Nostaligia and Spring Tonic

Monday:           Asparagus, Leek and Herb Frittata with Fresh Goat Cheese

Tuesday:           Chicken Brodo with Spring Vegetables and Fried Bread

Maple Blossoms – very small but wonderfully intricate – markers of Spring

Wednesday:      Mushroom Ragout with Pappardelle

Thursday:         Roasted Chicken Thighs with Peas, Leeks and Mint

Friday:              Spicy Shrimp and Polenta

Saturday:          Italian Open-Faced Omelet with Herbs and Onion

Sunday:            Sweet and Sour Pork Chops / Tuscan Braised Potatoes

I have been thinking about my childhood, in part, because a good friend of mine was buried last week.  In a eulogy, his brother spoke about their boyhood – the crazy ball games they made up, the yard work, the importance of baseball and grandparents in their lives.  My brothers and I can relate.  Dan was one of the most balanced individuals I have ever known.  A good athlete, a brilliant student, but a guy who knew when to play, not just when to work.  He became an internationally-renowned lawyer, blazing a path for how to deal with complicated financial securities and transactions.  But he was as down to earth and ordinary a man as you could meet.  The kind of guy who takes his baseball mitt to the corporate box at Yankee stadium.  Of course, he was far from ordinary and he has left a hole in the world.

There is no good segué from that, so I’ll just say that when I was a child our food was more closely related to the growing season.  We did have frozen orange juice, but tomatoes, except those in a can, were only available in late summer and fall.  And in Spring we celebrated by eating asparagus and – I shudder to think of it – rhubarb sauce.  To a young palate rhubarb was eye-wateringly tart.  With enough sugar it was edible, but at your age you really don’t want to eat anything that contains that much sugar, do you?

Sorry – just realized that I have no idea how old you are.  I’m a little self-conscious about age these days, having recently turned 70.  Not that I feel any different, but 70 is a daunting number.  (Apologies to my 80-year-old friends)

But Spring does offer some wonderful vegetables, especially asparagus.  And here is a great tonic (chicken broth) with mushrooms and asparagus that should have the same quickening effect as rhubarb sauce on your aging flesh but without the sugar.

Chicken Brodo with Spring Vegetables and Fried Bread

(adapted from bon appetit, April, 2019)

 I know, you’re wondering about the fried bread.  Fine, skip it if you wish, but trust me, you’ll thank me if you use it.

Timing:                                       30 minutes with my adaptation

       3 Hours and 30 minutes using the bon appetit recipe which calls for making your own brodo (You will need to cook 4 lb. of raw chicken bones in 12 cups of cold water which you have brought to a simmer (don’t boil) and turned down to medium low and skimmed occasionally)

Ingredients:                                          Serves Four

For the brodo:

(see above for ingredients to make your own brodo)

My adaptation – About 3 ½ cups of College Inn or other good Chicken Broth

3 spring onions or 4 scallions

4 garlic cloves, crushed

3 oz. Thinly sliced prosciutto, chopped

¾ cup dried porcini mushrooms (you can use other dries mushrooms to economize)

To finish:

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

4 half-inch thick slices of country-style bread (most supermarkets and bakeries are able to slice bread to your preferred thickness)

10 oz or so of asparagus – about 1 bunch – thinner asparagus works better in this recipe

4 oz of button mushrooms, very thinly sliced (just trim the rough end of the stems, don’t remove them)

2 cups pea shoots (we used micro arugula greens – we don’t like the taste of pea shoots – you might also use chopped-up watercress)

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Finely grated Parmesan (for serving)

Drizzle of olive oil (for serving)

Freshly ground black pepper

Cook the Brodo:

(see above if you wish to make from scratch)

Bring the chicken stock to a simmer and add the spring onions or scallions, the garlic, the prosciutto, and the dried mushrooms and reduce to a bare simmer and cook for about 20 minutes.

Strain the brodo through a fine-meshed sieve into a bowl.  Discard the solids.

Fry the Bread:

Heat 1/3 cup of oil in a medium skillet over medium.  When the oil looks glossy, add the bread slices and cook about 3 minutes per side, until golden brown.  Transfer to a plate and season with sea salt (or kosher salt)

Finish the Soup:

Trim the asparagus and slice diagonally into 1” pieces

Slice up the button mushrooms very thinly (the center pieces will have cap and stem together)

Bring the brodo back to simmer over medium heat.  TAste and season with salt.  (You’ll need some salt.)  Add the asparagus and cook until tender and bright green (about 3 minutes for thin asparagus, more for thick stalks).  Remove from the heat and add the mushrooms.

Toss the pea shoots or micro-greens or watercress in a small bowl with the lemon juice and season with salt.

Divide the soup among 4 bowls and place a piece of bread in each.  Top with the greens and a drizzle of olive oil and several grinds of black pepper.


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