Seasonal Chef

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The first and second days of May were party days for school kids in Minnesota when I was growing up.

We’d pack pretty little baskets with homemade cookies and store-bought lemon drops topped with yellow buttercup blossoms or daffodils. Mom chauffeured us to our friends’ homes … we’d hang the basket on the door, knock or ring the doorbell and then immediately hide behind a nearby tree or flowering bush. They answered the door and ran out to find us and figure out who brought the basket.

It seems a quaint custom by today’s standards, but we thought it was just grand. So what does this have to do with today’s column? The minute I see daffodils and tulips blooming, I honor this May Day custom by creating lemon-flavored recipes.

Mom made lemon meringue kisses with lemon curd for dessert on the first day of May: that’s the source for this week’s first recipe.

Angeline Linardis, author of a beautiful new vegetarian cookbook, “V Cuisine” (Whitecap Books, North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada 2007), has written unique recipes that are not the usual vegan fare. First, the wild rice with spinach and luscious lemon cream is an outstanding and beautiful main dish or as a vegan addition to a buffet table.

And second, truffle teasers are the perfect treat for dessert or to fill a little basket to hang on a friend’s door! Who knows, you might just enjoy playing once again. Bon appetit!

Lemon Meringue Kisses 
with Lemon Curd

(Serves 6)

3 egg whites1/4 teaspoon cream of tartarPinch of sea salt1/2 cup sugar1/4 teaspoon pure lemon extractGrated zest of one lemon1 large lemon, sliced thin for garnishFor the curd:3 egg yolks2 large lemons, zest grated and juice squeezed1 cup sugar1 tablespoon unsalted butterOptional:1 cup heavy cream whipped with 1 tablespoon sugar until stiff, for garnish

To prepare:

For the kisses, preheat the oven to 200. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

With a pencil, draw twelve 3-inch circles on the parchment paper and set aside.

In a very clean bowl of an electric mixer, beat the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt until frothy. Gradually add the sugar and continue beating until stiff and glossy.

Fold the lemon extract and zest into the whites. Divide the mixture among the circles. Then, using the back of the spoon, round out the center of each meringue to form a cup.

Bake the meringues until they have a pale color and easily lift off the paper, about 60 minutes.

Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

To make lemon curd:

Grate zest from lemon and squeeze the juice.

Bring the lemon juice and zest to a boil in a heavy non-reactive saucepan over moderate heat.

Meanwhile, beat the egg yolks until frothy in the bowl of an electric mixer, gradually add the sugar and beat until the yolks are pale and lemon colored.

With the beaters running, gradually pour the hot lemon juice into the egg yolk mixture, beating constantly.

Transfer the mixture to the saucepan over high heat, whisk in the butter and cook, whisking constantly, until it has thickened and is smooth.

Remove from the heat and bring to room temperature. Can be done ahead.

To assemble and serve: Fill the meringue shell “kisses” with the lemon curd and garnish with sliced lemons.

Optional:

Whip heavy cream until thick and spoon a dollop on top.

Wild Rice with Spinach 
and Luscious Lemon Cream

(Serves 4 to 6)

2 cups cooked wild rice (cook according to directions on the side of the package)2 carrots cut into matchsticks1 large stalk celery, with leaves, strings removed and finely chopped2 scallions, finely chopped3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil2 tablespoons flour1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice1 to 2 cups plain unsweetened soy milk1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zestPinch of saffron1 teaspoon onion powder1/2 cup shelled sunflower seeds, toasted and salted1 cup cherry tomatoes3 to 4 cups raw spinach leaves, washed, spun dry, and stems removed1 fresh lemon, thinly sliced into circlesSea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

To prepare:

Preheat the oven to 350.

In a mixing bowl, mix together the cooked wild rice, carrots, celery, and scallions.

Drizzle about one tablespoon olive oil over the top and toss well. Transfer to a lightly oiled baking/serving dish and bake while preparing the rest of the dish.

Stir the flour into the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat.

Whisking constantly, slowly add the lemon juice, blending well after each addition.

Slowly add one cup of soy milk, whisking to blend. (Add more soy milk if necessary to make a sauce that lightly coats a spoon and is the consistency of heavy cream.)

Whisk in lemon zest, saffron, and onion powder. Taste and correct the seasonings. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until ready to serve.

Remove the wild rice mixture from the oven. Stir in sunflower seeds, tomatoes, and spinach leaves. Toss well and return the dish to the oven only long enough to warm up the tomatoes, about 10 to 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

The lemon cream should be smooth. If not, place a strainer over a bowl and pass it through to remove any lumps.

Pour the lemon cream on top of the rice mixture, garnish the dish with lemon slices down the center, and serve at once.

Truffle Teasers

(About 2 dozen balls)

1 cup nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts, or hazelnuts) toasted3/4 cup carob powder1/2 cup soy milk1 tablespoon brown sugar2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice1/4 cup malt powder1/2 cup powdered sugarOptional:About 1 cup crushed nuts or organic coconut for rolling

To prepare:

Working in the bowl of the food processor, add half a cup of the nuts and a quarter cup carob powder. Process a few pulses.

Add all of the soy milk, brown sugar and lemon juice and process until the mixture is blended. Set aside.

Set a wire strainer over a mixing bowl and press the remaining half cup of carob powder through the strainer to remove the lumps.

Finely chop or crush the remaining nuts and add them to the carob powder along with the malt powder and mix well.

Slowly add the reserved wet carob mixture to the dry carob mixture and mix well to break up any lumps.

Cover and refrigerate until cold enough to roll into balls, about an hour, or freeze for 20 minutes.

Sift powdered sugar onto a waxed paper lined baking sheet. Roll the mixture into 1-inch balls.

Roll each ball in the powdered sugar until round and well covered with 
the sugar. (Or roll them in nuts or coconut.)

Transfer them to a waxed or parchment paper lined airtight container and store them in the refrigerator or freezer. They are great frozen, and should always be served ice cold because they tend to melt.

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