Easter is this weekend and I am a bit late in posting some wonderful and easy recipe suggestions. I was originally going to dream up some new ideas for you to cook and create but there are so many good ones buried in my past posts. I thought I should 'archive dive' and bring you the best of the bird blog! There are a variety of dishes to ponder, breakfast, brunch, appetizers or sides and dessert. They are all pretty easy and most can be made ahead.
The egg bake must be made the day before, the scones can be made a day ahead too, just assemble on a baking sheet and refrigerate overnight, the next morning, bring to room temp, then bake as usual. The asparagus tart can also be made the day before, just refrigerate unbaked and bake just before serving. The carrots can hang out for a day (even better) and Claire's eggs can also be made the day before, just put the chutney and chives on right before serving. The 'April Fool' is easy to assemble, you will want to make the cookies ahead or another time, there will be plenty of chocolate eggs after all!
Just click on the photo for the recipe! Wishing everyone a joyous and colorful Easter Day!
I think I have told you about my book club, we meet for dinner once a month and always cook something inspired by the book. Last week I made this Cremini mushroom crostata. Cremini mushrooms are simply white button mushrooms allowed to grow a bit longer, so they have a bit more texture and flavor. We had just finished reading a book called "Circling the Sun" about a woman living in Kenya around the turn of the last century. In one of the chapters, she threw a party and made a mushroom crostata. A crostata is a rustic, free-form tart, usually filled with fruit but veggies work well too! It was actually easy to make the crust in the food processor and easy to handle so don't be intimidated. I served this as an appetizer but it would also be delicious as a light lunch dish served with a simple green salad.
Cremini Mushroom, Roasted Garlic, Fontina & Thyme Crostata
First, make the dough (it has to chill for an hour or make it a day ahead) and then get the garlic roasting.
3/4 c all purpose flour
3/4 c (6 oz) cold butter, diced
1/2 t salt
1/4 c ice cold water (you will add 1/8 c first and more as needed)
1 egg (for egg wash)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Mix flour and salt in a food processor. Add cold butter and pulse until sandy. Add 1/8 cup cold water. Mix or pulse until dough begins to form. Add more water as needed until dough forms. Gather dough, flatten into a pancake, wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for one hour or refrigerate over night. Flour surface and roll out dough to a 1/8 inch thick round (won't be perfect, this is rustic!). It will be thinner than you think necessary, but this makes for a great crust. Roll the edges of the crust inward a few times to form a proper edge. Place dough on cookie sheet. Cover dough with a piece of aluminum foil, add weights or dry beans, and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, remove foil and weights, poke all over the bottom with a fork and bake for 7 minutes. Beat egg. Coat entire dough in egg wash and bake for 3 minutes. Remove from the oven to cool for 10 minutes.
8 medium sized cloves of garlic, whole & unpeeled
1 T extra virgin olive oil
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Wrap garlic cloves in aluminum foil and drizzle with oil. Throw in some fresh thyme stalks and bake for 40 minutes, until soft. Cool. Peel garlic cloves and spread the soft roasted garlic over the bottom of the crust in a light even layer.
1 lb Cremini mushrooms (you could mix in some wild ones too, if you like)
1 T fresh thyme leaves stripped from their stem
4 oz Italian fontina cheese, shredded (any soft, melting cheese with good flavor works)
2 T butter
Salt and pepper to taste
1 T extra virgin olive oil
After you have prepared the crust with the roasted garlic spread, raise the oven temperature to 425 degrees. Clean, trim, and chop mushrooms and stems. Put the mushrooms aside in medium size bowl. Drizzle 1 T olive oil over mushrooms, add a large pinch of salt, and toss. Melt butter in large sauté pan until sizzling and then add the mushrooms. Sprinkle with half of the thyme leaves. Cook over medium to medium high heat until all liquid is absorbed, about ten minutes. Toss in the rest of the thyme, a big dash of salt and pepper and cook for a minute. With a slotted spoon remove mushrooms from the pan. Put back into medium sized bowl. Let cool for ten minutes. Add shredded cheese and combine. Spread mushrooms and cheese evenly across the garlic schmeared crust. Return to oven and cook 10 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Let cool for a few minutes and serve. This is also great at room temperature or the next morning cold from the fridge.
Once upon a time, I worked as a pantry chef at a wonderful restaurant in the old section of Oakland called the Gulf Coast Oyster Bar and Specialty Company. It was during the heyday of new restaurants in the 1980's when people like Alice Waters and Jeremiah Tower were just starting to influence the food scene. My boss Dan, architect turned restauranteur, hailed from Louisiana and everything about his restaurant vision had to be authentic NOLA and very fresh. He had his poor mother fly in red fish, shrimp and oysters straight from the gulf on a daily basis! I remember the cast iron skillet being on the stove non-stop, ever ready for that spiced, red fish to hit the pan. Boy, we could hardly breathe when the spices started to 'blacken'. This bread pudding hails from that time in my life. It has been on every café menu of mine ever since (Lily's, Alchemy, Wren Café). It is a fond memory of many of my beloved customers so I thought it was about time to share.
Laissez le bon temps roule!
Croissant Bread & Butter Pudding
1 ¾ c heavy cream, extra for whipped cream on top (if desired)
2/3 cup sugar
1 t vanilla
½ t cinnamon
½ c unsalted butter, melted
4 -5 croissants, torn into random pieces (or 4 cups day old bread, cut in to 1” cubes)
¼ cup golden raisins soaked in bourbon until plump (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the croissants in a 9 x 9 square cake pan. Scatter raisins over the top, if using. Whisk together the first 5 ingredients in a bowl. Melt butter on stove top or microwave and add slowly to cream mixture whisking constantly. Pour over bread cubes and allow them to sit for a few minutes to soak up the cream mixture a little bit. There should be enough bread to cover the bottom of the pan and a scant second layer. Cover the pan with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 10-15 minutes until the custard is set and the pudding is puffed and brown. Cut in to 6 - 8 portions and serve warm or chilled with whipped cream. Raspberries, strawberries and peaches are delicious on top. Feel free to substitute any kind of leftover cake, bread or muffin for the bread cubes. Some of my favorite’s are banana bread, ginger bread, apple-spice cake, cinnamon rolls and brownies! You get the idea!
Flageolet beans are a French kidney bean whose color ranges from a lovely pale green to creamy white. They are usually prepared simply in order to showcase their delicate flavor. My friend Tricia gifted me a pound of these delightfully tender beans as a thank you for my donation of some duck breasts to her cassoulet party that she had in January when I was in Mexico. I am sad to have missed the party but I am happy to have benefitted from the gift of the beans! The flavors in this classic French soup perfectly complement each other and possess a depth of flavor that invites one to pique-nique par le feu. Spread out a blanket, find a friend, open a good bottle of Pinot Noir and voilå—a cozy and deliciously satisfying night at home. Add some good, crusty bread, some olives marinated in citrus and some French feta to make the meal perfection.
Flageolet Bean Soup
2 T good olive oil
*3 slices thick sliced bacon, chopped into 1/2 pieces (I like Dailey's brand)
1 onion, chopped to 1/2" dice
2 carrots, chopped to 1/2" dice
1 fennel bulb, quartered and sliced thinly
3 cloves of garlic, chopped roughly
1 # flageolet beans (from Corti Brothers or Rancho Gordo) soak the beans overnight in water, drain and rinse or do a quick soak...place beans in a pot and cover with cold water, bring to a boil then turn off and let sit for one hour. Drain, rinse and proceed.
1 T fresh rosemary, chopped
1 (14.5 oz) can chopped tomatoes
6 c chicken stock (substitute veggie stock if you like)
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
Pour the olive oil into a large soup pot and heat for a few minutes, add the bacon and fry until crispy and browned. Add the onion, carrots, fennel and garlic and cook until soft and golden, stirring often. Add the beans, rosemary, stock and tomatoes. Bring soup to a boil and skim off any foam. Turn down to a simmer, cover and cook for about 2-3 hours until the beans are tender. Taste for salt and pepper. Don't add salt until the end or the beans won't cook. This soup freezes well.
*For a vegetarian version, leave the bacon out and add 1 tsp of smoked paprika.
My father used to say that we were "Black Irish". I always thought that was because my family migrated from Ireland, had olive skin and dark hair, but there are a lot of theories as to where that colorful description came from. My favorite explanation is that in 1588 while trying to defeat the English, the Spanish Armada shipwrecked off the coast of Ireland and the survivors married into Irish society, thus creating a darker version of the traditionally light-skinned, red-haired Irish person. Sounds so romantic!
This stew celebrates the flavors of southern Spain but keeps the Irish tradition alive and well by using spring lamb and is served, of course, with potatoes. I recommend pairing this delightful stew with a local Murphys wine called Payaso from Villa Vallecito Vineyards, a blend of spicy Grenache and smooth, fruity Syrah. This flavor profile makes it the perfect wine to drink with this celebratory dish, especially because of Murphys' Irish heritage and the fact that "Payaso" means "clown" in Spanish—around these parts, St. Paddy's Day aka Irish Day has a tendency to get really silly. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
'Black Irish' Stew
2 T good olive oil
4 slices, thick sliced bacon, cut into a 1/2" dice
2 lbs ground lamb
1 med onion, peeled and chopped into a 1/2" dice
6 cloves garlic, peeled an chopped finely
2 t dried, minced garlic (for intensity)
2 carrots, peeled and cut into a rough 1/2" dice
2 parsnips, peeled and cut into a rough 1/2" dice
2 T oregano
1/4 t allspice
1 t ea cumin, coriander, sumac and turmeric
2 c good, fruity but dry, red wine
6 c chicken broth
1 14.5 oz can chopped tomatoes
1 c frozen peas
sea salt & fresh ground pepper
parsley, chopped for garnish (optional)
Heat the olive oil in a large soup/stew pot, add the bacon and fry until browned and crispy. Add the lamb, breaking up larger clumps but leaving small ones for texture, cook until browned. Add onions, carrots, parsnips, garlic and all of the spices. Cook. stirring occasionally until the veggies are softened, about 15 minutes. Add the wine, broth and tomatoes and stir well. Bring to a boil and skim off the foam. Cover and cook on low heat for about an hour until all of the flavors have blended. Right before serving, add the peas. This stew is even better the next day, so make it easy on yourself and make it a day ahead or freeze for longer. Serve with Champ.
2 lbs baking potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
2 bunches green onions, cleaned and chopped into 1/2" dice
1 c cream, enough to barely cover the chopped onions
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces, at room temperature
sea salt and fresh ground pepper
Put the potatoes in a pot, cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook for 20-25 minutes until very tender. Drain and then return to the pot. Cover and continue to evaporate moisture by shaking the pot over low heat for another couple of minutes. Mash the potatoes with a masher by hand, adding the butter and salt and pepper to taste. Put the green onions in a small pan with just enough cream to cover. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes. Mix into the potatoes and check seasonings, serve immediately.
As a caterer for over 30 years, I have established a reputation for consistently creating original menus inspired by the occasion and the season, presenting them with an ease and elegance uniquely my own. Fresh, locally-sourced ingredients are the basis of my creative “from scratch” menus, which range from the classically elegant to rustic and whimsical.
"Love your recipes! Pat made your avocado toast a few weeks ago, delish! I'm taking them to a party in a few weeks, although the mushroom crostata looks pretty darn good!"