Summer will be here soon! Here are a few easy and wonderful recipes for this time of year by the Sutton-based cook and sometime traiteur Dana Cooper, when the first of the fresh Quebec produce comes out of the earth and onto our tables.
This first recipe is a cinch and yet decadent that encourages us to eat a variety of crunchy, raw vegetables.
Whipped Gorgonzola Dip
4 oz. Gorgonzola Dolce or any creamy blue cheese
4 oz. Cream cheese
1/2 cup Heavy cream
Mix these three ingredients together until well blended, serve right away with radishes, kohlrabi, fennel, raw beet wedges and carrots. Dip can be made up to 5 days in advance, but be sure to keep chilled.
Brown Butter Asparagus
Rinse asparagus in cold water and either trim the ends with a vegetable peeler or snap them where they naturally break off. Place the asparagus in a shallow pan with a well-fitting cover. Add a 1/4 cup of cold water, as well as 2 tbsp of butter. Quickly steam the asparagus, about 4 minutes, then remove the lid allowing the steam to evaporate. Shake the pan getting the asparagus coated in the butter for 1 minute. Serve with a light sprinkle of flaky salt and the juice and zest of half a lemon.
Heavenly Green Beans
Parboil 1 lb of green beans in salted water for 4 minutes. Once cooked, plunge the beans in ice water until they have cooled then dry them off and put them in a clean serving bowl, set aside.
In a small saucepan, pour 3 tbsp of olive oil. Add 1 tsp of cracked coriander seeds and 1 tsp of mustard seeds and sauté on medium until the mustard seeds start to pop. Add the oil and the seeds to the beans. Toss the beans with 1 finely chopped garlic clove, the zest of 1 lemon (preferably organic), and 1 tsp of cumin seeds. Taste for seasoning, add salt and pepper to your liking.
For this recipe, I pick only the leaves of the wild ramps and leave the bulbs in the ground (so they live on). Pick 50 large fresh ramp leaves then rinse in cold water.
In a medium-size pot, add 3 tbsp of olive oil and set the heat to medium. Add 1 chopped onion and 1 cubed potato and 1 tsp of salt and cook until the both soften. Once cooked, add the ramps as well as 1 litre of water. Cook everything together only for a couple of minutes or else the ramps will loose their bright green color. Put the contents of the pot into a blender and blend until smooth. Check for seasoning and if you feel like it needs a little more umami, add either a tbsp of miso and mix well or a tbsp of toasted sesame oil.
Spice Crusted Duck Breasts
This recipe comes from the brilliant chef Floyd Cardoz who combines classic Indian spices with our more traditional European methods. This is the best recipe I have ever tried for magret. Serves 4.
Grind 1 tsp of black peppercorns with 2 star anise and 1 tsp of allspice berries, until medium fine. Set aside in a bowl with 1 tbsp of salt. Trim excess fat from the sides of the 4 duck breasts and in a crosshatch pattern, score the top layer of fat, cutting through the skin and fat but not the meat. Flip over and cover the meat side of the breast with the rub so that it adheres. Set aside covered and chilled for at least an hour and up to 6 hours.
To cook, place the duck breasts skin side down in a heavy 12-inch skillet over low heat. Cook the duck, without turning for 25 minutes. The fat renders and tends to splash so use a wire mesh cover to reduce the mess. At the 25-minute mark, add a little butter (optional) as well as 1 large smashed garlic clove, 1 branch of rosemary and 1 tbsp of roughly chopped ginger, basting the meat (skin side is still down) for 5 minutes or so. Remove from the pan, let rest 5 to 10 minutes, then slice against the grain and enjoy!