spring bounty

Here's A Dinner Menu For Every Spring Gathering You Have, Courtesy Of A James Beard Award-Winning Chef

Wherein we are all lucky enough to have Georgeanne Brennan share a few French-inspired dishes from her latest cookbook, La Vie Rustic.

Let’s be honest. We’d all like a little more French in our lives: French fashion, French wine, French food, and even, French fries. The culture seems to embody the idea of effortlessness in all walks of life, something we at Kale.Life strive for on the regular.

On that note, we tapped James Beard Award-winning author Georgeanne Brennan for her French-inspired spring / Passover / Easter dinner menu, with recipes from her latest cookbook, La Vie Rustic: Cooking & Living in the French Style. The menu is ripe with fresh spring produce, and “evokes the sights, scents, and tastes of the treasured French countryside cuisine.”

Need we say more? Bon appétit!

FENNEL & CHICKEN BRAISED WITH LEMON

(Serves 4)

Fennel is good both raw and cooked. Cooking transforms its distinct licorice flavor into an almost-sweet back note. From the garden, I like to use very young fennel for pickles and the larger, more robust bulbs forgratins and in braised dishes like this one. Since I have Meyer lemon trees at my house in California, I use them here, though any variety will work.

Ingredients

  • 1 large or 2 medium fennel bulbs, with stalks and fronds
  • 2 lemons, preferably Meyer, halved then cut into 3 pieces
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 6 chicken thighs, with or without skin
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • ½  tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup (4 fl oz/125 ml) dry white wine
  • 2 Tbsp grated lemon zest
  • ¼ cup (1. oz/35 g) green olives, pitted

Directions

1. Trim the stalks from the fennel, reserving the lacy tips of the fronds for garnish. Cut the fennel bulb lengthwise into ¼-inch (6-mm) slices—the slices will look like hands. Cut the fennel “hands” lengthwise into ½-inch (12-mm) slices. Set aside.

2. Put the lemons in a bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Add the chicken, garlic, oregano, and pepper and turn to coat. Let stand for about 30 minutes for the flavors to infuse the chicken.

3. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan or Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat. When it is hot, add the chicken thighs, reserving the lemon pieces, garlic, and oregano, and cook, turning several times, until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate or platter.

4. Pour the remaining 1 tablespoon oil into the hot pan and add the fennel. Reduce the heat to medium and sauté, stirring, until nearly translucent, 8–10 minutes. Stir in the lemons, garlic, and oregano, turning a few times. Add the wine and ó cup (4 fl oz/125 ml) water and deglaze the pan by scraping up any bits that cling to the bottom. Return the chicken to the pan, cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook until the chicken is tender and the fennel can be cut with a spoon, about 45 minutes.

5. While the chicken is cooking, mince enough of the fennel fronds to measure 2 tablespoons. Combine the chopped fronds with the lemon zest.

6. Transfer the chicken mixture to a platter and garnish with the lemon-fennel mixture and the olives. Serve at once.

CHARRED ARTICHOKES WITH FRESH HERB DIPPING SAUCE

(Serves 8 as an appetizer or side dish)

Easter dinner menu

Artichokes vary in size and type. In Brittany, the large, green globe artichokes are the standard, but in the south of France, the smaller, pointed types predominate, and they may be green or purple. I have both kinds in my garden, and for this dish, any variety of artichoke can be used, large or small. Marinating the artichokes before grilling deeply enhances their flavor.

Ingredients

The Sauce

  •      1 cup (8 oz/250 g) plain nonfat yogurt
  •      1 cup (8 fl oz/250 ml) mayonnaise
  •      ¼ cup (⅓ oz/10 g) minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  •      1 Tbsp minced fresh tarragon
  •      1 Tbsp minced fresh chives
  •      1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  •      ¼ tsp sea salt
  •       ¼ tsp freshly ground pepper

The Artichokes

  •      4–6 artichokes, depending on size
  •      ½ cup (¾ oz/20 g) minced fresh flat-leaf parsley (from about 1 bunch)
  •      2 cloves garlic, minced
  •      2–3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  •      1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  •      ½ tsp sea salt
  •      ½ tsp freshly ground pepper

Directions

1. To make the sauce, in a bowl, stir together the yogurt, mayonnaise, parsley, tarragon, chives, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

2. To prepare the artichokes, cut off the stem of each artichoke so that it’s flush with the base, then cut off the top one-third (the prickly leaf ends) of each artichoke. Pour water into the bottom of a steamer pot to a depth of about 3 inches (7.5 cm), put the rack in place, and bring the water to a boil over high heat. Place the artichokes, stem end up, on the rack, reduce the heat to medium, cover, and steam until the base of an artichoke offers little resistance when pierced with the tines of a fork, 20–30 minutes. The timing depends on the size and maturity of the artichokes.

3. Remove the artichokes from the steamer and set aside to cool. When cool enough to handle, cut the artichokes in half lengthwise with a sharp knife. Using a spoon, scoop out the center leaves from each artichoke, removing the thistles and any furry bits.

4. In a bowl large enough to hold all of the artichokes, combine the parsley, garlic, oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Turn several times to coat well. Let marinate at room temperature for at least 20 minutes, or up to 4 hours.

5. Prepare a charcoal or wood fire in a grill or preheat a gas grill. When the grill is hot, place the artichokes cut side up and grill until charred, turning them with tongs so  all of the outer leaves get charred, about 3 minutes. Flip and grill the cut side until charred, about 3 minutes longer. Transfer to a platter and let cool to room temperature.  Serve with the dipping sauce.

STRAWBERRY MOUSSE

(Serves 6-8)

La Vie Rustic: Cooking & Living in the French Style

Strawberry mousse. Photograph courtesy of Sara Remington.

Strawberries are often planted along the borders of potagers. They are the first fruits to appear in spring and are frequently served marinated in red wine and sugar. For a fancier yet still easy dessert, try this strawberry mousse.

Ingredients

  • 1 pt (8 oz/250 g) strawberries, stemmed and cored, reserving 4 strawberries, sliced, for garnish
  • ⅓ cup (3 oz/90 g) sugar
  • 1 Tbsp (1 package) unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup (8 fl oz/250 ml) heavy cream

Directions

1. Using a blender, purée the strawberries until smooth. Strain the purée through a chinois or fine-mesh sieve if you don’t want seeds in the mousse. Transfer the purée to a large bowl and stir in the sugar.

2. In a small saucepan, bring ¼ cup (2 fl oz/60 ml) water to a boil over high heat. Remove from the heat, sprinkle the gelatin over the top, and let stand until dissolved, about 5 minutes.

3. Whisk the dissolved gelatin into the strawberry purée. Let cool to room temperature.

4. In a bowl, whip the cream to soft peaks. Fold the whipped cream into the purée. Spoon the mousse into 6–8 decorative dessert glasses or bowls and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 2 days.

5. Serve chilled, garnished with the strawberry slices.

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