Spring is here and cooking brings on new flavors with fresh vegetables — notably Vidalia onions.
Easy Almond –Raspberry Croissants
Makes 8 croissants
1 8-ounce can almond paste, cut into small pieces
¼ cup heavy cream
4 ounces dark chocolate chopped
1 8-ounce package of 8- refrigerated crescent rolls
8 teaspoons raspberry preserves, divided
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon water
¼ cup sliced almonds (Optional)
1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet.
In a bowl combine almond paste pieces and 1-tablespoon heavy cream Beat with an electric mixer on medium until nearly smooth. Beat in remaining heavy cream, one tablespoon at a time. Stir in chocolate.
Unroll croissant rolls and separate at perforations into 8 -triangles. Spoon almond paste mixture onto the shortest side of each dough triangle; spread slightly. Take 1-teaspoon raspberry preserves and gently spread over almond mixture. Starting at the shortest side of each triangle, roll up dough toward the point. Shape into crescent shapes; place pointed sides down, on baking sheet.
In a small bowl combine egg and water. Brush dough lightly with egg mixture, sprinkle with almonds.
Bake for 15 5o 17 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer croissants to a wire rack; cool slightly. Lightly sprinkle confectioners’ sugar over croissants. Serve warm.
Asparagus with Garlic, Sesame Seeds and Orange Glaze
1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 3-inch pieces
½ cup orange juice
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
Salt and Pepper to taste
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add asparagus and cook until nearly tender, when it is a bright green, about 2-3 minutes. Drain well. Run cold water over the asparagus to stop the cooking, drain.
Combine orange juice, butter, and garlic in a skillet and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 2 minutes. Add asparagus and toss gently until it is heated through and orange juice is reduced to a glaze about 3-5 minutes. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Toss with sesame seeds gently, and serve hot.
Spring Pasta Salad
12 ounces cavatappi pasta or spiral pasta
4 ounces asparagus, trimmed, thinly sliced on the bias
1 10-ounce package frozen peas, thawed
1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 orange bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 radishes, thinly sliced
1 small Vidalia or sweet onion, finely chopped
½ cup fresh cilantro chopped
Shaved Parmesan cheese or ricotta salata cheese (has a salty taste) for garnish
Handful of sugar snap peas, for added crunch (Optional)
1/3 cup EVOO olive oil
1 teaspoons honey
2 cloves garlic, mined, then smashed
Zest and juice of 1-lemon
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
Prepare pasta according to package directions; adding asparagus the last 2-minutes before the pasta is done. Drain the pasta and asparagus, rinse under cold running water to stop the cooking. Toss the pasta and asparagus in a large salad bowl with peas, snap peas, orange pepper, radishes, tomatoes, onion, and cilantro.
Make the dressing in a small bowl, whisking together olive oil, honey, garlic, lemon juice and zest. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Drizzle the dressing over the pasta salad, tossing to coat. Let the salad stand for about an hour or two for full flavor.
When ready to serve top with shaved Parmesan cheese on top and drizzle with a little olive oil.
Italian Sausage and Orecchiette Pasta With Vidalia Onions
To Peel Fava Beans:
Remove fava bean shells, then blanch the beans in boiling salted water for 30 seconds. Drain, transfer to a bowl of ice water and squeeze the beans from their skins.
1 pound fresh orecchiette pasta or medium shells
1 pound sweet Italian sausage links, slightly frozen then sliced into coins
2 tablespoons EVOO olive oil
1 cup peeled shelled fava beans or fresh peas
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1-2 cups baby arugula leaves
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 large Vidalia or sweet onions, halved then thinly sliced
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
In a large skillet sauté onions in 2-tablespoons butter until golden and tender. Set aside.
In a large pot bring 5 quarts of water and 2-tablespoons of salt to a boil. Add pasta and cook until just al dente, about 1-2 minutes less than the package directions. Occasionally give the pasta a stir so it doesn’t stick together. Reserve 1-cup of the pasta water, then drain pasta.
In a large skillet over high heat, add olive oil and sausage and cook until browned on all sides about 2-4 minutes. Add the fava beans or fresh peas, baby arugula, season with salt and pepper, to taste and cook for 1-2 minutes.
Add the pasta and reserved pasta water to the pan and cook for 30 seconds, stirring to blend. Remove from heat and stir in sautéed onions and Parmesan cheese. Top with olive oil.
Hope’s Roasted Root Vegetable Medley
2 parsnips, peeled
1 rutabaga, peeled
4 large carrots, peeled
1 large Vidalia or sweet onion, cut into thin slices
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 beets, skins removed after cooking
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground rosemary (Optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Parboil for 15 minutes parsnips, rutabaga, and carrots in enough water to cover vegetables, cover saucepan, simmer until almost tender. Drain and reserve liquid for beverage, soups, stews , or gravies. Cook beets in a separate covered pot for 30 minutes until almost tender. Drain and pull skins off beets. Sauté onion and garlic for a few minutes until just caramelized.
Cut beets up into 1-inch chunks separately, set aside, and add to other vegetables at the very end so as not to mix the red color to the others. Cut all cooked vegetables into 1-inch chunks, add sautéed onion and garlic and gently mix together. In a bowl toss cut up vegetables with brown sugar, salt and pepper, rosemary (Optional) and olive oil. Pour into a rectangular casserole dish and bake in a 350 degree oven for 15-25 minutes until tender and lightly golden or toasted. Serve hot.
Brown Sugar and Bourbon Glazed Salmon Fillets
2 7-ounce fresh salmon fillets
½ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
Pinch of salt and black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon molasses
1 tablespoon bourbon
1 teaspoons soy sauce
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a small bowl combine paprika, Old Bay, salt and pepper. Sprinkle on top and sides of salmon.
In another bowl mix together olive oil, brown sugar, molasses, Bourbon, and soy sauce.
Place salmon, skin side down, on a parchment lined baking sheet. Brush each fillet with half of the glaze mixture. Roast salmon, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and brush as much remaining glaze as desired over salmon. Cover with foil and let rest for 5-minutes before serving.
Fresh Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie
2 pre-made piecrusts
1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
5-6 tablespoons cornstarch or 3-4 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
2 1/2 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 cups fresh rhubarb, scrubbed, trimmed, and cut into 1-inch pieces ( 2-3 stalks)
3 tablespoons butter
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place one pie crust in a 9-inch pie plate.
Gently combine strawberries, sugar, lemon juice, flour, and salt. Arrange half the rhubarb pieces on the bottom of the pie plate pastry, top with half of the strawberry mixture; repeat these 2- steps. Dot top of fruit mixture with small pieces of butter evenly distributed. Place top pie crust over fruit mixture and crimp edges.
Brush top of pie with 1- tablespoon milk and sprinkle granulated sugar or coarse sugar over the top of pie crust. Cut 4- small vents into the top. Place pie on a cookie sheet to prevent oven spillage. Bake 40 to 50 minutes or until filling is tender and crust is golden. Place foil strips on pie crust edge if it is beginning to brown too much, remove when finished baking. Serve warm or cold with heavy cream, whipped cream, or vanilla ice cream.
Hope Cusick has won awards at the North Carolina Strawberry Festival in 2012; The North Carolina Blueberry Festival — winning first place for her Blueberry Cheese Danish Pastry in 2012; placing on her blueberry spinach salad and dressing and winning second place for her Sweet Blueberry Pepper Jelly in 2015; and winning first in 2016 for her spoon blueberry muffins with apricot sauce and second for her blueberry crisp squares — and has won various other contest awards — including three blue ribbons at the 2016 Cape Fear County Fair — for her blueberry cheesecake, muffins, breads, cookies, brownies and jams. She resides in Hampstead.