March 29th, 2015

Signs of Spring

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This lacy green array, which reminds me of wallpaper in a summer cottage, is the herb, chervil. A member of the parsley family, it grows well in cool weather. With its frill of carrot-like leaves and mild licorice taste, chervil is one of the quartet of fines herbes, a seasoning pillar of French cuisine.

I have used chervil, in dried form, on occasion. Bearnaise sauce comes to mind.

But I had never found any fresh…until recently, through Fresh Harvest Co-op.

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Which is also where I bought this beautiful rainbow of carrots…

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…and leeks, for this lush tart.

After a long winter of eating hardy greens and tubers, (and, trust me, I’m not complaining,) it sure feels good (uplifting!) to have these early spring herbs and vegetables.

It inspired me to put together a little grazing spread for friends–all of us ready to celebrate longer days, warmer weather, a world in bloom.

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My menu included steelhead trout brushed with fruity olive oil and quick-roasted, artichoke-leek tart in puff pastry-layered with a ricotta-Greek yogurt blend–and those sweet rainbow carrots, oven-browned in thyme.

The chervil found its way into a versatile buttermilk-based sauce–whipped up in a blink.

It tasted fresh and light, grassy and tangy, with a hint of anise. It was delicious spooned over the fish. And, it was also quite nice with the carrots.

For your pleasure, here are the recipes. Be on the lookout for fresh chervil–like most herbs, it is different, and better than its dried form.

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Welcome Spring! Looking forward to all that the season brings.

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SPRING LEEK TART adapted from Third Thursday Community Potluck Cookbook

1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt, drained
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 sheets puff pastry, thawed but still chilled
1 large leek, cleaned well and sliced (white and light green parts)
6 artichoke hearts
1/2 large red bell pepper, cut into matchsticks
olive oil
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a food processor with steel blade, add the ricotta cheese, yogurt, salt, and pepper, and blend until smooth.

Slightly roll out the pastry sheets on a lightly floured surface with a rolling pin. Place one piece of pastry onto each baking sheet.

Spread the cheese mixture over the surface of each to the edge all the way around. Cover with roasted leeks, artichokes and bell pepper pieces. Top with grated Parmesan cheese.

Bake the pastries until they are golden brown and puffy, about 25 minutes. Rotate the pans halfway through baking time. Remove from the oven and let the pastries rest for a few minutes.

Cut into squares and serve.

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BUTTERMILK CHERVIL SAUCE

2 heaping tablespoons chopped fresh chervil
3/4 cup whole buttermilk
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 spring onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons good mayonnaise, like Hellman’s
1 teaspoon salt

Place all of the ingredients into a bowl and whisk together until the mixture is smooth and well incorporated. Cover and chill.

Makes one cup.

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QUICK-ROASTED STEELHEAD TROUT
2 1/2-3 pounds steelhead trout (or salmon) fillet(s)
3 tablespoons good olive oil
sea salt
coarse ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Rinse the fillet(s) and pat dry. Place onto a baking sheet, skin side down.
Liberally brush the surface with your favorite fruity olive oil.
Sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper.

Roast for 10 minutes. Turn off the oven and let the fish rest for 5 minutes,
Remove and cool.

Serve warm, or at room temperature with chervil sauce.
Serves 10-12

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RAINBOW CARROTS ROASTED WITH FRESH THYME adapted from Cooking Light’s Lighten Up America
1 pound fresh carrots, different colors/varieties if you like
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
kosher or sea salt
black pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Clean and trim carrots, keeping small ones intact, and cutting long ones into 2-3 lengths.
Peel only if the outer layer seems tough.
Coat the carrots in olive oil and lay them out on a baking sheet. Sprinkle them with fresh thyme, salt and black pepper.
Roast for 20-25 minutes, turning the carrots after 12 minutes.
Serve warm, or allow to cool and serve with dip.

Posted in Appetizers/Hors D'oeuvres, Fish/Seafood, Recipes, Sauces, Vegetables | 17 Comments »