Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Whole Wheat Pappardelle with Spring Lamb, Artichokes and Fava Beans

You’ve heard it a thousand times, but that’s because it’s true-spring has finally sprung for good! (We hope.) Is there a better way to bring in the new season than spring lamb braised with seasonal bright green vegetables? The fresh combo complements spring’s blooms and blossoms.

Fava Beans

Few vegetables play as hard-to-get as fresh fava beans. They appear for a short time in the spring and require tedious preparation. You need to remove the beans from their pod, and then peel the skin from of each one of them. Yes, you can buy them shelled, but they are not quite the same.

Local lamb is available from Double Brook Farm and Beechtree Farm. Both will participate in the up-and-coming Princeton Forrestal Village Farmers Market. Jim will cook a whole Spring Lamb Chef Dinner on May 23.

Whole Wheat Pappardelle with Spring Lamb, Artichokes and Fava Beans
Serves 10

1 lamb shoulder, boned and cut into cubes
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, sliced
3 tbsp. tomato paste
2 cups dry white wine
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
¼ cup fresh shelled fava beans, frozen peas or frozen uncooked lima beans
4 large artichokes cooked and quartered, chokes and “hairy” centers removed, or frozen artichokes hearts.
Freshly ground pepper and sea salt
¼ cup fresh chopped Italian parsley
1 pound whole wheat pappardelle or other pasta, cooked just before serving according to package directions.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Heat a large heavy pan on the stove on high heat. Season the lamb well with salt and pepper. Add the oil to the pan and then the lamb, being careful not to splatter. Make sure you don’t crowd the pan. Brown the meat well on all sides. You may need to work in two or three batches.
Remove the meat to an ovenproof casserole. Add the garlic and onion to the pan in which you cooked the meat and cook, stirring frequently until opaque. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly for about two minutes. Add the wine and the rosemary, bring to a moderate boil and reduce by half. Pour the liquid over the lamb and add 2 cups water or stock. Cover the casserole and roast for 2 hours. Remove from the oven, carefully take off the lid (beware of the steam) and add the favas and artichokes. Check for seasoning and add the parsley. Serve tossed with the pasta and pass the pecorino!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A Good Friday Ramps Recipe

Ramps, those lovely delicate shoots of wild leeks, the signals of the beginning of the season of plenty, are finally here. They grow in the wild (well, New Jersey wild) and thus hard to come by.  Occasionally they make an appearance at random produce sections and farm stores but you can forage them by yourself (see how).

Local Ramps, Photo courtesy of Zone 7

Ramps have a garlicky, oniony flavor that complements many fish. Especially when juxtaposition-ed with that crispy skin of a pan-fried fillet. Here is one gloriously simple example, just in time for Good Friday.


Salmon Fillets with Sauteed Ramps
2 pounds ramps, trimmed and cleaned (substitute with a combination of leeks and scallions with a touch of slivered garlic)
3 tablespoon olive oil to saute ramps
Salt and black pepper
4 portions salmon or halibut fillets, skin on
Butter to cook the fish
Flour to coat the fish
Sea salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot bring 2 quarts of salted water to a boil and add ramps. Prepare an ice water bowl. Cook until tender. Transfer to ice bath for about 15 seconds. Drain.

When you are ready to cook the fish:
In a skillet heat the olive oil over a medium flame. Add the ramps and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Saute until lightly caramelized, about 4 minutes. Transfer to 4 individual warm serving plates.

Simultaneously, melt the butter in a large sauté pan until just starting to change color. While the butter is melting season the fish fillets on both sides with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Dredge in the flour on both sides and pat off excess. Place the filet into the sauté pan. Cook until well browned and crisp on both sides and the fillets are just barely cooked through. Remove each fillet and place over the ramps. Serve immediately.

Friday, April 4, 2014

A "Winter Meets Spring" Asparagus Recipe

Come April, we crave asparagus. Tender and delicate, yet those flavor notes have a distinct snap. Since the weather is still pretty wintry we’ve got the perfect recipe for you-one that combines springy asparagus with a richer, luxurious preparation, fit for the rainy chilly weather outside.

Fettuccine with Asparagus Sauce (Serves 4)
1 pound fresh fettuccine
1 bunch asparagus
2 cloves garlic
½ cup heavy cream
1 tbsp. butter
¼ cup olive oil
Fresh chopped Italian (flat) parsley
¼ cup freshly grated parmesan
Shaved parmesan to garnish
Salt and white pepper to taste

Cut off the tips and the tough ends of the asparagus. Discard the tough ends and reserve the tips. Chop the asparagus stems. Combine olive oil and garlic in a heavy saucepan over medium heat and cook until garlic is lightly browned. Add the chopped asparagus and a sprinkle of salt.
Cook over medium heat until tender. Add 1-½ cups of water and bring to a simmer. Let the mixture reduce by half and add the cream. Reduce by another half. Let the asparagus mixture cool and puree in a blender, or use an immersion blender.
Strain, puree, and add back into a saucepan. Add the asparagus tips and parsley. Bring to a simmer and cook until the mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

When ready to serve, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook until al dente, about 3 minutes. Strain the pasta and drain completely. Add the pasta to the sauce and stir in the cheese. Arrange on a heated serving platter (or individual bowls) and garnish with the shaved Parmesan.

When the first local asparagus and the sun both come in, hopefully soon, there are many other preparations you can try:

  • Boil or steam the asparagus spears until they just sag when lifted. Then dress them very simply with good olive oil, lemon juice and coarse salt. And maybe a few shavings of Parmesan…
  • The wiry thin spears are great stirred into risotto or pasta, or used to make a frittata. You don't need to peel the asparagus, just cut off the bases.
  • Cut off the bases of the asparagus where they turn green, then peel with a vegetable peeler from the tip down. They work very well on the grill but you can also glaze them. Lay them in one layer in a skillet and add just enough water to barely cover the bottom of the pan. Then add some butter or a splash of olive oil. Cook, covered, over medium heat until the spears are almost tender (poke them with a small, sharp knife to make sure). Remove the lid, raise the heat to high and cook until the liquid has reduced to a silky asparagus-flavored sauce. Serve as is, or top it with a sunny-side-up egg with some good bread for a fancy brunch.
  • You can use a vegetable peeler to turn the peels of the asparagus stem into long thin “noodles,” then make a little salad with olive oil-garlic-lemon vinaigrette, some capers and chopped hardboiled egg.