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  • Easter, Birthdays, and Cookbooks – oh my!

    April is such a fabulous month because everything, including us two legged creatures, comes out of hibernation. And it’s about time! Although we’ve had a very mild winter here on the West coast – Spring skiing in February? - it’s been an incredibly long winter for all of our friends back East. I know we’ll all be relieved to see the rains (and snows) retreat and the temperatures start to rise.

    Now as everything in the garden wakes up, the Cherry trees on our street have their full party dresses on, and the crocuses, narcissus, hyacinths and tulips are in full bloom. With all this colour around us, it’s time to stop wearing black and grey and put a little “Spring” into the wardrobe as well as on the plate. Local produce is starting to show up at the farmer’s markets signaling an end to the long run of tubers and roots and the beginning of the fresh Spring hues of green leaves and ruby reds.

    I don’t know about you, but I go crazy for leeks, asparagus and rhubarb at this time of year, and this month I’ll be sharing interesting ways to feature them: stay tuned for Asparagus Soup with Home-Made Crème Fraiche, and Perfect Rhubarb Crumble amongst other delicious delights.

    Easter is late this year falling on the same day as my birthday. I think I’ll bow to the Easter Bunny and not count this one…yippee, no getting older this year! I will however still enjoy my birthday feast: Butterflied Leg of Lamb with Olive Tapenade Crust and Crispy Golden Rosemary Potatoes will be on my menu along with my mother’s Heavenly Pie - an ethereal combination of meringue, cream, and lemon curd.

    On top of everything else we are doing the photo-shoot for my new cookbook on Desserts that will be out in the Fall. Stay tuned for teasers from that on our Facebook page and Twitter!

    Lesley

Rhubarb Crisp Tart

I got this amazing recipe from my dear friend Anne who knows how much I love desserts. As soon as I see those first few beautifully coloured shoots of rhubarb hit the markets I get excited just thinking about making this tart. The instructions are really easy and well worth the time, as the results are that special blend of sweet and tart that only rhubarb desserts can deliver. The streusel on this is also one of the very best I’ve ever had – the browned butter highlights the almonds’ nuttiness and compliments the other flavours perfectly. Make it for dinner, or just because – and save yourself a slice for breakfast the next day with a splash of heavy cream. Delicious!

 Makes 1 x 10″ tart

CRUST

  • 11/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 3 to 4 tbsp chilled cream

STREUSEL

  • 9 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 3/4 cup sliced almond
  • 3/4 cup packed golden brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour

FILLING

  • 5 cups 1/2 inch thick slices rhubarb (2 1/2 pounds)
  • 1 14 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp grated lemon peel

For crust, blend flour, sugar and salt in processor for 5 seconds. Cut in butter using on/off until coarse meal forms. Add egg yolk and 3 tbsp cream. Blend until moist clumps form adding more cream if necessary. Gather in dough ball. Press enough dough into 10 inch diameter tart pan with removable bottom to make 1/4 inch thick crust. Pierce all over with fork. Chill 2 hours.

For Streusel, cook butter in large skillet over med heat until golden, stirring often, about 5 min. Remove from heat. Mix in almonds, sugar and cinnamon. Add flour and stir until moist clumps form. ( I had to add a bit more flour to make clumps but when cooled it become more clumpy) Cool completely.

Preheat oven to 375.

For filling, toss all ingredients in bowl to blend. Let stand until filling looks moist, stirring occasionally (about 15 min).

Bake cold crust until golden brown, pressing with back of fork if crust bubbles, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven.

Reduce oven temp to 350.

Spoon filling into warm crust. Crumble streusel over top. Bake until filling is bubbling and streusel is crisp and brown, about 1 hour. Cool tart on rack 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temp.

Shonagh @ An Offal Experiment - April 30, 2012 - 8:37 pm

I just picked some fresh rhubarb from my best friend’s garden and this sounds like a yummy recipe. I highly recommend adding vanilla bean to the rhubarb filling. It’s a very nice combo.

Spring Penne with Leeks & Lemon

Just because the weather is turning warmer, doesn’t mean I am prepared to give up comfort foods quite yet. These days I am balancing out entree style salads with light and Spring-y pastas. Leeks are everywhere right now: fresh, delicious and gorgeously fragrant, these allium transform any dish they grace from the ordinary to the extraordinary. As such, they are a staple in French and other mediterranean cooking, forming the core of a bouquet garni to flavour sauces and stocks. Here I’ve pureed them with lemon zest and parsley along with their cooking water to form the body of the pasta sauce – keeping it light but tasty at the same time. Serve this along side a crisp, dry white wine and your winter blues will be far, far behind you.

Serves 4

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  • 6 leeks trimmed
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 6 quarts water
  • 2 Tbsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1 Tbsp. Italian parsley
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 16 oz penne
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan

Bring the water to a boil and add the salt.

Split the leeks 3/4 of the way down and rinse thoroughly. Cooke the leeks for 6 – 8 mins in the water or until tender. Remove the leeks with a slotted spoon, and plunge into cold water to refresh – squeeze to remove excess water. Retain the leek cooking water.

Roughly chop leeks and then puree in a food processor with lemon zest, parsley, olive oil and 1/2 cup of the leek cooking water.

Transfer the puree to a 3 qt. pot; add another cup of the leek cooking water and simmer all to thicken to a sauce.

In another large pot bring 4 – 6 quarts of water to a boil: add penne and cook until al dente (5-7 mins). Drain the pasta and add to the leek sauce – cook another 2-4 minutes in the sauce adding more leek cooking water if it gets dry. Stir in the parmesan and season with more salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Greens with Crispy Proscuitto & Cambazola Croutons

A friend/client first told me about proscuitto instead of bacon in her salads. It adds a great salty component and is fabulous paired with the rich creaminess of Cambazola and the sweet yet tart tang of these port soaked cherries. Ask your butcher to slice the proscuitto medium thin and preferably from the flank which will give you the perfect sized pieces for a pretty presentation.

Serves 8

  • 8 slices of proscuitto
  • 8 slices of baguette
  • 8 oz. (227 g) Cambazola
  • 1 head read leaf lettuce
  • 1 bunch watercress
  • 1/2 head of romaine lettuce
  • 1/2 cup (120 mL) dried sour cherries
  • 1 cup (240 mL) late-bottled vintage port
  • 2 tsp. (10 mL) grainy Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) good quality red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup (240 mL) extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste 
Preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C). In a large sauté pan over medium high heat, cook the proscuitto in a single layer until crispy. Drain and set aside.
Lightly toast the baguette slices. Place them on a baking sheet and top each with 1 oz (30 g) of Cambazola. Set aside.
Wash, dry and break up the lettuces and the watercress. Place in a large bowl. In a small saucepan over medium high heat, simmer the cherries and port until the cherries are plump and approx. 1 Tbsp (15 mL) of liquid remains.
In a medium bowl, combine the mustard, cherries, port and vinegar. Gradually whisk in the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the vinaigrette over the greens and toss until well coated. Divide among plates.
Broil the baguette slices for approx. 1 minute or until the cheese is just bubbling. Place one crouton on each salad. Place a piece of proscuitto at an angle to the crouton and serve.
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