Ingredient of the Week: Strawberries

Strawberries from the Farmer's Market (c)2012 LaDomestique.com

On a warm and sunny Saturday morning I walked through the crowded Boulder Farmer’s Market, past the artisan bread stand with the cute Italian guys, past the goat cheese maker’s tent, past mounds of vegetables piled high. As it should be, I caught whiff of the alluring fragrance before I saw them: strawberries! Members of the rose family, ripe strawberries have a sweet, floral aroma that cannot be ignored. These tiny, ruby red gems look puny next to mass-produced strawberries from the grocery store, but their flavor and juiciness is unbeatable. In The River Cottage Cookbook, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall writes:

The best strawberries you will taste are the ones you pick and eat straight from the plant on a warm day, when they are fully ripe and the flavor-giving molecules are still buzzing with the heat of the sun.

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Cook in the Moment: Tarragon Potato Salad with Smoked Salmon & Lemon Vinaigrette

Tarragon Potato Salad with Smoked Salmon and Lemon Vinaigrette (c)2012 LaDomestique.com

I’m having a Nordic moment in the kitchen, inspired by the Scandinavian sensibility for fresh, brightly-flavored, seasonal ingredients- prepared simply. The food is light but nourishing, intended to stimulate the senses and energize the body. During springtime, I can’t wait to be outside, riding my bike with the husband, feeling a cool breeze on my skin. Walking little Minnie, our dachshund, is a pleasure, as she bounds through the green grass, ears flopping up and down. Summer will arrive soon, with oppressive heat and blazing sun, draining my body of the energy to cook and depleting my appetite. For now, I revel in spring- the pleasantly sunny days alternating with dramatic thunderstorms, the thrill of tender lettuces and just-harvested asparagus spears- tending to my happy little herb garden and enjoying the subtlety of the season.

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10 Ways Tuesday: Tarragon

Tarragon (c)2012 LaDomestique.com

I’ve got creative recipes for cooking with the anise-flavored herb, tarragon:

1.  Asparagus and Tarragon Tart

Reading Nigel Slater’s tome on vegetables, Tender, I came across his simple but striking recipe for A Tart of Asparagus and Tarragon. Once the tart shell is made and pre-baked, pieces of asparagus are sprinkled in and a creamy custard flavored with a generous amount of tarragon leaves is poured over. As the tart bakes in the oven, Parmesan cheese forms a golden brown crust. This recipe perfectly illustrates the idea that less is more when you’re cooking with the freshest ingredients from the garden.

2.  Make Your Own Tarragon Vinegar

Infusing white wine vinegar with tarragon is so easy and it’s no-cook! Wash the tarragon and dry it completely, then stuff a couple sprigs into a bottle of good-quality white wine vinegar and allow it to infuse for at least a week before using. In Forgotten Skills of Cooking, Darina Allen writes that the tarragon should be completely submerged, as any leaves exposed to air will decay. Use tarragon vinegar in salad dressings, sauces, or as a condiment for oysters.

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Ingredient of the Week: Tarragon

Tarragon (c)2012 LaDomestique.com

This week at la Domestique is dedicated to the herb, tarragon. Something about the highly aromatic scent of tarragon embodies the essence of spring: fresh, like that of a pine forrest after a good soaking rain, but more delicate and feminine. Tarragon is softer than basil, lacking that tendency towards astringency. The long, thin stems and spindly green leaves taste of licorice with a lingering sweetness. It’s a balance of strength and softness. Sprinkle tarragon leaves over a salad or stir them into a sauce and the anise notes permeate while at the same time amplifying other flavors. Tarragon is a good team player, enhancing the fresh, lively character of other herbs such as chervil, parsley, thyme, and chives. Use tarragon to brighten up rich creamy sauces and and as a compliment to mustard. Fresh tarragon leaves add a sparkle -a little something special- to gently cooked vegetables such as carrots, peas, asparagus, or radishes and make a fitting companion to boiled potatoes. An essential ingredient in classic French cuisine, tarragon paired with butter is delicious over beef, chicken, and seafood (especially lobster).

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Spring Onion, Pea, and Chive Frittata with Goat Cheese

Spring Onion, Pea, and Chive Frittata with Goat Cheese (c)2012

Frittata, the rustic Italian omelet, is a dish I make again and again during springtime. It’s a simple, forgiving technique- much like a crustless quiche- open to endless variations. The method is to lightly sauté  filling ingredients in a high-sided skillet, then pour over beaten eggs (with cream or milk) and cook for a moment on the stovetop until almost set, transferring the skillet to the oven broiler for a minute or two until puffed and golden on top. A frittata is easygoing, just like a sunny spring day, and can be served warm or at room temperature. It’s even good reheated the next morning for breakfast, after the flavors have had a chance to mingle overnight in the fridge. This laid back dish travels well and loves to go on picnics or garden parties. Frittata is a celebration of the spring garden, and it’s fun to modify the basic recipe based on what is ready for harvest. This week I’m enjoying a recipe for Spring Onion, Pea, and Chive Frittata with Goat Cheese that’s an ode to the flavors of spring: fresh herbs, sweet succulent peas, and tangy goat cheese.

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