Nothing is more beautiful than a green veggie that has been blanched and shocked in an ice bath — bright green and tender crisp. This recipe elevates a traditional green been side with a little garlic, red pepper flakes, and a good dose of lemon zest. It is a quick way to amp up the flavor of an everyday dish. Fresh goodness!!
GREEN BEANS WITH LEMON AND GARLIC (Serves 6)
- Blanch green beans in a large stock pot of well salted boiling water until bright green in color and tender crisp, roughly 2 minutes. Drain and shock in a bowl of ice water to stop from cooking.
- Heat a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the oil and the butter. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the beans and continue to saute until coated in the butter and heated through, about 5 minutes. Add lemon zest and season with salt and pepper.
I am always looking for new ways to prepare fennel and this one is a winner. The fennel is sliced thin and tossed with oil, spices, and garlic, and then roasted in the oven until just crispy. The roasted fennel is tossed in a skillet with white beans and spinach until the spinach wilts and the beans are heated through. The BK enjoyed the addition of beans and the savoriness of the dish. (Should we be embarrassed that he ate all of it in one sitting?) And, of course, I set aside the fennel leaves for another batch of that delicious Fennel-Orange Butter.
WARM WHITE BEANS WITH ROASTED FENNEL (Serves 4)
- 2 cups thinly sliced fennel bulb
- 1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon salt, divided
- 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
- 1 garlic cloves, minced
- Cooking spray
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 1 (15.8-ounce) cans Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
- 2 cups fresh baby spinach
- Preheat oven to 450°
- Combine fennel, 1/2 tablespoon oil, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, 1/8 teaspoon salt, red pepper, and garlic in a large bowl; toss to coat fennel. Arrange fennel mixture in a single layer on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 450° for 15 minutes or until fennel begins to brown. Stir; sprinkle cheese evenly over fennel mixture. Bake an additional 5 minutes or until golden brown.
- Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat; add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Add beans; cook 2 minutes or until heated. Add fennel mixture, spinach, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt. Cook 2 minutes; serve immediately.
Oddly, I have never made Eggplant Parm before, but I found this recipe so appealing that I jumped right in. You simply roast the eggplant slices, then stack with tomato sauce, basil, cheeses, and top with bread crumbs. Once assembled it makes for a beautiful presentation. That said, my hubby had a few suggestions to amp it up. He recommends thinner slices of eggplant, more sauce and more cheese — he just felt the “eggplant to sauce ratio” was not quite right (too funny).
EGGPLANT PARMIGIANA (Serves 4)
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
- Using some extra-virgin olive oil, oil a baking sheet.
- Slice each eggplant into 6 pieces about 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick. Lightly season each disk with salt and pepper and place on the oiled sheet. Bake the eggplant at 450 degrees F until the slices begin turning deep brown on top, about 12-15 minutes. Remove the eggplants from the oven. Remove the slices from the baking sheet and place them on a plate to cool.
- Lower oven temperature to 350 degrees F. In an 8 by 12-inch pan, place the 4 largest eggplant slice evenly spaced apart. Over each slice, spread 1/4 cup of tomato sauce and sprinkle with a teaspoon of basil. Place one slice of mozarella over each and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon grated Parmigiano. Place the smaller slices of eggplant over each of the disks and repeat with tomato sauce, basil, and the 2 cheeses. Repeat the layering again until all the ingredients are used.
- Sprinkle the toasted bread crumbs over the top of the eggplant dish, and bake uncovered until the cheese is melts and the tops turn light brown, about 20 minutes. Serve immediately.
Ah, Chanterelles — even the name is beautiful. They are the “golden flowers” of the mushroom world. Their caps are fleshly and unfurl in waves of tender deliciousness that have an almost fruity aroma when cooked. The recipe below is my favorite way to prepare them — gently sautéed with onion, garlic, white wine and butter, and then finished with cream and just a bit of seasoning. I purchased two pounds from a local restaurant that had come across a spectacular harvest from a local forager. I prepared one pound as a Fricassee that we ate all by themselves as a side. The second pound was prepared according to the recipe but without adding cream. These were prepared for freezing. The fat is the butter sealed them up beautifully for use at a later date. We finally broke them out and added them to a pasta sauce to be served over tortellini. “Squisito!!”
FRICASSEE OF CHANTERELLES (4 Servings)
- 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, divided
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
- Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 1 pound chanterelles, brushed clean (halved if large)
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- of freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon fresh oregano
- Melt 3 tablespoons butter with 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly golden, 4-5 minutes.
- Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Stir in wine and cook until liquid is reduced by half, about 2 minutes.
- Add remaining 3 tablespoons butter, remaining 1 tablespoon oil, and mushrooms. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are lightly golden, about 5 minutes.
- Add cream and nutmeg and cook until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes.
- Stir in 1 teaspoon oregano. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Toss in a skillet with cooked pasta, or serve over smashed boiled potatoes. Garnish with more oregano.
This recipe is all about balance. The balance of flavors, the balance of textures, the balance of colors . . . The thin, diagonal cut is important to the cooking process by increasing the surface area of each piece for speedy cooking. This recipe is a perfect opportunity to break out the herbed butter from your freezer. I chose Fennel-Orange Butter — so wonderful with this dish! Shown here with an Asparagus and Gruyere Tart.
BUTTERED SNOW PEAS AND CARROTS (Serves 4)
- 3 to 4 carrots, cut crosswise on the diagonal into 1/8-inch slices (about 1 cup)
- 1/4 pound snow peas, trimmed, discarding the strings, and cut crosswise on the diagonal into 1/2-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- In a large saucepan of boiling water cook the carrots for 3 minutes, or until they are crisp-tender.
- Add the snow peas, cook the vegetables for 30 seconds, and drain them well.
- Return the vegetables to the pan, add the butter and salt and pepper to taste, and heat the vegetables over moderately low heat, stirring, until the butter is melted.
How about a little de-constructed guacamole? Just a little chopped tomato, onion, chili pepper and lime juice stuffed in a pitted avocado and topped with cheese. It’s as simple as that. A few minutes in a hot oven and you have a heavenly lunch or supper. Of course, I made a few substitutions to use what I had on hand — sambal oelek for jalapeno chilis and chipotle Havarti instead of pepper jack. The flavors are beautifully layered with each one hitting the palate just right. Delish!
BAKED AVOCADO (Serves 2)
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and position a rack in the center.
- Cut an avocado in half and remove the pit.
- In a small bowl, combine the onion, tomato, jalapeno, cilantro, lime juice, and ¼ teaspoon salt.
- Season the avocado halves with salt and pepper. Divide the onion-tomato mixture between the avocado halves. Sprinkle the cheese on top.
- Crinkle two small pieces of foil and place them on a small baking sheet. These will help secure the avocado halves and keep them from rolling around.
- Place the avocado halves on the foil holders and place the baking sheet in the oven. Bake until the cheese has melted and the avocado is warm throughout, about 8-12 minutes.
I just have to rave about this recipe!! It is beautiful, tasty and remarkably easy to prepare. Such a great dish for a brunch or a lunch; served as an appetizer or small plate; or even as a side dish or part of a buffet dinner. Frozen puff pastry is so easy to work with — let it thaw for 40 minutes and roll it out on a floured surface. Although Gruyere cheese can be a bit expensive, it is totally worth the investment. It has a wonderful complexity of flavours – at first fruity, later more earthy and nutty. I wrapped my asparagus in a little prosciutto — well, just because. The end result is a light, flaky, and oh so delicious mouthful!! (Take a minute to click over on the photo above — beautiful!)
ASPARAGUS AND GRUYERE TART (Serves 4)
- Flour, for work surface
- 1 sheet frozen puff pastry
- 5 1/2 ounces (2 cups) Gruyere cheese, shredded
- 1 1/2 pounds medium or thick asparagus
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a floured surface, roll the puff pastry into a 16-by-10-inch rectangle. Trim uneven edges. Place pastry on a baking sheet. With a sharp knife, lightly score pastry dough 1 inch in from the edges to mark a rectangle. Using a fork, pierce dough inside the markings at 1/2-inch intervals. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.
- Remove pastry shell from oven, and sprinkle with Gruyere. Trim the bottoms of the asparagus spears to fit crosswise inside the tart shell; arrange in a single layer over Gruyere, alternating ends and tips. Brush with oil, and season with salt and pepper. Bake until spears are tender, 20 to 25 minutes.