Simple Art of Cooking: Twelve Months of Simple Favorites

I’m simply hopeless when it comes to discovering appealing recipes with ingredients that I instinctively know will be delicious to eat. From January through December, in every season through the year, I almost want to cook everything.

The seasons of course dominate the course I will take—asparagus, fava beans and rhubarb in spring; corn, tomatoes, summer squash and berries in summer; beets, sweet peppers, leek, eggplant and amazing lettuces in autumn; and the varieties of winter squash, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, Swiss chard and the root vegetables of winter.

All this garden goodness does not preclude the local fish and shellfish in season—grills, sautés and roasts of chicken and duck, or other category of meat choices through the year. I not only want to cook the recipes I come across, I want to share them with family and friends. Every Season and indeed every month brings new reasons to celebrate!

January
Seared Breast of Duck with Black Currant Sauce: This dish spells celebratory dining to me. The duck breasts are seasoned and a savory sauce is prepared ahead. The thinly sliced, sautéed, then roasted breasts are fanned out and served with the savory sauce.

February
Arugula Salad with Feta and Pears: Peppery arugula, crumbly feta teamed with Comice pears, at the peak of their juicy ripeness, dressed with flavorful balsamic and fruity olive oil vinaigrette makes for a bright and refreshing winter salad.

March
Sautéed Fennel with Blood Orange Sauce with Fennel and Fresh Tuna: Blood orange segments, bursting with juice are added to a mustardy orange juice reduction. The segments intermingle with deliciously crisp slices of sautéed fennel, one of my favorite winter vegetables, and served over seared slabs of spiced rare tuna.

April
Wheatberry Salad with Shallots and Mushrooms: Wheatberries have a rich, nutty and satisfying flavor when added to a salad or sauté. Here the cooked grain is added to sautéed shallots and mushrooms giving the vegetables a satisfying crunch. The dish is served warm or at room temperature, with chopped parsley garnish.

May
Salmon En Papillote with Fresh Tarragon: Salmon seasoned with salt, pepper, olive oil and fresh tarragon, is wrapped in a foil envelope, an approach to cooking, en papillote style, that can be prepared ahead. The oven-baked fish emerges moist, and tender, perfumed with the tarragon.

June
Risotto with Asparagus and Tomatoes: The special rice from the Po Valley in Italy, when properly prepared, is what gives risotto it’s creamy yet resistant to the bite texture. The rice cooks slowly with additions of chicken stock and infused with the flavors of asparagus and tomatoes.

July
Berry Trifle with Mascarpone and Biscotti: Just layer a mixture of lightly sugared berries in season, whip up some mascarpone cheese to soften, stir in a bit of Framboise and place the luscious mixture over broken chunks of biscotti cookies for a fresh taste of summer.

August
Pappa al Pomodoro: The classic Italian bread salad, pappa al pomodoro is a glorious mixture of ripe tomatoes, onions, chunks of dry Tuscan bread, aromatic basil and fragrant olive oil. Try to use dark Tuscan bread at least one day old for authenticity.

September
Roast New Potatoes with Rosemary: Little new potatoes, currently plentiful at farm stands on the East End of Long Island, are seasoned with rosemary and extra-virgin olive oil, and roasted until crispy without and irresistibly sweet and tender within.

October
Caponata: In a season where everything is growing the combination of roasted eggplant, celery and cherry tomatoes is the basis for a wonderfully flavorful caponata. This piquant Italian appetizer favorite incorporates raisins, capers, olives and basil to serve with crostini.

November
Red Kuri Soup with Leek and Ginger: Red Kuri, is a globe, pumpkin like, but sweet variety of winter squash. The flesh is steamed until tender then added to sautéed leek, scallions and ginger. The vegetables simmer with broth then pureed to a delectable and velvety finish.

December
Sugar Spice Pecans or Walnuts: Toasted pecans or walnuts are coated in a cayenne seasoned caramel sauce. These addictive sugar-spiced nuts are perfect for holiday entertaining or festively wrapped for gifts from your kitchen.

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