Adventures in food:: a perfect spring dinner / by Christina Rosalie

Hi. Happy Friday! How was your week? Mine was full of serendipity and unexpected gifts from strangers. Finding things in common. A date at a french bistro, shiraz and lively music. A dreamy Sprout. A bike-riding, giggling goofball Bean. Lots to tell about, when I get more than a half hour to write. In the meantime, here is an absolutely perfect dinner I simply had to share. I used to be so afraid of cooking/baking. Gradually I am discovering how much I love it. Especially when food is simple, like these recipes are: just a few ingredients, fresh, local, in season.

Best Springtime Salad Ever 1 bunch fresh asparagus 1 large handful sugar snap peas 1/2 head red lettuce 1/2 head romane lettuce (or improvise with whatever are the freshest best salad greens you can find!) grilled flank steak

Just barely saute asparagus & peas in a little lemon and olive oil. Turn the heat off when the asparagus is just tender, but still a bit crispy. Throw veggies onto a bed of fresh lettuce. Add one whole avocado sliced. Grill the steak until just medium rare. Slice thinly and add to the salad just before serving.

I used Brian's delicious vinaigrette. I used a seedy dijon mustard, thyme, tarragon, and parsley. Apply lavishly. Toss. DELICIOUS.

Inspired by Nigella's Hearthbread from How To Be A Domestic Goddess. So easy. And it turned out perfectly. Light, soft, flavorful, crusty.

3 1/2 c. white bread flour (I have found that actually using bread flour as opposed to substituting with just anything, really does make a difference!) 1 T. instant yeast (I used SAF Instant) 1 T. salt 1 1/3 c. warm water 5-ish T. olive oil 1-2 heads garlic 1 T. fennel seeds 1 T. herbs de Provence 1 handful parsley more olive oil

Preheat to 400. Mix flour, yeast & salt. Add water and olive oil. Stir until dough forms, add more liquid as needed. Make dough into a ball & knead until it feels really soft and supple. Put into a oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel & put in a warm place (a sunny windowsill is my new favorite spot for rising dough. In the winter, by the wood stove.)

While the dough is rising: peel heads of garlic, put onto tinfoil & drizzle with olive oil. Wrap loosely to make a little package & roast in the oven at 400. In a food processor pour a good splash or two of olive oil & add parsley. Give it a whirl. Then add the garlic once it has baked until it is golden and soft.

Reduce oven heat to 375.When the dough is double in size, deflate it, divide dough in half, put parchment paper on two baking sheets, and roll out dough to form a bulky rectangle or oval. I used my hands to stretch the dough. I found it very supple and easy to work with--no rolling necessary. Transfer the breads on their papers to baking sheets, cover with tea towels and let rise for 25 minutes until they are puffy. Then poke your fingers all over the tops of them to dimple them. Spread the garlic/parsley/olive oil mixture on one. On the other spread the fennel seeds, herbs de Provence, and more olive oil. Put them into the oven and bake at 375 for about 20 minutes until breads are cooked and golden.

The only way to eat this bread is greedily. With bare hands.

For dessert, fresh rhubarb grunt (also a Nigella recipe.) I use this recipe a lot, with any kind of spring or summer fruit (I described the peach version here,) but rhubarb in springtime is quintessential and utterly grand.

Grunt: Cut 4-5 stalks rhubarb into slices and place them in the bottom of a pie pan with a few dabs of butter and a sprinkle of sugar. Mix 1 cup flour, 1/3 cup sugar, and 1-1 ½ cups whipped cream together until it becomes a sticky dough. Place dough in mounded spoonfuls on top of peaches and bake at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes until the top is golden brown and the rhubarb bubbly.

*** Do you have any favorite spring recipes to share?