Compote, Cake, and Custard

A trip to the farmer’s market this morning yielded strawberries, asparagus, and rhubarb all sure signs of spring and the coming summer! I’ve been an anti-rhubarb girl for as long as I can remember, but I decided this year to give it a try. Spring is a wonderful time to try something new as fresh fruits and veggies are once again making their seasonal appearances so they are at their peak flavor.

And so, after a long work week, I decided to spend my Saturday afternoon in the kitchen. Inspired by the fresh produce, as well as several blogs I follow, I got busy.

First up was a gluten-free lemon sponge cake recipe courtesy of Cannelle et Vanille. The ingredient list was simple and I thought it would be perfect with some lightly sweetened, sliced strawberries. The end result wasn’t as lemony as I’d expected, but it is still delicious.

Next, I tackled my rhubarb, making a simple compote that I figured I could spoon over the sponge cake, eat with yogurt or vanilla pudding. I used the basic recipe from Simple Bites. While I’m not yet in love with rhubarb, I did enjoy this easy dish and I hope to try out a few other rhubarb recipes.

Finally, I decided since I didn’t have any whipping cream on hand, that a nice vanilla pudding would the perfect conclusion to my afternoon kitchen dabbling. I followed the recipe from Smitten Kitchen, though sadly I didn’t have any vanilla beans, so vanilla extract it was for me. How can you go wrong with pudding? It will be delicious with any of my other creations.

I hope you too are being inspired by fresh, spring produce.

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Off The Shelf: May Magazines

Bon Appetit — This month’s issue is labled the “travel issue” and contains a collection of recipes from Italy, Spain, France, Belgium, and the United Kingdom. Each collection is lengthy, filled with beautiful photos and art, as well as stories and recipes. There is also a feature devoted to carrots, which, apparently, are in season just now.

I tried the Chicken with Tarragon for a Sunday dinner and it came out very well. I was skeptical of taking time to roast garlic in a pan, but it was quick and easy and worked well. We paired the chicken with the green rice and cucumber salad (also included in this post) and together it was a scrumptious meal. We ended it with the Strawberry and Rhubarb Crumble from Monday’s post.

CHICKEN WITH TARRAGON AND QUICK-ROASTED GARLIC
(Bon Appetit May 2010)
Print this recipe

3 large unpeeled garlic cloves
4 small skinless boneless chicken breast halves or cutlets
2 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup low-salt chicken broth
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh tarragon
2 Tbsp. heavy whipping cream

Heat small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add garlic; cover and cook until browned in spots and tender when pierced, turning occasionally, 9 to 10 minutes. Transfer to work surface to cool.

Meanwhile, sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Melt butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook until browned and cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to plate (do not clean skillet).

Peel garlic. Add garlic and wine to same skillet; cook until reduced by about half, mashing garlic finely with fork, about 1 minute. Add broth and tarragon; simmer until liquid is reduced by about half, 1 to 2 minutes. Add cream and simmer to sauce consistency, about 1 minute. Return chicken to skillet with any accumulated juices. Simmer to heat through, turning occasionally, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer chicken to plate; spoon sauce over.

Serves 4.

Everyday Food — of interest in this issue is a feature on raspberries (apparently these are in season too? Perhaps at the grocery store, certainly not in my backyard) with some amazing-looking recipes included. Another feature tells what to do with jarred, roasted peppers. The Breakfast for Dinner feature dishes up some very tempting meals that look easy and delicious. As always, there are a number of great, everyday meals, side dishes and desserts included as well.

I made the Green Rice and the Cucumber and Snap Pea Salad. Both were easy to make and turned out well. The salad was so fresh and delightful that we’ll be having it again soon. Honestly, I couldn’t stop eating it. A perfect salad for spring!

GREEN RICE
(Everyday Food May 2010)
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1 cup packed fresh cilantro
1/2 cup packed fresh parsley leaves
1/4 white onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 3/4 cups water
salt and pepper
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup long-grain white rice
1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice

In a blender, combine cilantro, parsley, onion, garlic, water, salt and pepper. Blend until smooth.

In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add rice and stir to coat. Add herb mixture and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove pan from heat and let sit, covered, 5 minutes. Add lime juice and fluff with a fork. Serve rice with lime wedges if desired.

Serves 4.

CUCUMBER AND SNAP PEA SALAD WITH MINT
(Everyday Food May 2010)
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1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. white-wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
salt & pepper
2 large cucumbers, peeled and thinly sliced
1 pound snap peas, trimmed and sliced on the diagonal in 1/2-inch pieces
3/4 cup fresh mint, torn

In a large bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, and mustard. Season with salt and pepper. Add cucumbers and peas. Toss to combine. Stir in mint just before serving.

Serves 4.

Everyday with Rachael Ray — Once again I am keenly aware that many magazines don’t follow seasonal eating very closely. While this magazine does include a number of seasonal-appropriate recipes (like Asparagus, Ham and Egg Pasta, and Rhubarb Fool), I question the appeal of recipes such as Potato-Leek soup, Chili, and Spaghetti Squash for this spring season. I felt this issue belonged more in fall.

However, there is a large section devoted to parties and weddings, which was fun to look through and might be beneficial if you are looking for ideas along those lines.

I tried the Gemelli with Fennel and Hot Sausage and it was an easy and delicious weeknight meal that is worth repeating.

GEMELLI WITH FENNEL AND HOT SAUSAGE
(Everyday with Rachael Ray, May 2010)
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3/4 pound hot Italian sausage links, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I used mild)
1 large bulb fennel, cut into strips
1 large onion, sliced
3 carrots, sliced on an angle
2 Tbsp. olive oil
salt & pepper
1 pound gemelli pasta (I used penne)
1/4 cup chopped flat parsley

Preheat oven to 425F. On a baking sheet, toss the sausage, fennel, onion and carrots with the olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Bake until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta until al dente; drain, reserving 1/3 cup of the pasta cooking water. Transfer the pasta to a large bowl.

Add the sausage -vegetable mixture to the pasta. Add the reserved pasta cooking water to the baking sheet, scraping up any browned bits; transfer to the pasta mixture. Toss in the parsley; season with salt and pepper.

NOTE: My kids liked this with grated cheese sprinkled on top.

Serves 4.

Cooking Light — While I didn’t get any recipes made from Cooking Light this month, I did bookmark a number of recipes that looked appealing. This issue includes an article on sandwiches, healthy eating while in the DC area, and a great round-up of seasonal recipes in the Dinner Tonight feature.

If you are into homemade ice-cream, you may want to check out their cooking class article on light ice-cream. There is also an article on smoothies.

The longest feature is devoted to pizza, with recipe after recipe of delicious and ingenious combinations for this favorite American food.

Other articles include: Haitian-American food, simple spring recipes, spring risottos, and budget cooking.

If you want a magazine that says SPRING!, this is probably the one for you.

Off The Shelf: The Essential Tea Companion

The Essential Tea Companion is a gorgeous little book published by the makers of Victoria Magazine. It is exactly the kind of book you want to flip through and think thoughts of spring, tea, and friendship. Photos grace each page spread and give you a feast for your eyes while at the same time telling you how to create an edible feast for yourself and your friends.

The book is divided into five sections: Getting Acquainted with Tea, Making Time for Tea, Tea and Special Occasions, More Delightful Recipes for Tea and Treats, and Resources. Sprinkled throughout the book are the recipes, which include: Raisin and Nut Scones, Tomato and Goat Cheese Sandwiches, Poppy Seed Jam Tarts, Honey Tea Sandwiches, Butter Sponge Cake, Rose Petal Scones, and Lemon Thyme Bread to name just a few.

I chose to try the Cucumber Sandwiches with Mint Butter. The recipe seemed a perfect thing to serve in spring and I couldn’t help but add a bit of lemon zest to the mint butter since lemon pepper is one of my favorite companions to cucumbers. The result was very refreshing.

CUCUMBER SANDWICHES WITH MINT BUTTER
(The Essential Tea Companion)
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1/4 cup butter, softened
2 Tbsp. fresh mint leaves, chopped
8 very thin slices white bread, crusts removed (I used a White Wholegrain loaf from Pepperidge Farms)
1/2 large cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced (I prefer the English cucumber for this sandwich)
1/2 to 1 tsp. lemon zest (optional)
freshly grated pepper (optional)

Burnet sprigs and ripe black olives (optional)

In a small bowl, combine butter, mint and lemon zest along with the pepper if you are using that. Spread the mint butter on the bread slices. Lay the cucumbers on four of the slices and top with the remaining bread to make four sandwiches. Cut in half diagonally and then in half again. Or, cut into three long rectangles. Just before serving, garnish the sandwiches with burnet sprigs and olives, if desired.