Green Pea Salad with Pea Shoots and Tarragon

Green Pea Salad with Pea Shoots and TarragonThe Vegetable Diaries
Spring break is here—which means it’s time to plant a veggie garden. I’m very excited. I haven’t had a true garden for many years. There have been too many other activities getting in the way of being able to take care of the plants. So, I am beyond motivated.

A few weeks ago I started my seeds. And, we had way too many cubic yards of good planting soil delivered that we used to fill our planter boxes. (I totally over-ordered.)

The waiting has been the hardest part. As a rule, you’re not supposed to plant until the temps stay above 50 degrees—and my patience has been running thin. I tend to jump the gun, usually planting a week or two too early. I showed better restraint this year. I did get the peas in the ground early though, mainly because they like the cold. But, I also chose a variety that is frost-resistant…just in case.

The recent weather has been great. But, the mornings have been a bit chilly. I am crossing my fingers that we are done with the frost. As of this post, all of my tomatoes are in the ground as well as the beans and peppers, both the bells and the spicier versions. I have been growing strawberries in my greenhouse which have recently exploded with so many berries. So, that’s some tastiness to look forward to. My peach tree is also showing significant signs of life.

I am experimenting with grow bags this year and I have to report that so far things are going well. I planted potatoes in them which are super easy to grow. And, from the looks of them, potatoes love grow bags. Grow bags are a great, inexpensive option for those who don’t have the space to have big planters. A friend of mine has had success growing tomatoes in grow bags. So, apartment dwellers take heart, you have options beyond a wine barrel or bulky planters.

With everything in the ground all that is left is the waiting. The peas will probably be the first to produce anything in great numbers. There’s nothing better than fresh peas right out of their pod. Although fresh picked corn on the cob might be a close second…and then there are the tomatoes. It’s great to have options!

Green Pea Salad with Pea Shoots and Tarragon Recipe
Adapted from Alex Guarnaschelli and the Food Network
Yields 4 to 6 servings

This is the ultimate salad for pea-lovers. It showcases three kinds of peas plus pea shoots—which are delicious if you have never tried them! Read more…

Amy’s Almost Battenburg Cake

Amy’s Almost Battenburg CakeBattenburg Bunny
When I think of Easter baking two things come to mind: Hot Cross Buns and Carrot Cake. They are two undisputed staples of the Easter celebration. But, as much as I enjoy a good carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, sometimes you just want to do something different. Be a rebel. Take a walk on the wild side. (Okay, wild might be a bit strong.)

My issue is while I know I want to something different, I’m just not sure what that might be. My strawberries are starting to bear fruit—but not nearly in the quantities I need for a dessert for a crowd. There are enough for a nice little snack while watering the garden, though.

Something lemony is always a good idea. The bright yellow color and bright lemony flavor are perfect for a Spring /Easter brunch or dinner. But, finding something new was challenging until I remembered a cake from one of my favorite TV show binges from this past year.

My mother-in-law had been telling us to watch the Durrells in Corfu on PBS for the past couple of years…well before lockdown. So, my husband and I decided to take the plunge out of a desperate need for entertainment. And, we were very glad we did. It’s hilarious, and made even more so because it was way too similar to how my husband was brought up.

Battenburg cake has a reoccurring part in the show. So, of course I was intrigued. I have never made one nor have I ever tasted one. But, there’s no time like the present…right? I found a recipe on Food 52 and have adapted it with lemon rather than marzipan and a buttercream frosting. So, while it may not actually be a Battenburg cake, it will still look like one!   Read more…

Fresh Fruit & Mascarpone Tart

Fresh Fruit & Mascarpone Tart

Tart of the Matter
When you think of mascarpone cheese what comes to mind? OK, wait. I’m being presumptuous. Does anyone else actually ponder mascarpone cheese? Or is that just me? On second thought, don’t answer that. Let me just live in my happy little bubble where everyone spends significant time considering the wonders of spreadable Italian cheeses…

I love mascarpone cheese. It’s essentially Italy’s cream cheese and I actually like it better than the tried and true Philly cream cheese because it’s got a fresher more mild flavor than the American version. Don’t get me wrong I’m still here for a good cream cheese frosting and you don’t get that with mascarpone. You do however get fantastic things like tiramisu with mascarpone and you can swap out your whipped cream for a dollop of mascarpone next time you find yourself with a bowl of fresh summer berries.

To quote Forest Gump, “Fresh fruits and mascarpone go together like peas and carrots.”

For your tart you can use peaches or plums with raspberries or blueberries. Any combination will work. Strawberries are always insanely good when paired with a little mascarpone. Even better if they come together in a tart. Lately I have enjoyed a mix of all of ‘em.

This recipe for a Fresh Fruit & Mascarpone Tart below is what I call a good start. It’s a basic recipe that can be adapted to suit your own taste. You can play with the crust. Personally, I like to make it with a graham cracker crust or r you could go this route with a rye crust. Our recipe uses a traditional Pâté Sucrée (French sweet pastry) crust.

This is definitely a dessert best prepared and served on the weekend as it doesn’t hold up too well overnight.

Fresh Fruit & Mascarpone Tart
Yields 6 servings Read more…

Grilled Butterflied Leg of Lamb with Spring Gremolata

Grilled Butterflied Leg of Lamb with Spring GremolataHoled Up for the Holiday
Easter is going to be different this weekend. To be fair, we’ll still do most of the same things we would normally do. There will be Easter baskets and chocolate bunnies (though they may be a bit smaller). There won’t be any fancy clothes, which frankly, won’t upset too many of us. We’ll just put on our “good” pair of sweats. There will be Easter dinner but there will not be the traditional purple goblets that my grandmother always used. Well, at least not at my house. My sister will probably use them while also wearing her “good” sweats.

But what to cook?

During the first full week of the shelter-in-place order, I was thrilled to know that HoneyBaked Ham was still up and running. So I walked up the street and bought a bigger ham than I needed and a couple of their soup and chili mixes. We ate ham for dinner and had sandwiches for days. I used the bone to make a fantastic soup and put the rest of the ham in the freezer for later use. We happily devoured that ham but it left me with a problem for Easter. We normally do ham on Easter but at this point, my family can’t even look at it. And, I agree which means we’re going with door number two…leg of lamb.

Lamb for Easter is a no-brainer. It’s springtime—and few things are more synonymous with springtime than lamb. There are a number of ways you could choose to prepare your lamb. I’m opting for a butterflied leg, to make it easier to slice. Growing up my grandmother would do a full, on the bone, very traditional leg of lamb that she studded with garlic cloves and then roasted in the oven. (Yes, there was mint jelly.) It was fantastic. But, I’m just not feeling it. Maybe I’m bored, maybe I’m rebellious. But, I want something with brighter bolder flavors so I’m throwing mine on the grill.

This recipe has a decidedly Middle Eastern flavor with Aleppo pepper and lemon. Feel free to substitute what you don’t have. I’ve had to do a lot of that lately. Every meal has been a bit of an adventure. The pepper can be swapped for hot paprika or even straight-up red chili flakes. I would encourage you to use as many of the fresh herbs as possible though I get it. They may be hard to come by. If you can find them rejoice. That bright, happy, fresh flavor is something that everyone could use a little of right now!

Grilled Butterflied Leg of Lamb with Spring Gremolata
Yields 12 servings
Adapted from NY Times Cooking Read more…