Celebrate the season with the fresh flavors of the garden --- if not yours, someone else's! (3 recipes)
By Lee Svitak Dean
This elegant menu is easy and quick to prepare, practically foolproof for even the novice cook. It also offers in abundance the most welcome of springtime sights: the color green, in many splendid shades.
ASPARAGUS SALAD AND MUSTARD-TARRAGON VINAIGRETTE
Note: For the first course on this menu, spring is at its essence in the form of asparagus. Take away the embellishments of this dish and it's simply a green salad. But gather a bouquet of asparagus and Belgian endive, and this green salad becomes a springtime showstopper - edible proof that we "eat" with our eyes. Although any salad green will do, butterhead (sometimes called "butter" lettuce) is particularly pretty with its pale-lime rounded leaves. I prefer thin stalks of asparagus, but if thick is your preference, by all means use them.
• 24 thin stalks asparagus
• 4 tsp. Dijon mustard
• 1/4 c. tarragon vinegar, or white wine vinegar
• 2 tbsp. minced fresh tarragon or 1 tsp. dried and crushed
• 1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 16 to 24 pieces butterhead lettuce, such as Boston or Bibb (see Note)
• 24 Belgian endive leaves
• Fresh tarragon, for garnish
Steam asparagus for about 3 to 4 minutes, or until crisp-tender, then plunge into cold water; drain. If making in advance, store in refrigerator until an hour before serving; then set it out to reach room temperature.
Prepare vinaigrette: In a small bowl, whisk mustard, vinegar and tarragon. Slowly add olive oil, whisking constantly. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
On each serving plate, place 2 or 3 leaves of lettuce. Fan out three Belgian endive leaves and place a stalk of steamed asparagus in each of the leaves.
Drizzle 1 tablespoon or more of vinaigrette across asparagus and lettuce. Serve immediately.
Nutrition information per serving: 78 calories; 7 g fat; 43 mg sodium; 1 g saturated fat; 2 g carbohydrates; 25 mg calcium; 1 g protein; 0 mg cholesterol; 1 g dietary fiber;
Diabetic exchanges per serving: 1 1/2 fat.
NEW POTATOES WITH PARSLEY
SERVES 8 .
• 24 to 32 small new potatoes, unpeeled, and halved or quartered, depending on size of potato
• 4 tbsp. (1/2 stick) butter
• 1/8 to 1/4 c. chopped flat-leaf parsley Directions
Steam or boil potatoes until tender, about 15 to 20 minutes, depending on size. Drain water thoroughly from pot. Toss potatoes with butter and parsley.
Nutrition information per serving:
163 calories, 6 g fat, 50 mg sodium, 4 g saturated fat, 26 g carbohydrates, 34 mg calcium, 2 g protein, 15 mg cholesterol, 4 g dietary fiber.
Diabetic exchanges per serving: 1 1/2 bread/starch, 1 fat.
SUGAR SNAP PEAS WITH LEMON
Note: Sugar-snap peas (also called "snap" peas) have an edible pod. This recipe calls for lemon zest, the finely grated rind (only the yellow part) of the lemon, where the fragrant oils are.
• 3/4 to 1 lb. fresh sugar-snap peas
• Lemon zest or curls of lemon rind
• Butter or olive oil, if desired.
Steam peas until tender, about 3 minutes over simmering water. Toss with lemon zest and a little butter or olive oil, if desired.
Nutrition information per serving (without butter or oil): 23 calories, 0 g fat, 2 mg sodium, 0 g saturated fat, 4 g carbohydrates, 24 mg calcium, 2 g protein, 0 mg cholesterol, 1 g dietary fiber.
Diabetic exchanges per serving: 1 vegetable.
FRESH STRAWBERRY TARTLETS
Note: To make individual tartlets, you'll need either eight, 4-1/2-inch tartlet tins, or, as a substitute that will make smaller servings, a standard-size muffin pan. It's also possible to make one large tart (in which case you will need only a half-recipe for the crust). For a 9-inch tart, the eight servings will be fairly small, though adequate. To serve eight with larger portions, you may want to prepare two 9-inch tarts or stretch the dough into a 10-inch pan. For the prettiest presentation, use either a tart pan with a removable bottom or a springform pan.
• 3 c. flour
• 1 c. sugar
• 1 c. (2 sticks) cold butter, cut into 1-in. pieces
• 2 eggs, slightly beaten
• 1 egg white, slightly beaten
• 1 pint (2 c.) fresh strawberries, rinsed and hulled
• 3/4c. sugar
• 1/2 c. water
• 2 tbsp. cornstarch
• Dash salt
• 2 pints (4 c.) fresh
• strawberries, rinsed and hulled
• 1 to 2 tsp. kirsch (cherry brandy), optional
• Fresh mint leaves or whipped cream, for garnish
For crust: In a large mixing bowl, mix flour, sugar and butter. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often until mixture is crumbly, 2 to 3 minutes (if you've got some hard-to-break lumps of butter, use a fork to finish them off).
Make a well in the center of flour mixture and pour in 2 beaten eggs. (Egg white will be used later). Blend with fork until incorporated thoroughly. Mixture will be very dry.
Press dough to 1/4 -inch thickness on bottom and sides of tartlet pans. Chill for 30 minutes to prevent shrinkage.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brush crust with beaten egg white and bake 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool.
For strawberry glaze: In a medium saucepan, mash berries slightly, then add sugar and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and strain mixture, reserving syrup. Return syrup to pan and whisk in cornstarch and salt. Simmer until mixture thickens and is clear, whisking constantly. (If glaze gets too thick, thin with a little water.) Remove from heat. Strain if desired and cool. Spread about 1 tablespoon of glaze on each tartlet shell.
For filling: If berries are small, use them whole; if large, slice them. Toss berries in kirsch, if desired. Distribute berries among tartlet shells. For sliced berries, overlap slices around the perimeter of the tart. Refrigerate and serve within a couple hours of assembling.
Remove from refrigerator about 10 minutes before serving. To serve, remove tart from tin. (Push up on the bottom of the tart. Slip the tart shell off the bottom of the tin, if possible, or leave it on when you serve it.) Garnish with fresh mint leaves or top each tart with dollop of whipped cream.
Variation: When serving a different entree (one that doesn't have cheese for the filling as this lamb dish does), the strawberry tartlets can have a layer of cream cheese filling under the berries. To do so, beat together 8 ounces softened cream cheese,1/3 cup sour cream and 1/4 cup sugar until smooth. Spread evenly over baked crust before adding the glaze and berries.
Nutrition information per serving: 620 calories, 26 g fat, 190 mg sodium, 91 g carbohydrates, 16 g saturated fat, 43 mg calcium, 8 g protein, 115 mg cholesterol, 3 g dietary fiber.
Diabetic exchanges per serving: 1/2 fruit, 2 bread/starch, 3 1/2 other carb, 5 fat.
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