The Simple Art of Cooking: Springtime Cooking Is Here!

At long last the April air hints of spring and time to welcome back much-loved spring delicacies—artichokes, asparagus, and the first field greens—fresh, young and full of flavor. After a long, harsh winter it simply makes sense to prepare vegetable-rich foods, particularly those that require a minimal amount of time in the kitchen. Minimal may mean just cooking for two, which I typically do.

Asparagus spears, fresh and tender, were just the inspiration I needed for dinner one evening. And Jacques Pepin, award-winning cookbook author, television personality and colleague of many years, came to my rescue with his quick sauté of asparagus and shallots.

Artichokes hearts are indeed a delicacy and could be time consuming. Yet it took a short time to trim two large artichokes into hearts to cook until tender, then simply season with lemon and oregano for a mouth-watering side course. Romaine lettuce is prized for its long, graceful and snappy leaves. Combine it with scallions and dill for a crisp tasty spring salad, simply dressed with just a balanced ratio of flavorful extra-virgin olive oil and your favorite vinegar. Happy spring!

Asparagus with Shallots

Leave it to Jacques Pepin to come up with a simply alluring asparagus recipe.

Serves 4

1/2 pound thin to medium asparagus

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

3 to 4 shallots, cut into thin slices (3/4 cup)

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Break off stem ends of asparagus where they naturally bend and then discard tough ends. With a paring knife, trim and discard the points along the spears. Rinse and pat dry with paper towels. Cut asparagus diagonally into 2-inch lengths.

2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the asparagus and shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, for 7 to 8 minutes (a few minutes longer if asparagus are thick) or until asparagus is just tender. Stir in the butter, salt and pepper and toss to mix. Serve hot or warm.

Artichoke Hearts with Lemon and Oregano

Serves 3 to 4

1 lemon, halved

2 large artichokes

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 shallot, finely chopped

1 small clove garlic, finely chopped

1/4 cup chicken broth or water

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley leaves

1. With a sharp stainless steel knife trim the base of the artichoke and bend the outer leaves back until they snap off. Remove several more layers in the same manner until the pale inner leaves are reached. Cut each artichoke in half through the base and rub the cut surfaces with one half lemon, dropping the hearts into a bowl of cold water, squeezing the remaining juice from the lemon into the water.

2. Put the hearts with the halved lemon into a saucepan of boiling salted water and cook over medium heat, about 14 to 15 minutes until tender. Drain and scrape away the chokes. Cut each heart into 2 to 3 wedges.

3. Warm the oil in a heavy skillet and sauté the shallot and garlic for 1 minute or so. Add the broth or water and oregano, and the artichoke pieces and bring to a boil. Reduce the liquid to about 2 tablespoons, stir in the salt, pepper to taste, and parsley and serve warm.

Visit Silvia’s website at savoringthehamptons.com to read her blogs and more recipes.

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