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Queens Chronicle

Bounty of spring in fresh recipes

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Posted: Thursday, April 15, 2010 12:00 am

Everything’s coming up green now. Grass, trees, flowers and fresh produce. When planning a springtime meal, don’t overlook seasonal favorites like peas, asparagus, mint, rhubarb and strawberries. This is the time of year when they are at their best. And while you’re making up that shopping list, don’t forget to add roast lamb to the spring dining table.

Listed below are several recipes the Queens Chronicle compiled to tempt the most discerning palate.

Asparagus Soup

1 pound fresh asparagus

1/2 cup water

3 tablespoons butter

1 medium onion, chopped

3 tablespoons flour

3 cups milk

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

3 tablespoons sour cream

Cut off thick ends of asparagus and then slice vegetable into 2-inch pieces. Cook asparagus in 1/2 cup boiling water for 3 to 5 minutes or until tender; drain and reserve liquid. Set aside. Melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat.Add onions and saute for 4 minutes until tender. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly for 5 minutes. Stir in reserved liquid. Add aspasragus, milk and seasonings. Bring to a boil. Stir in sour cream. Cool briefly. Process asparagus mixture in batches in blender or food processor until smooth. Return to Dutch oven and cook until thoroughly heated. Can be garnished with a dollop of sour cream. Serves five.

(Editor’s note: this recipe can be made with reduced calories by substituting low-fat milk and sour cream.)

Rhubarb-Buttermilk Muffins

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

1/4 cup salad oil

1 egg

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup buttermilk

1 1/2 cups finely diced rhubarb

1/2 cup pecan or almond pieces

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

Topping:

1/3 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon melted margarine

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease 24 medium-sized muffin cups. Combine in large bowl: brown sugar, oil, egg and vanilla. Beat until well mixed. Stir into mixture buttermilk, rhubarb and nuts. In another bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add this mixture all at once to rhubarb mixture and stir until all ingredients are moistened. Do not overmix. Fill prepared muffin pan 3/4 full with batter. Quickly combine topping ingredients and sprinkle on top of batter in each muffin cup. Bake in preheated oven on center shelf for 15 to 20 minutes.

Spring Salad

1 package frozen artichoke hearts, cooked and drained

1 cup fresh peas, cooked

3/4 cup thinly sliced water chestnuts

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 1/2 teaspoons tarragon vinegar

salt

1 bunch watercress, washed

Cut artichoke hearts in half and mix with peas and water chestnuts. Set aside. Blend mayonnaise, vinegar and salt to taste. Mix with vegetables. Place on watercress and chill. Serves four.

Strawberry Cake

1 package golden cake mix, butter recipe

2/3 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup butter, softened

3 large eggs

1/2 cup strawberry preserves, divided

2 cups whipping cream

3 tablespoons powdered sugar

2 quarts fresh strawberries, sliced

Beat first four ingredients at low speed until cake mix is moistened. Then beat at medium speed for 4 minutes. Pour batter into two greased and floured 9-inch round cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 18 to 20 minutes, or until a tooth pick inserted comes out dry. Cool on wire racks for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and brush the top of each cake layer with 2 tablespoons of the preserves. Let cool on racks.

Beat remaining preserves with cream and powdered sugar at high speed with mixer until stiff peaks form.

To assemble: Place one cake layer on serving plate. Arrange half of strawberries over layer and top with half of whipped cream mixture. Repeat with second cake layer. Garnish with additional strawberries if desired.

Lamb with Wine Vinaigrette

4 to 6 lamb rib or loin chops

2 cups Chianti (or other red wine)

1 tablespoon honey

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning

1 teaspoon freshly groundblack pepper, plus more for seasoning

Place a grill pan over medium-high heat or preheat a gas or charcoal grill. Season the lamb with salt and pepper. Grill until caramel-colored grill marks appear, and an instant-read meat thermometer registers 125 degrees Fahrenheit for medium-rare, about 5 to 7 minutes per side, depending on thickness.

Meanwhile, place the wine in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Boil gently until reduced to 1 cup, about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat. Whisk in the honey until dissolved. Add the extra-virgin olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper. Whisk to combine.

Serve the lamb chops on a platter with a serving bowl of the Chianti vinaigrette alongside for drizzling over the meat.

Pasta with Mussels

2 cups dry white wine

4 bay leaves

4 pounds small mussels, scrubbed and debearded

Pinch of saffron threads

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

3/4 pound artisanal Italian spaghetti or linguine

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

sliced lemons (optional)

In a large pot, combine the wine and bay leaves and bring to a boil. Add the mussels, cover and cook over high heat, shaking the pan a few times, until the mussels open, about 5 minutes. Drain the mussels in a colander set over a medium bowl. Pour the mussel broth into a glass measure. Crumble the saffron into the mussel broth.

Discard any unopened mussels. Remove the mussels from their shells and place in a bowl. Pour the melted butter over the mussels and toss to coat. Cover with plastic wrap.

Heat the extra-virgin olive oil in a large, deep skillet. Add the thinly sliced garlic and cook over low heat just until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Add the crushed red pepper and cook for 1 minute longer. Slowly pour in the reserved mussel broth, stopping when you reach the grit at the bottom of the glass measure. Add the lemon juice and simmer over moderately high heat until the sauce is reduced to about 1 cup, about 8 minutes.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the spaghetti or linguini just until al dente. Drain the pasta well.

Add the buttered mussels and the hot spaghetti to the mussel sauce and toss over low heat until the pasta is uniformly coated. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to warmed shallow bowls and serve at once.

Garnish with lemons (optional).

Kentucky Derby Mint Julep

4 cups bourbon

2 bunches of fresh spearmint

1 cup distilled water

1 cup granulated sugar

Powdered sugar

To prepare mint extract, remove about 40 small mint leaves. Wash and place in a small bowl. Cover with 3 ounces bourbon. Allow the leaves to soak for 15 minutes, then gather the leaves in paper toweling. Thoroughly wring the mint over the bowl of bourbon. Dip the bundle again and repeat the process several times.

To prepare simple syrup, mix 1 cup of granulated sugar and 1 cup of distilled water in a small saucepan. Heat to dissolve sugar. Stir constantly. Set aside to cool.

To prepare mint julep mixture, pour 3 1/2 cups of bourbon into a large glass bowl or glass pitcher. Add 1 cup of the simple syrup to the bourbon.

Begin adding the mint extract 1 tablespoon at a time to the julep mixture. Each batch of mint extract is different, so you must taste and smell after each tablespoon is added. You are looking for a soft mint aroma and taste — generally about 3 tablespoons. When you think it’s right, pour the whole mixture back into the empty liter bottle and refrigerate for at least 24 hours.

To serve the julep, fill each glass 1/2 full with shaved ice. Insert a spring of mint and then pack in more ice to about 1-inch over the top of the cup. Then, insert a straw that has been cut to 1-inch above the top of the cup so the nose is forced close to the mint when sipping the julep.

When frost forms on the cup, pour the refrigerated julep mixture over the ice and add a sprinkle of powdered sugar to the top of the ice. Serve immediately.

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