Tagged: spring

Asparagus, Cannellini Bean & Sourdough Salad

Asparagus Cannellini Bean Sourdough Salad1
Last Friday I had trouble sleeping. It wasn’t because my mind was racing with anxiety or nerves. Nope. It was actually just pure excitement. Saturday morning was the official start of outdoor farmers market season in Chicago. It was a day I had been waiting for since the last market of 2016. Yes, stands appear indoors in the slog from November to April, but it isn’t the same feeling.

I joined the early crowd—before 8am. The almost glove-worthy weather was windy and cool, but I didn’t mind. The selection was dominated by greens with a few pops of color here and there. I bought a couple bunches of slender asparagus. They were so fresh they didn’t require much fuss. When I got home I made an asparagus, cannellini bean & sourdough salad with Parmesan & scallions.
Asparagus Cannellini Bean Sourdough SaladAsparagus, Cannellini Bean & Sourdough Salad

Serves 2-4

6 ounces sourdough bread, torn into rough pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more for serving
1 teaspoon black pepper pus more for serving
1/2 lb. asparagus, bottom ends trimmed
3/4 cup cooked cannellini beans (I used canned beans.)
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon fresh chives
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
Juice of half a lemon

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Place the bread on a sheet pan and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Bake the bread until it toasted and deep golden brown, about 15 minutes, stirring halfway through baking.

For the asparagus, preheat a grill pan over medium high heat. Toss the asparagus with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Lightly grill the asparagus, until it is warm, but is still a bit crisp, about 2-3 minutes. Slice the asparagus into 1-inch pieces

In a large bowl, combine the toasted bread, asparagus, cannellini beans, scallions, chives and Parmesan. Stir in the remaining olive oil and lemon juice. Taste and season with additional salt & pepper before serving.

Broccoli Flatbread

Broccoli Flatbread
My son loves to ask me what is my favorite color. Since he was a young toddler before he could speak in full sentences, he would say purple, and that still is his answer now. When I tell him my color of choice is gray, he kind of gives me a funny look, and it’s not because he doesn’t know what gray looks like. I think it’s because gray is pretty much a bore compared to purple.

When my little guy saw me putting the finishing touches on this broccoli flatbread, he got very excited about all the green, but that didn’t mean he tried it. I made a version of my broccoli pesto and spread it on a grilled flatbread and topped it with watercress, microgreens and chives. It was green on green on green only interrupted by the grill-marked crust and Parmesan.
Broccoli Flatbread
Broccoli Flatbread

Makes 1-12-inch pizza

2/3 cup warm water
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon olive oil plus more for bowl
1 cup bread flour plus more for work surface
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 pound broccoli florets
1 garlic clove
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup grated Parmesan plus shaved Parmesan for serving
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 handful watercress leaves or baby spinach
1/4 cup microgreens

In a small bowl, combine the water, yeast, sugar and olive oil. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the both flours and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add the yeast mixture and process until a ball of dough forms. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl. Cover and let rise until doubled in volume, about 2 hours or up to overnight in the refrigerator.

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil, cook the broccoli for 2-3 minutes until bright green and tender. Transfer to a bowl of ice water. Let sit for a few minutes before removing with a slotted spoon and patting dry with a towel. Reserve a handful of broccoli florets to top the flatbread.

Mince the garlic clove in the bowl of a food processor. Add the broccoli, pine nuts, grated Parmesan, remaining salt, pepper & lemon juice and puree. With the motor running, pour in the olive oil.

Heat a gas or charcoal grill on high heat. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into a 12-inch diameter circle or a rectangle.

Place the dough directly on the grates and grill for 3-4 minutes with the lid closed until the crust has grill marks and has puffed up. Turn over the crust and grill for an additional 2 minutes.

Remove the crust from the grill and flip it over so the first side that was grilled is facing down. Spread the crust with broccoli puree. Top with the reserved broccoli florets, watercress, microgreens and shaved Parmesan.

Green Minestrone Soup

Green Minestrone Soup
I know spring is official when these two trees in our neighborhood start to bud and reveal their delicate pink blossoms. It seems like it happened earlier this year than in the past, but they are hearty trees. Those flowers manage to hang on through the ups and downs of early spring before they fall off, covering the sidewalk and making way for lush green leaves to take their place.

Soup still feels appropriate right now, but its days are numbered. This past winter I made classic minestrone, but I revisited this hearty bowl turning it into green minestrone soup. Each bite was filled with spring veggies like peas and carrots. It was comforting for the chill that seems to be lingering, but it was light enough not to feel like I was being dragged back to those short, dark January days.
Green Minestrone Soup
Green Minestrone Soup
Adapted from Bon Appetit

6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 leek, white and pale-green parts only, finely chopped
1/2 small white onion, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, thinly slices
4 cups low sodium vegetable or chicken broth
2 small carrots, peeled and thinly sliced lengthwise with a mandolin
1 cup shelled peas, fresh or frozen
Kosher salt and black pepper
1/2 cup fregola, cavatelli, ditalini or other small pasta
1-1/2 cups flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/2 shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
Shaved Parmesan for serving

Heat the 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the leeks, onion & celery and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the broth and bring a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add the carrots and peas and continue simmering until the carrots are tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

In a medium saucepan, cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al denté, according to packet instructions. Add the pasta to the soup.

While the pasta is cooking, place the parsley, shallots, garlic and remaining olive oil in a food processor and process into a paste. Stir into the soup and season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide the soup into bowls and top with with shaved Parmesan before serving.

Tres Leches Cake

Tres Leches Cake
I feel lucky to have fantastic friends, and a bonus is that we all share a love of food. One of them invented the ultimate potluck tradition, Misfits Easter. No matter if you celebrate the holiday or not, the point of the get-together is to bring a dish of your best home-cooking, have a few drinks, laugh and just hangout. I look forward to it every year, and for me it really marks the start of spring.

This year’s potluck was themed with tacos al pastor and a full Mexican feast. My contribution was a tres leches cake for dessert. When I poured the milks over the vanilla and cinnamon-scented sponge, I never thought it would drink up all that liquid, but it somehow did. This refreshing cake is meant to feed a crowd and is a must for berry season and all the long summer weekends ahead.
Tres Leches Cake
Tres Leches Cake
Adapted from Food & Wine April 2011

Serves 12

For cake
Butter for greasing dish
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk at room temperature
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
One 12-ounce can evaporated milk
1 medium cinnamon stick
2 whole cloves
One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For toppings
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pint strawberries, hulled and thinly sliced
Mint leaves for serving

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 13-inch by 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs, sugar, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 10 minutes. Mixing on low speed, add half the flour mixture, followed by the whole milk and then the remaining flour.

Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish. Bake until golden and the center of the cake springs back when pressed, about 25 minutes. Cool the cake on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes.

Combine the cream, evaporated milk, cinnamon stick and cloves in a small saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat, cover and let stand for 10 minutes. Strain the mixture discarding the cinnamon stick and cloves.

In a medium heatproof bowl, whisk together the sweetened condensed milk, remaining vanilla extract and ground cinnamon. Pour in the cream mixture. Cool for 20 minutes.

Use a fork to poke holes all over the cake. Slowly pour the milk mixture over the cake allowing it to absorb the liquid. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours up to overnight.

To make the whipped cream, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the heavy cream, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla extract until soft peaks form about 2-3 minutes. Spread the whipped cream over the cake and arrange the strawberries and mint leaves on top.

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