Home Cooking: Spring fling dinner
Spring? The jury is still out. When I began cooking this morning it was sunny and warm and I’d thrown open the windows. By the time I sat down to write this column, snow had returned.
Eventually the battle between winter and spring will be decided in favor of the latter and we’ll be ready with this delicious dinner to remind us that summer harvests can’t be far behind. Until then, as you’ll see, the ingredients of this dinner reflect our seasonal confusion.
Because winter has not released its grip, we have common winter root vegetables playing center stage, but we’re focusing on their colorful varieties: baby potatoes in red, white and blue; golden beets; orange carrots and red onions. And with a nod to spring, we also feature one of the first spring vegetables to land in our grocery stores: asparagus.
You’ll also notice a flavor theme in this dinner — bright lemon, tart Dijon mustard and plenty of fresh thyme and rosemary find their way into each dish (minus the cake, of course).
This is a dinner to enjoy with family and friends and the leftovers make a perfect cold lunch to bring with you the next day.
Beet and potato salad with mustard vinaigrette
This potato salad is easy and delicious, and it will travel well because it is dressed with a vinaigrette instead of mayonnaise. Serve slightly warm, at room temperature or even chilled. Inspired by a recipe from “Ad Hoc at Home,” an essential cookbook by Thomas Keller of The French Laundry and Per Se fame.
4 medium size golden beets
1 pound mixture of petite of gold, red and purple mini potatoes Sprig of rosemary and thyme
∑ cup extra virgin olive oil
Juice of ½ lemon
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
Mix all together and pour over the potatoes and beets. It can be made ahead. The potatoes and beets will soak up the flavors of the vinaigrette.
Cut the greens and the root stem off of the beets. Wash the beets, sprinkle with oil and salt, wrap them in a piece of aluminum foil, and roast at 400 degrees for 30-35 minutes until they are tender when pierced with a knife. Take them out from the oven, allow them to cool and then gently rub with a paper towel to remove the skin. Cut into quarter-moon slices.
Wash and cut the mini potatoes into quarters, Put the white and gold potatoes in one small pan and the purple potatoes in another pan. Fill pans with water, a pinch of salt, bring the potatoes to a soft boil and allow to cook until they are just tender, about 15-25 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Toss the potatoes with the sliced beets. Pour the mustard dressing over potatoes and beets.
Lemon mustard herbed butter
This seasoned butter is made in the food processor in 15 seconds, but it does double-duty to season both the chicken and the asparagus. It’s also perfect for potatoes, vegetables, fish and pork.
1 stick butter
1 tablespoon rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
Juice of ½ lemon
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Salt, pepper (or lemon pepper)
Blend all of the ingredients in a food processor until you have a nice paste.
Spatchcock roasted lemon herbed chicken with sumac seasoning
I love roasting chicken in this method. Removing its backbone and gently pressing down on the breastbone allows the chicken to roast flat out. It not only cooks more quickly, but allows all of the skin to crisp.
1 roasting chicken
Sumac spice (available in the spice aisle. It’s optional — but it does add another layer of lemon flavor.)
8-inch baguette or other rustic bread cut into 1-inch thick slices
3-4 carrots cut into rustic rectangles
1 red onion cut into rustic wedges
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Place 1-inch slices of day-old bread into the bottom of a baking dish. This is optional, but it allows the drippings from the chicken to leak onto the bread as the chicken roasts. If you love bread as much as I do, it’s delicious. Place the chicken on top of the bread slices. Toss slices of carrot and onion around the chicken.
Gently lift the skin of the breast and insert dollops of the herbed butter, then place more pieces of butter on top of the skin. Finally, season with a sprinkling of sumac. Place in oven and roast for 45-60 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken. Baste two to three times during the roasting process, adding more butter if the chicken seems dry.
Butter Roasted Asparagus wrapped in prosciutto* (*optional)
To be honest, I only added the prosciutto because I had two lonely slices in the fridge. These butter roasted asparagus are perfectly happy on their own.
1 pound asparagus, ends snapped off
2 pieces prosciutto cut in half lengthwise (optional)
Heat oven to 400 degrees.
If using, wrap bundles of asparagus (about five to six spears in each bundle) with a slice of prosciutto. Place each bundle in a baking dish and top with a dollop or two of the herbed butter. Bake for 15-20 minutes until tender. You can place the asparagus in the oven with the chicken after 30 minutes.
Spicy Carrot Cake with Currants and Walnuts
I love single-layer cakes. They are quick to assemble and bake, so they can be enjoyed throughout the week, not just for special occasions. This carrot cake recipe is full of flavor from the aromatic spices, the sweet carrots, raisins and earthy walnuts. The coconut is lightly toasted in the oven for two to three minutes at 350 degrees (keep a keen eye on it, it burns quickly!) before topping with the cream cheese frosting.
2/3 cup canola oil
3 large eggs
1 cup light brown sugar
1 ½ cups self-rising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 pinch kosher salt
¼ teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups grated carrots
½ cup dried currants or raisins
½ cup chopped walnuts
6 ounces cream cheese
1 cup powdered sugar
2-3 teaspoons lemon juice
½ cup lightly toasted, unsweetened shredded coconut (optional)
Lightly butter and flour an 8-inch cake pan. I used a springform pan.
Mix together the oil and sugar until thoroughly incorporated, then add in the eggs one by one. In a separate large bowl, sift together the flour and spices, then add in the grated carrots, raisins and walnuts until they are covered in flour. Gently fold in the oil, egg, sugar mixture until just combined. Pour into the cake pan and bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes. Check for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cake. When it comes out clean, the cake is done. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then release from pan. Meanwhile, combine the ingredients for the frosting, mix together thoroughly. A handheld mixer or standing mixer will create a nice fluffy frosting, but you can use a fork if other appliances are not available. When completely cool, frost the cake and top with toasted coconut.
Suzanne lives in Breckenridge. Her two cookbooks can be found at the Next Page Books and Nosh in Frisco and at the Tattered Cover bookstores in Denver.
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