By GRETCHEN ROBERTS
Among the season’s many other tantalizing attributes, spring is a herald to long-awaited fresh produce – from fragrant herbs to tender greens – and nowhere is spring produce fresher than straight out of your garden or at your local farmers market.
If you’re purchasing from a farmers market, look for stands that sell organic produce. However, don’t forfeit fresh, local food for imported organics from the grocery store. Those juicy, ripe strawberries grown by the farmer whose name you know might make a much better pie than the organic strawberries picked early and shipped in from another country, depending on how high of a priority buying organic is for you.
These recipes showcase the best of early spring produce. Delicate, sweet onions are caramelized into a quiche. Tender greens are tossed lightly with a shallot dressing. A succulent leg of lamb is paired with roasted new potatoes for a hearty main dish. And a creamy, tart rhubarb cake crowns the meal.
Spring green salad with shallot vinaigrette
This simple salad complements and offsets the richness of the quiche. Look for fresh greens, such as spinach, lettuce, dandelion, watercress and arugula. Use a gentle hand when drizzling the vinaigrette, as a light coating allows the taste of the fresh greens to shine through. Yields 6 servings.
2 small bunches fresh spring greens, washed and torn into bite-size pieces (about 8 cups)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 shallot, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Place greens in large salad bowl; set aside.
In small bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, honey, shallot, salt and pepper. Drizzle sparingly over greens, and toss to coat. Serve immediately.
Cover and refrigerate leftover vinaigrette, and use within a week.
Sweet onion quiche
Give it a shot, and you’ll find this hearty quiche with bacon and sweet, caramelized onions up to par. This dish involves several steps, but you can make it ahead of time and serve it at room temperature if you wish. Use fresh cheese from your farmers market if you can find it. Yields 6 to 8 servings.
9-inch pie crust
1 medium sweet onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 cups milk or half-and-half
2 cups grated Swiss or white cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
6 strips bacon, fried crisp and crumbled
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Line 9-inch pie pan with pie crust; trim and crimp edges of pastry. Set aside.
In large skillet over medium heat, cook onion, butter, and sugar, stirring occasionally, until onions are tender and golden brown, about 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.
In medium bowl, whisk eggs. Stir in milk, cheese, salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
Layer onions in pie crust, and pour egg mixture evenly over top. Sprinkle with bacon.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until center is just set. Cut into wedges, and serve warm or at room temperature.
Roast herbed leg of lamb with new potatoes
Grassfed lamb doesn’t taste anything like the lamb from the grocery meat counter. It’s mild and tender, with an ideal amount of marbling, and it is best served medium-rare, so make sure you don’t overcook it. Yields 6 to 8 servings.
Recipe by Karen K. Will
6 cloves garlic, peeled, divided
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup fresh mint
2 1/2 pounds grassfed leg of lamb
2 pounds new potatoes, scrubbed, unpeeled
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Place 3 cloves garlic, salt, pepper, one tablespoon olive oil, mustard and mint in food processor. Process until coarse-textured paste forms.
Rub paste over lamb, coating well; let stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
Place potatoes, remaining oil, remaining garlic, and an additional pinch of salt and pepper in medium bowl; toss well.
Put potatoes in bottom of large roasting pan. Place lamb on top of potatoes.
Position rack in lower third of oven. Roast lamb and potatoes for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until instant-read meat thermometer registers 140 degrees (medium-rare).
Transfer meat to plate, and tent with foil. Allow to rest for 15 to 20 minutes.
Arrange potatoes and lamb on serving platter. Garnish with additional fresh mint, if desired, and serve.
Rhubarb upside-down cake
This cake tastes best when it is fresh from the oven, while the rhubarb is still warm. If available, throw in sliced fresh strawberries with the rhubarb. Yields 8 to 9 servings.
2 cups sliced rhubarb (about five medium stalks)
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In 8-inch square or 9-inch round cake pan, toss rhubarb with 1/2 cup sugar. Spread mixture evenly in pan, then drizzle with cream.
In medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In large bowl, blend butter and remaining sugar. Add egg, milk, vanilla, and lemon zest, and cream until light and fluffy. Stir in flour mixture until just combined.
Pour cake batter over rhubarb mixture in pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted through cake (but not rhubarb) comes out clean.
Cool in pan for 10 minutes on wire rack before turning onto serving plate so rhubarb is on top. Serve warm.
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