready for a tea party, flea markets or your local thrift stores are an excellence place to find these items on the cheap.

For resources:

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ABOUT

Martha Stewart I am not -
I have no intention of
whittling my own table
and can handle a martini
like nobody's business -
but I do have lots of
great ideas on cooking,
entertaining, and living
that I want to share with you.

Together, perhaps we can find
ways to have a bit more fun!

Contact:
info{at}caitlindentino{dot}com

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