By David Tanis, The New York Times
Depending on where you live, when March rolls around, either spring has sprung or you sorely wish it would start springing.
Getting tired of squash and parsnips? I am, too.
But, if some spring produce items, like the new-crop turnips or strawberries called for in these recipes, aren’t yet available in your region, give yourself permission to jump the season a bit. Buy onions and leeks at the farmers’ market, but get organic berries at the supermarket. (In Southern California, where I recently arrived, you’ll find strawberries at most farmers’ markets at this point in the year.)
Of course, you can find onions any time. But this time of year, when the produce options are more limited, it’s nice to let them show off a little. Along with leeks and a little garlic, slowly softened onions serve as the base for a first-course savory tart. For the best-tasting topping, use a good, fruity extra-virgin olive oil, and season the alliums well with salt, pepper and thyme. Make this oniony base whenever you have 10 or 15 minutes to spare. It can sit at room temperature until you’re ready to put the tart together (or refrigerate it and use it within a couple of days).
Once the filling is ready, the bulk of the work is done. All that’s left to do is to spread the prepared onions on a sheet of rolled-out puff pastry, then top them with anchovy fillets and capers, and bake it to a golden brown. Use any kind of flaky pastry or pie dough you wish, or you can even spread the mixture on a yeasted pizza dough. But using store-bought or homemade puff pastry dough makes the most dazzling impression. Serve it slightly warm from the oven or at room temperature. A bowl of lightly dressed salad greens served alongside would also be welcome.
On to the main course. If you ask a friend to drop by for lamb and turnips, the response may be less than enthusiastic, since it conjures an image of a heavy wintry mutton stew. (That may have been fine a month ago.) But this lamb-and-turnip dinner is quite the opposite. It calls for most succulent cut of lamb, the rack, roasted over rosemary sprigs, then sliced into chops. An eight-bone rack of lamb can be cut into four double chops or eight small ones. Though I think one lamb rack is enough for four servings, you may want to roast two for guests with heartier appetites.
As for the turnips, this menu features small sweet new turnips, no bigger than Ping-Pong balls, and most certainly not the large purple-topped keepers you usually find near the potatoes at the grocery store. New turnips are sent to market with their green tops attached and are well worth seeking out. Use the smallest ones you can find, halved or quartered, or cut medium white turnips into small wedges. (In a pinch, you can also use round red radishes, and, if turnip tops are not available, use spinach, mizuna or other quick-wilting cooking greens.) Tiny turnips cook quickly in a saucepan, barely covered with water, with a lump of butter — or a big glug of olive oil — thrown in. They’re simmered briskly for five minutes, until tender, then the greens are tossed in so they wilt. Finally, the heat is raised, to cook away most of the water. Cooked this way, young turnips are simply exquisite.
Lastly, for dessert, I always find fresh fruit to be the best option. The choice was an easy one, since ripe, sweet organic strawberries now available at my West Coast farmers’ market. To them, I added a pool of crème anglaise, an easy-to-make pouring custard, and a splash of rose water, since strawberries are botanically related to roses. It makes for a nice pairing, and a few rose petals add drama. Though a sprinkling of confectioners’ sugar and a splash of Champagne would also not be a bad idea, lending everything a celebratory sweetness that beckons spring to hurry up and arrive.
Onion Tart With Leeks, Capers and Anchovy
By David Tanis
Though this tart may seem complicated, it’s actually rather simple to put together. Once you make the savory onion mixture, all that’s left to do is spread it on a sheet of rolled-out puff pastry, top it with anchovy fillets and capers, and bake it to a golden brown. Use any kind of flaky pastry or pie dough you wish, or even spread the mixture on yeasted pizza dough. Accompany with a salad of small lettuce greens if desired. The tart is delicious served warm or at room temperature.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 medium onions, diced (about 3 cups)
- Salt and pepper
- 3 medium leeks, white and tender green parts, diced (about 2 cups)
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 1 sheet store-bought all-butter puff pastry, thawed and rolled into a 10-inch circle (or use any favorite pie dough recipe)
- 2 teaspoons medium capers, rinsed
- 8 anchovy fillets
- 2 teaspoons snipped chives or chopped parsley
1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Put olive oil in a wide skillet or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. When oil is wavy, add onions and cook, stirring, until softened and lightly browned, about 5 to 7 minutes. Season well with salt and pepper.
3. Add leeks, garlic and thyme, and cook for another 5 minutes, until leeks are softened but still bright green. Taste and adjust seasoning, then spread mixture on a baking sheet to cool to room temperature.
4. Lay pastry round on a rimmed parchment-lined baking sheet. Spread cooled onion mixture over pastry, leaving a 1-inch border. Fold over the border and crimp.
5. Sprinkle capers evenly over onion mixture. Arrange anchovy fillets on top.
6. Bake for 45 minutes, until the pastry is nicely browned. Cool tart for 5 minutes, then sprinkle the chives on top and cut into wedges to serve.
Spring Lamb With Rosemary and Turnips
By David Tanis
For a fragrant spring meal, choose the tenderest cut of lamb, the rack, and roast it over rosemary branches as done in this recipe. Roast two racks for guests with heartier appetites, but one really is enough for four servings. You’ll want to use small, sweet new turnips here, no bigger than Ping-Pong balls. But if you can’t find them, use the smallest turnips available or cut medium turnips into wedges. And if your turnips don’t have their tops, substitute them with spinach, mizuna or other tender cooking greens.
Yield: 4 to 8 servings
Total time: 1 1/2 hours
- 2 (1 1/2-pound) racks of lamb, trimmed of excess fat and frenched
- Salt and pepper
- 4 tablespoons roughly chopped rosemary leaves, plus about 12 large sprigs
- 12 ounces baby turnips, roots trimmed, halved or whole, washed but not peeled
- 5 ounces turnip greens or other greens
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1. Season lamb generously with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with chopped rosemary, and rub the herbs into the surface of the lamb. Arrange rosemary sprigs on the bottom of a roasting pan. Lay lamb rack(s) over sprigs. Let meat come to room temperature before roasting.
2. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
3. Roast lamb, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part reads 125 degrees (for medium-rare). Let rest on a cutting board.
4. Put turnips in a wide medium saucepan over medium heat and cover with 1 inch of water. Season with salt, add butter and bring to a brisk simmer. When turnips are fork-tender, about 5 minutes, add greens and cook, stirring, until wilted, about 2 more minutes. If desired, bring the water to a boil and let evaporate. Let turnips brown slightly in the remaining butter, if you like.
5. Cut lamb racks into 4 thick chops or 8 thin chops, slicing between the bones.
Strawberries in Rose Crème Anglaise
By David Tanis
Fresh fruit is an excellent option for dessert. Here, ripe, sweet organic strawberries are served in a pool of crème anglaise, an easy-to-make pouring custard, with a splash of rose water. Since strawberries are botanically related to roses, it’s a nice pairing, and a few rose petals add drama. Make the crème anglaise a day or two in advance.
Yield: 4 servings
Total time: 30 minutes
- 1 1/2 cups/400 milliliters half-and-half or whole milk
- 1/4 cup/45 grams granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 4 egg yolks
- 1/2 teaspoon rose flower water, plus more to taste
- 1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved, or left whole if small
- Confectioners’ sugar, to taste
- Rose petals, for garnish (optional)
1. Put half-and-half in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to just under a simmer, then turn off heat.
2. In a mixing bowl, whisk together sugar, cornstarch and egg yolks. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle hot half-and-half into the sugar mixture, then pour the mixture back into the saucepan. Cook, whisking, over a very low heat until the mixture coats the back of the spoon, 5 to 10 minutes. (Alternatively, you can do this in a double boiler.) Remove from heat and strain sauce through a fine-mesh sieve. Cool over an ice bath, then stir in rose flower water. Serve immediately, or refrigerate until ready to serve. (Crème anglaise can be made up to 2 days in advance.)
3. To serve, place strawberries in a bowl and sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar, tasting as you go until the berries are your preferred sweetness. If you like, add 2 or 3 drops of the rose flower water to the berries.
4. Pour 1/2 cup sauce into shallow dessert bowls. Spoon berries over. Garnish with rose petals, if using.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
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