Saturday, April 08, 2006
Green Spring Dinner
To become a favorite of mine, cookbooks must not only provide useable recipes, but also inspire me to try new ingredients, new ideas and new flavors. Pictures help as well (or drawings)--seeing a vision of the final product helps me conceptualize as I go along. Two new cookbooks of mine meet this criteria--Sunday Suppers at Lucques by Suzanne Goin and The Herbal Kitchen by Jerry Traunfeld--as their already-worn spines can attest.
The Sunday Suppers book has introduced me to farro and black rice, and caused me to think more thoughtfully about building layers of flavor in a dish, even if the techniques are exceedingly time consuming. In The Herbal Kitchen, I've discovered uses for lemon thyme, how to start a home herb garden, and been inspired to make herb-infused drinks. As an added bonus, both books are delightful reads irrespective of the recipes, and you learn a lot just the chapter introductions and ingredient glossaries.
After an afternoon of leafing through both books, Sunday Suppers Swiss Chard Tart with Goat Cheese, Currants, and Pine Nuts and The Herbal Kitchen's Asparagus Soup graced our table last weekend.
My favorite part of the meal was the currant-pine nut relish for the tart, an example of new ideas (to me) and nuanced flavor-layering. You start by heating a saute pan, swirling some olive oil in with a sprig of rosemary and a chile de arbol. Then, add some finely diced red onion and cook until tender. Meanwhile, you gather your toasted pinenuts, and soak your currants (in my case, raisins) in warm water until plump. When your onions are done, transfer to bowl, remove rosemary and chile. Add 3/4 c. balsamic vinegar back to your pan, and reduce, reduce, reduce to 1 tbsp. of syrupy sauce. Mix balsamic with all other ingredients, and then strew the sweet relish over your tart. It pairs beautifully with the bite of the goat cheese and the long-cooked swiss chard, and you'll marvel that you made something so delish in your modest kitchen.
Erin's Kitchen Recipe Index: Soups and Salads