As we enter into the summer months when fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, and edible flowers begin to show up in the stores and farmers markets, the recipes below are the perfect way to plan and enjoy a warm weather meal with family and friends. The menu, which comes from The Cucina’s Cooking with Herbs class, is complete with several courses of easy to moderate level recipes, all featuring fresh summer produce.
Raspberry mint wine spritzers
Makes 8 glasses
1 pint fresh raspberries
1 tablespoon fresh mint
1 ½ bottles cold dry white wine
½ bottle (1 liter) cold club soda
1 teaspoon sugar (additional, if preferred)
With a mortar and pestle, muddle the fresh mint with 1 tsp sugar. Add ½ of the raspberries and lightly crush. Put the remaining berries in wine glasses.
In a pitcher, add the raspberries and mint, wine, and club soda. Stir and taste for preferred sweetness. Add additional 1-2 tsp sugar, to taste. Serve immediately.
Fennel and grapefruit salad
1 teaspoon honey
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon Salt and ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small red onion
1 large fennel bulb with fronds
Using a paring knife, remove peel from 2 grapefruit. Segment fruit and set aside. Squeeze juice from remaining grapefruit and put in small bowl.
Lightly rinse and pat dry fronds from fennel bulb and finely chop (up to ¼ cup). Combine fennel fronds, grapefruit juice, honey, and mustard. Season with salt and pepper. Whisk to combine, slowly adding olive oil. Refrigerate.
Using a sharp knife, cut onion root to top, and then julienne; place in a bowl. Add water to cut some of the heat from onions. Remove after 5 minutes and drain.
Cut off fennel stem and discard. Cut bulb in half lengthwise; remove core. Julienne fennel into medium slices. Drain onions; place in a large bowl. Add fennel, spring mix, and grapefruit segments. Toss with dressing and serve.
Spring pea soup with cilantro and crème fraiche
1 ½ pints chicken stock
½ stick butter
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic chopped
1 small jalapeno, deseeded and finely chopped (about 2 teaspoons)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound spring peas (good quality frozen are fine)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, plus whole leaves for garnish
Pinch of sugar
½ c crème fraiche
1-2 tablespoons water
In small pot, bring the chicken stock to a boil. In medium soup pot, melt the butter on a gentle heat and add the onions, garlic, and jalapeno. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and sweat for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the peas and cover with the hot stock. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 to 8 minutes, until peas are just soft and bright green. Add the cilantro and put into blender. Cover blender center with towel and start on low – heat and steam will cause soup to ‘jump’ if covered tightly. Puree until smooth. Return to pot to heat and season with salt, freshly ground pepper and a pinch of sugar. If too thick, add chicken stock and warm. In small bowl, combine crème fraiche and water, stirring until slightly thinner and smooth. Serve with a swirl of sour cream and a few fresh cilantro leaves sprinkled over the top.
Asparagus with béarnaise sauce
2 pound fresh asparagus
Good olive oil
Kosher salt, plus extra for sprinkling
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup white wine vinegar
½ cup dry white wine
4 sprigs tarragon, leaves finely minced, stems reserved separately
1 small shallot, roughly chopped
½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
2 egg yolks
1 ½ sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Break off the tough ends of the asparagus and, if they’re thick, peel them. Place the asparagus on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, then toss to coat the asparagus completely. Spread the asparagus in a single layer and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Roast the asparagus for 20 minutes, until tender but still crisp. Keep warm until ready to serve.
For the Béarnaise:
Combine vinegar, wine, herb stems, shallots, and black peppercorns in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and lower heat to maintain a gently simmer. Cook until reduced to about 1 1/2 tablespoons of liquid, about 15 minutes. Carefully strain liquid through a fine mesh strainer into a small bowl, pressing on the solids with the back of a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible.
Melt butter in a small saucepan over high heat, swirling constantly, spooning off foam. Butter should be almost boiling. Transfer butter to a 1-cup liquid measuring cup. Combine vinegar reduction, egg yolks, and a pinch of salt in the bottom of a cup that barely fits the head of an immersion blender.
Place head of immersion blender into the bottom of the cup and turn it on. With the blender constantly running, slowly pour hot butter into cup. It should emulsify with the egg yolk and vinegar reduction. Continue pouring until all butter is added. Sauce should be thick and creamy. If it is thin and runny, transfer to a large bowl set over a pot of barely simmering water. Whisk constantly and vigorously until sauce is thickened. Season to taste with salt. Whisk in chopped tarragon. Serve immediately, or transfer to a small lidded pot and keep in a warm place for up to 1 hour before serving. Béarnaise cannot be cooled and reheated. If too thick, thin with a few drops of water and whisk.
Rosemary skewered flank steak with horseradish sauce
2 garlic cloves
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
¼ c olive oil
8 rosemary branches, with leaves
1 flank steak or skirt steak, about 1 ½ pounds
½ cup sour cream
1 tablespoon prepared white horseradish, drained
¼ tsp salt, 1/8 tsp black pepper
In small bowl, combine sour cream, horseradish, salt, and pepper. Stir well and taste for seasoning. Cover and refrigerate.
On a work surface, strip and save rosemary leaves from woody end, leaving ¼ inch of leaves at top. Lay in small dish with water to just cover.
Chop garlic and rosemary leaves and place in medium bowl; add salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Set aside marinade.
Place flank steak on cutting board. Slice 1-inch strips, cutting against the grain. Remove rosemary skewers from water, discard water, and thread skewers with meat. Return skewers to dish and pour marinade over. Cover and refrigerate until ready to grill.
Heat grill to high. Remove meat from refrigerator 5 minutes before grilling. Discard marinade. Grill 2-3 minutes each side and flip, cooking to no more than medium. Serve immediately with horseradish sauce.
Makes 1 ¾ cups
½ cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3-4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced or minced
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 green or red jalapeño, finely chopped
½ cup minced fresh cilantro
¼ cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano
¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse 4-5 times, scraping down the side. Pulse another 2-3 times. The finished product is more of a sauce rather than a paste, like pesto.
Lemon Thyme Shortbread Cookies
Makes about 30 cookies
½ cup butter, softened
⅓ cup white sugar
Zest of 1 medium lemon
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon sea salt
Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Cream the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the sugar and beat until fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice and thyme and mix again. Add the flour and salt and mix until just combined. *DO NOT KNEAD OR OVERMIX! The less the dough is worked, the lighter and flakier the shortbread will be. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and flatten into a 1” disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 15 to 30 minutes until firm but still pliable. Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface until about ¼“ thick. If desired, dough can be rolled between two pieces of parchment paper. Use 2” cookie cutters to cut out desired shapes. To prevent dough becoming tough, the dough scraps can be rolled one more time for cutouts. After that, shape into discs and bake. Transfer to the baking sheet and bake for 10 to 14 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. Keep any extra cut-out cookies in the fridge until ready to bake.
Remove from the oven and transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool. Store at room temperature for up to 5 days.