A sprightly spring dinner

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Spring is Earth’s wake-up season, when everything comes alive. Crocuses and daffodils spray color where snow used to be.

While we anticipate the awakening of our gardens, we can tune up our taste buds with a splash of sprightly flavors. Earthy mushrooms and garlic, salty bacon, bitter greens and mustard, spicy pepper, sour lemon and sweet blueberries are featured in this dinner.


Chicken Sauteed with Red Wine and Mushrooms
The recipe is from “Keeping Company” by Moira Hodgson, published by Prentice Hall Press in 1988.
2 small chickens, cut up (about 2 1/2 pounds each)
2 tablespoons safflower oil
16 small white onions
1 clove garlic, minced (green part removed)
1 1/2 cups dry red wine
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons tomato puree
6 carrots, scraped and cut in 1-inch pieces
2 sprigs fresh thyme
3/4 pound mushrooms, sliced
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Wipe the chicken pieces dry with paper towels. Heat the safflower oil in a large casserole and brown the chicken pieces a few at a time. Drain on paper towels. Pour off and discard the fat from the casserole.
Meanwhile, put the unpeeled onions into boiling water and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain and slip off the skins.
Saute the garlic and peeled onions in the casserole for 1 minute without burning; then return the chicken pieces to the casserole, along with the wine, vinegar, tomato puree, carrots and thyme. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, turning the pieces of chicken from time to time.
Add the mushrooms and simmer for another 10 minutes, or until the chicken and vegetables are cooked. Season with salt and pepper and serve.
Makes 8 servings.

Salade Frisee
This recipe is from “Keeping Company” by Moira Hodgson, published by Prentice Hall Press in 1988.
1 pound chicoree frisee (or curly endive)
1/4 pound slab bacon, diced
For the dressing
1 clove garlic, minced (green part removed)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar (or to taste)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (or more, if necessary)
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Wash the chicory and spin dry. Place the leaves in a salad bowl.
Fry the bacon and remove the pieces with a slotted spoon. Reserve the hot bacon fat. Drain the bacon pieces on paper towels and add to the salad. Meanwhile, make the dressing. Combine the garlic, mustard, and vinegar and whisk together. Whisk in the olive oil and 2 to 3 tablespoons of hot bacon fat. Season with salt and pepper to taste, pour the mixture over the chicory leaves, and toss thoroughly. Add more of the bacon fat if needed. Serve immediately.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Luscious Lemon and Blueberry Tiramisu
The recipe is from “Luscious Lemon Desserts” by Lori Longbotham and Alison Miksch, published by Chronicle Books in 2001.
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
3 strips lemon zest, removed with a vegetable peeler
One 7-ounce package imported Italian lady fingers (savoiardi)
3 batches Blueberry Sauce (about 4 cups)
1 1/2 cups Lemon Curd
One 8-ounce container mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup heavy (whipping) cream

Bring the sugar, water and lemon zest to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Pour the mixture into a small bowl and cool to room temperature. Discard the lemon zest.
Cover the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish with lady fingers. Brush them with the cooled sugar syrup. Pour the blueberry sauce over the lady fingers.
Whisk together the lemon curd, mascarpone, and heavy cream in a medium bowl until smooth. Pour the mixture over the blueberry sauce and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Refrigerate, covered, for at least 6 hours or overnight.
Serve in stemmed glasses or bowls.
Serves 12.

Blueberry Sauce
1 pint fresh blueberries, picked over
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 to 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice (about 1 lemon)

Cook the blueberries, sugar, and water over medium heat, stirring occasionally, in a large saucepan, for 5 minutes or until the berries are softened and a sauce is formed.
Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in the lemon juice to taste. Cool to room temperature before refrigerating. (The sauce will keep for 1 week, covered, in the refrigerator.)
Makes 1 1/2 cups.

Lemon Curd
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
Pinch of salt
6 large egg yolks

Melt the butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat.
Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the sugar, lemon juice, zest, and salt. Whisk in the yolks until smooth.
Cook the mixture, whisking constantly, until it thickens and leaves a path on the back of a wooden spoon when a finger is drawn across it; do not allow the mixture to boil.
Immediately pour the lemon curd through a strainer into a bowl. Let cool to room temperature, whisking occasionally.
Refrigerate, covered, until ready to use. (Lemon curd keeps for a month in the refrigerator and for about 3 months in the freezer.)
Makes 1 1/2 cups.

Sidebar Elements

susan-lovell-3-op.jpgSusan Lovell and her husband John, a great cook, live near Pat’s Meat Market & Cafe in Portland, with a hungry Maine coon cat and a poodle who eats cat food. An eighth-generation Mainer, she likes shellfish, steak, baked beans, cole slaw, corn bread, blueberry pie and Moxie. Her great great-grandfather, from Wellfleet, Mass., and his cousin founded Boston’s Union Oyster House and she really likes oysters and Guinness. And Boston cream pie.