Okay, I hope you guys are ready for a spring filled, jam packed post.
Last month, when Foodbuzz put out the call for May 24 post ideas, I knew what I had to suggest: A spring meal, full of everything in season here.
As Spring gets under way and our yard is turning from brown to green, the garden is really starting to produce.
Cooking with the seasons is the best way to enjoy all your favorite foods – you get them when they’re the most ripe, most flavorful, and they definitely need to be eaten to excess while you can get them.
I want to make a girl’s weekend meal to celebrate Spring with my mom and sister. We will eat on our porch, to enjoy the weather, and work together to make the best Spring menu based on what is available here.
Starting with a strawberry salad with the lettuce and berries straight from my garden, with a homemade dressing. Fresh, homemade bread AND homemade butter with local cream. Pea or asparagus risotto, depending on what I have. Leek and local bacon homemade focaccia pizza. And we can’t forget drinks and dessert! Strawberry sparkling cocktails or margaritas, plus a strawberry-filled dessert like pie or homemade shortcake.
Lucky for us, Foodbuzz approved my proposal and we got to make this meal a reality!
First things first: we took a trip to the farmer’s market for some inspiration.
Berries and asparagus and peas and greens are everywhere.
Even better? Our strawberries started to ripen in the past week and a half, so we were able to harvest some from my own backyard for the meal.
It doesn’t get much fresher than this.
Our meal started with a strawberry, feta, and radish salad with the berries, lettuce, and radishes, right out of our garden.
Radishes are one of my favorite things to grow – there’s no doubting when they’re ready to be eaten. Their ruby red shoulders start inching out of the dirt, letting you know that they’re ready to pulled.
And, of course, we can’t forget the most important part of having a garden: quality control.
My nephew, lovingly called Bugga, helped me out by trying every single strawberry he could get his dirt stained little hands on.
I mean, seriously – do you see that drip of strawberry juice on his chin?
I can’t even handle it.
We had all the ladies in the kitchen, taking turns on baby duty and cooking jobs. The salad was being mixed, the dough getting made for the focaccia bread and the pizza, the cream being whipped into fluffy peaks for dessert and even further to make homemade butter.
And, oh, the fresh strawberry mojitos.
These turned out 100 million times better than I even imagined. So much so…that I need to make another batch and make sure I measure everything so I can give you the full recipe. These are coming soon, so watch out.
But I think my favorite things about this meal, as usual, was the bread + pizza.
Instead of doing a normal pizza crust, I made my favorite whole wheat focaccia for a loaf of bread to have with the butter AND another loaf to use as the pizza crust.
The focaccia bread was brushed with olive oil and topped with a sprinkle of salt and some torn fresh rosemary.
But this pizza. Guys, this pizza.
I’m starting to love pizzas without a red sauce so much more. Pizza brushed with oil and toppings or white pizzas? Insane.
This focaccia bread was slathered in olive oil and topped with mozzarella, sauteed bacon and leeks. If you’ve never done this, well…consider this your challenge to do it. As soon as possible. And maybe bring some to share with me.
And the risotto.
Have you ever made faux-risotto with steel cut oats? It’s one of my favorite things to make. The steel cuts cook down into a super creamy texture but keep a little bit of chew, just like arborio rice.
This batch was cooked in broth and studded with fresh peas, rosemary, and some cream cheese for a little tang.
The butter was soft and perfectly salty. The mojitos sweet and laced with lime and mint.
The bread crusty on the outside, fluffy on the inside.
And seriously, this pizza. The sweet leeks and salty bacon were the perfect mix on the nutty focaccia bread. I’m still dreaming about this slice right here.
After this meal, we weren’t even sure if we could HANDLE having strawberry shortcakes for dessert.
But. But. But…we’re girls. We love dessert. And I had about 6 cups of berries that needed to be eaten.
Plus, I had already whipped the cream.
So we powered through. What else are you supposed to do when you have whipped cream and strawberries, yelling from the fridge to make them into something delicious for dessert?
These are the reasons I love spring. Cheers to making meals that celebrate what’s fresh that day! Next up? A summer edition with lots of greens beans, tomatoes, and…probably more berries.
Recipes from this post:
Whole Wheat Focaccia
Makes: 16 servings (for one loaf or one pizza – double if you want bread AND pizza in the same meal)
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 2 cups white whole wheat flour or regular whole wheat flour
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp active dry yeast
- 1 1/4 cups warm water
- 5 Tbsp olive oil, divided
- In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in any large bowl), mix the all purpose flour, sugar, salt, and yeast.
- Mix in the warm water and 3 Tbsp olive oil until dough is moist.
- Stir in 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour and mix dough until it starts pulling away from the sides of the bowl.
- Remove the dough and knead in the last 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour.
- Form the dough into a ball, cover it and let it rest for 5-10 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees and either grease your baking sheet or lay a sheet of parchment paper on your baking sheet.
- Place dough on baking sheet/parchment paper and pat out with your hands, until the dough is about 1/2 inch thick.
- Cover the dough with a towel or plastic wrap and place it in a warm place for about 30 minutes to let it rise.
- Uncover dough and poke holes in it either with your index finger or the end of a spoon.
- Brush on the remaining olive oil and sprinkle on your herbs of choice (I used a pinch of salt and fresh rosemary with this batch).
- Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes or until golden.
Bacon and Leek Focaccia Pizza
Makes: 8-10 servings
- 1 recipe whole wheat focaccia (above)
- 1/2 lb. bacon, diced
- 1/2 lb. leeks, thinly sliced and rinsed
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1 and 1/4 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
- Follow the directions to make the focaccia crust and get it prepped for the oven.
- While the dough is resting for a few minutes, heat a skillet over medium heat and add the diced bacon. Cook the bacon for 5-7 minutes until it has rendered most of its fat and is starting to crisp up.
- Add the sliced and cleaned leeks to the pan with the bacon and cook for 4-5 minutes until the leeks have softened. Stir in the salt and pepper and remove the pan from heat.
- Scatter the shredded mozzarella (and don’t you dare use preshredded!) over the dough, then top the cheese with the bacon and leeks.
- Bake at 425 for 12-17 minutes until the edges of the dough are golden and the cheese is melted and beginning to brown.
Sweet Pea and Rosemary Steel Cut Oat Risotto
Makes: 4 servings
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup steel cut oats
- 4-5 cups broth
- 1 and 1/2 cups fresh peas, steamed
- 1 Tbsp fresh rosemary
- 2 Tbsp low fat cream cheese
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.
- Stir the steel cut oats into the oil and let them toast for 2-3 minutes.
- Add about 1 cup of broth and let the mixture come to a bubble, stirring frequently. Once the first cup of broth has cooked into the oats, add another 1/2-1 cup of broth, repeating the process until all the broth is used and the oats are cooked and creamy. You can add more water if you need more than the 5 cups of broth.
- Once the oats are softened and creamy, remove the pan from heat and stir in the peas, rosemary, cream cheese, salt, and pepper. Serve warm.
Strawberry Feta Salad
Makes: 4-6 servings
- 5 cups fresh butter lettuce, torn
- 1 and 1/2 cups strawberries, sliced
- 1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
- 1/2 cup radishes, sliced
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/2 tsp dry mustard
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- Dump the torn lettuce into a large bowl and top with the strawberries, feta cheese, and radishes. Toss together.
- In a separate bowl, mix the olive oil, vinegar, dry mustard, salt, and pepper together.
- Drizzle the salad with the dressing just before serving.
Fresh Strawberry Shortcakes with Cream Biscuits
Makes: 6 servings
- 1 and 1/4 cups all purpose flour plus another 1/4 cup flour, divided
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- 1 Tbsp honey
- 3/4 to 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 and 1/2 cups strawberries, halved
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, and honey together. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add 3/4 cup of the heavy cream.
- Gently stir the mixture together until the flour is incorporated. If the mixture is still dry, add a little more cream. You want the dough to just come together and still be sticky.
- Pour the extra 1/4 cup of flour into a bowl. Divide the biscuit dough into 6 pieces in the large bowl.
- Take one scoop of the biscuit dough and drop it in the extra flour, flipping around to coat the biscuit in the flour, gently pat it a few times, then place it on a baking sheet or stone. Repeat with the rest of the biscuits.
- Bake the biscuits at 425 for 12-15 minutes until the tops are golden.
- While the biscuits are baking, cut the strawberries and set them aside.
- In a separate bowl, whip the cream until it begins to fluff up and thicken. Add the sugar and continue to whip until the cream is light and fluffy.
- When the biscuits are finished, split open with a fork and stuff with the strawberries and whipped cream.
Recipes still to come!
Quick Homemade Butter
Fresh Strawberry Mojitos