A Fabulous Dish for my Vegetarian Friends

Rice with Peas, Mint, and Pecorino 1 4032x3024Far more than in the past, I find myself considering my friends’ eating habits when we entertain. Are you gluten-free? Do you eat sugar? Are you vegetarian? are questions I ask routinely. And the most resounding “ yes” I hear is to the last of these. Always deferential, my vegetable-loving pals respond that they don’t expect a special meal, that they’ll be fine enjoying salad and side dishes at dinner. But what fun is that for them! It’s like being invited to the theatre, and saying I’ll be okay seeing only the 2nd and 3rd acts. So, I am always searching for delicious vegetarian main courses to share with my expanding circle of discriminating guests.

Rice with peas, fresh mint, and Pecorino will not disappoint. Here is a beautiful spring entrée prepared with easy- to-find ingredients that is uncomplicated to assemble. You start by making a quick “pea pesto” pureeing peas (fresh or frozen) with pine nuts, mint, and Pecorino.The intensely flavored mixture is then tossed with warm cooked rice. Continue reading

Soup Making with Young Cooks!

Brodo with Spring Peas, Pancetta, and Mint Several days ago two young women, both seniors at Amherst College where my husband teaches, emailed that they had some free time the following week to come and cook with me in my kitchen. Stellar students as well as passionate foodies, they had, during their four years of taking rigorous courses at the college, often found extra hours to cook and, of course, to sample recipes with me. This would be the last time before graduation for us to be in the kitchen together, so I picked some special dishes, including a soup with spring peas, mint, and pancetta.

To prepare the dish we made a rich but quickly assembled broth and then added orecchiette (small ear-shaped pasta), fresh peas, snow peas, and chopped bibb lettuce to the simmering liquid. The brodo was garnished with crispy bits of pancetta, fresh mint, and a sprinkling of Parmigiano Reggiano. From our first sips, we all adorned this soup with its Continue reading

Gorgeous Artichokes in the Markets of Paris!

Artichokes Marche Bio Paris  1 2746x1958The first thing I do when I arrive in the City of Light is to get out my rolling cart and head for the organic farmers’ market called Le Marché Bio. We had barely unpacked our bags when we headed to it a couple of Sundays ago. There in all their glory were the jewels of the farmers’ hard work—gorgeous little peas, strawberries that were red all the way through and decadently juicy, cherries so sweet they needed no embellishing, countless bouquets of fresh herbs, and stately artichokes—just possibly my favorite late spring vegetable!

Artichokes in France usually appear in two varieties: the small to medium ones are tinged with purple and call artichauts violets and the others, the incredibly large variety, are artichauts de Bretagne (from Brittany). I couldn’t resist and popped four of the latter in my bag to serve at a small dinner the next night.

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Simple Little Appetizers for Cold Nights

Goat Cheese, Hazelnut, and Mint Phyllo Triangles 3No one in our small New England town wants to commit to entertaining this winter! After countless storms and resulting cancellations, people are wary of planning too far ahead. My husband is a social animal, though, so I’ve figured out a way to issue some last-minute invites. It works like this. I wait until the local weather team gives the all clear, and then ask a few friends to come over for wine and nibbles. Afterwards, we all go out for dinner together. Simple and stress-free, this has become my social m.o. for the season.

Along with bowls of olives and toasted nuts, I’ve been serving some delectable cheese-filled Greek phyllo triangles. The classic filling for these savory pastries usually includes feta, sometimes cottage or other cheeses plus eggs. I opted for a mixture of creamy chèvre, grated Parmesan, chopped hazelnuts, and fresh mint. A dollop of this flavorful mélange is placed on a corner of a strip of buttered phyllo. Then the phyllo strip is folded Continue reading

Two 10-Minute Summer Appetizers

Watermelon Feta Skewers and Blue Cheese Figs 1Last weekend en route to the supermarket, I couldn’t believe the temperature gauge in my car. I looked twice thinking I had read it wrong because it was registering 105 degrees. We were in the midst of yet another heat wave here in New England, and definitely headed for a scorching, even record-breaking day. It just so happened that my husband and I had invited a few friends over for wine and appetizers late that afternoon, and had planned to entertain on our porch.

It didn’t take long to figure out that our gathering would have to be moved inside where there was air conditioning. To counter the heat, I changed the menu to include refreshingly cool skewers of watermelon, feta, and mint. Then when I spotted fresh figs in the produce aisle of the grocery, I added those to my cart to serve with some creamy blue cheese and walnuts. Continue reading

Romaine, Mint, and Ricotta Salad

Each time I have served this salad, guests have taken a bite, paused, and tried to figure out what was adding such a refreshing note. Some have guessed that it was mint, others have not, but all have loved this unusual addition. The contrasting textures–the crunch of the romaine leaves paired with the salty creaminess of ricotta– also add to the salad’s appeal. The tomatoes provide some visual pizzazz with their rich crimson hue. It’s great as a garnish to grilled lamb chops or chicken.
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