Treat mom to a special homemade meal this Sunday using fresh flavors of the season, and set the mood for a lighter, healthier celebration. Several of my favorites, including strawberries, asparagus, spring peas and leeks are perfect for enjoying right now. Here are a few easy recipes to help you make the most of spring’s great produce and keep mom around for a while longer.
Breakfast or brunch:
Asparagus, Prosciutto and Spring Onion Frittata
This whole-pan omelet starts on the stove and finishes in the oven. Serve it hot or at room temperature, with a bowl of fresh berries and some whole grain toast on the side. Recipe from “Alfred Portale’s Twelve Seasons Cookbook;” makes 6 to 8 servings.
1/2 pound small red new potatoes, unpeeled
4 ounces jumbo asparagus, peeled, ends trimmed
1 cup finely sliced spring onions or scallions
8 whole eggs
3 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped chervil
Coarse salt and fresh ground white pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into several small pieces
3 ounces prosciutto, thinly sliced and cut into strips
4 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled into small pieces
Preheat oven to 375 F. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook potatoes over high heat until tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, about 15 minutes. Drain; when cool enough to handle, slice thickly and set aside.
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook asparagus over high heat until just tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Using tongs or a large skimmer, remove asparagus from water but keep the pot on the heat. Plunge asparagus into a bowl of ice water to cool; drain, then cut spears in half crosswise and set aside. Add onions to the boiling water; cook 4 minutes, then drain and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, whisk eggs and heavy cream until thoroughly incorporated. Stir in the spring onions and chervil. Season with salt and pepper; set aside. In a 10-inch nonstick ovenproof sauté pan, arrange asparagus spears in a spoke pattern. Place pan over medium heat; distribute butter between spears. When they begin to sizzle (about 2 minutes) whisk egg mixture and pour into the pan. Evenly distribute prosciutto, potatoes and goat cheese pieces around pan. Cook 2 minutes. Transfer pan to hot oven; bake until fully set, about 12 minutes. Pass pan under broiler for 1 minute or until frittata is lightly browned on top. Invert onto a warm serving plate, slice into wedges and serve immediately or at room temperature.
Lunch on the lanai:
Fresh Pea Soup with Tarragon
Trade in the split pea soup of winter for this fresh, light springtime alternative from chef John Ash’s classic book, “From the Earth to the Table;” makes 6 servings.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup chopped onions
1 cup chopped leeks, both white and tender green parts
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped carrot
3-1/2 cups rich vegetable or chicken stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 cups shelled fresh peas
1 cup loosely packed tarragon leaves
3 cups loosely packed and finely sliced romaine or other green lettuce
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Add the onions, leeks, celery and carrot; sauté until soft but not browned. Add the stock and wine. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes. Add peas and tarragon; simmer 5 minutes longer or until peas are soft. Add lettuce; simmer 2 minutes or until lettuce is just wilted and tender. Transfer to a blender or food processor, in batches if necessary, and puree. Strain soup and return to the saucepan. Bring back to a simmer; season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot, garnished with fresh tarragon leaves if desired.
Salad of Asparagus with Blue Cheese and Almonds
Also green like the soup, but with a contrasting chill and a little crunch, this recipe from the “Cooking Light” cookbook makes 6 servings.
1-1/2 pounds fresh asparagus spears, ends trimmed
3/4 cup no-salt-added chicken broth
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
12 baby Bibb lettuce leaves
2 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese
1-1/2 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted
With a knife or vegetable peeler, remove scales from stalks. In a large skillet, bring broth to a boil over medium-high heat; add asparagus, green onions and tarragon. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 6 to 8 minutes or until asparagus is crisp-tender. Remove asparagus from skillet with a slotted spoon and discard any broth left in skillet. Arrange asparagus on individual lettuce-lined salad plates or on lettuce-lined platter. Sprinkle with blue cheese and almonds. Chill a few minutes before serving.
Dinner and dessert:
Sautéed Monkfish with Leeks and Shiitakes
Sweet, mild leeks and succulent monkfish offer a delicious entree from Food &Wine magazine; makes 4 servings. Serve with brown rice and a simple spring-mix salad with a dressing of apple cider vinegar mixed with honey and extra virgin olive oil.
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, caps cut into 1/4 inch dice
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 pounds slender leeks, white and tender green parts only, halved lengthwise and
cut crosswise on the diagonal, half-inch thick
1 cup chicken stock or canned low-sodium broth
1-1/2 pounds trimmed monkfish fillet, cut crosswise into half-inch-thick medallions
Unbleached all-purpose flour, for dredging
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons minced chives
Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a very large skillet. When butter starts to brown, add mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper; cook over medium heat, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add wine; cook until evaporated, about 1 minute. Transfer mushrooms to a bowl; wipe out the skillet.
In a medium enameled cast-iron casserole, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Add leeks; season with salt and pepper, and cook over medium heat, stirring, until softened, about 1 minute. Add stock or broth; bring to a boil. Cover and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes. Stir well, cover, cook 3 minutes longer. Season fish with salt and pepper and lightly dredge in flour. Shake off excess flour. In the very large skillet, heat vegetable oil until almost smoking. Add fish; cook over medium high heat until browned on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Turn fish, reduce heat to medium, and cook until just opaque, about 3 minutes. Bring stewed leeks to a boil. Stir in shiitakes; season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat; stir in the chives and remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Spoon leek stew onto plates, set fish on top and serve immediately.
Pasta Primavera with Italian Sausage
If your mom prefers meat over fish, here’s an easy recipe that uses turkey sausage as a low-fat protein, plus fresh vegetables and herbs. Recipe adapted from “The Insulin Resistant Diet” by Cheryle Hart, MD and Mary Kay Grossman, RD; makes 6 servings.
6 ounces spaghetti
Nonstick cooking spray
6 Italian turkey sausage links, casings removed
16 ounces frozen broccoli-carrot-cauliflower vegetable blend (or 2 cups fresh, small-cut pieces)
1/2 cup sliced fresh zucchini
1/2 cup sliced fresh yellow squash
16-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
2 tablespoons dry white cooking wine
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1-1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh basil
5 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and set aside. Coat a nonstick skillet with spray oil; brown sausage in skillet over medium heat, stirring. Add vegetables and tomatoes; cover and cook 15 to 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Toss pasta with sausage-vegetable mixture; add parsley, basil and Parmesan and toss again. Serve immediately.
This simple, light, jewel of a dessert can be made ahead and frozen for 2 days. Recipe from Food &Wine magazine; makes 4 servings.
1/2 pound strawberries, hulled and halved
2 cups bottled still spring water
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Put strawberries in a blender. In a small saucepan, combine water and sugar; cook over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Pour the hot syrup over strawberries; add lemon zest. Blend to a smooth puree. Pass puree through a fine strainer into a large glass baking dish. Place in freezer. Stir puree every 20 minutes with a fork, until fine frozen shards have formed. Alternatively, you can free the puree overnight and let stand at room temperature for 5 minutes, then crush with a potato masher until it resembles coarse ice. Serve the granite in chilled glasses or cups.