Leek & White Bean-Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

There are a handful of flavor combinations that I love in a stuffed mushroom.  The first few that come to mind are pancetta and garlic, Gruyere cheese and fresh thyme, and this variation–white beans, rosemary and leeks.  When cooked down in a touch of olive oil, leeks become very tender and give any dish a mild oniony flavor.  Combined with buttery white beans and chopped, fresh rosemary, this combination is not only great in a mushroom, but also as a pasta topping or even the base for a lovely chicken soup.

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Warm Goat Cheese Toasts with Castelvetrano Olives

These beautiful warm goat cheese toasts are reminiscent of a French tartine.  If you aren’t familiar, a tartine is simply an open-face sandwich that can be topped with whatever cheese, meats, veggies, you name it, that you wish.  This particular toast is made with a crunchy-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside Tuscan boule loaf that I cut into thick slices.  Then, I top each toast with crumbled goat cheese, sliced Castelvetrano olives (my fav) and some rose-hued and flavored pink peppercorns.  Bake for a mere 5 minutes or so, until the bread is warm and the cheese a bit gooey, these toasts are perfect alongside a main course salad or bowl of soup.

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‘Salmon & Spinach Salad’

Recipe Courtesy of Cooking Light Magazine

If you weren’t already anticipating the arrival of spring temperatures and produce, this fresh and flavorful main course salad recipe will no doubt push you in that direction.  Baby spinach tossed with flat leaf parsley and fresh mint, along with thinly sliced fresh fennel, cooked salmon, and a garlicky tarragon vinaigrette to finish.  I like serving this salad with a few roasted pistachios and also, some lemon zest added into the dressing for a ‘pop’ of brightness.

(To view this recipe, click on the following link: http://www.cookinglight.com/recipes/salmon-spinach-salad)

‘Spaghetti Carbonara with Parma Ham’

Recipe Courtesy of Delicious Magazine

A classic bowl of Roman Pasta Carbonara always contains a handful of specific ingredients: pasta (obviously), bacon, eggs and cheese.  More often than not, specifically spaghetti is used, guanciale or pork cheek for the meat, and Parmesan for the cheese.  Such a simple and satisfying pasta dish and it seriously only takes about 5 minutes for it all to come together (once the pasta cooks of course)!

Here’s how you do it: you cook the meat with some minced garlic while you cook the al dente spaghetti noodles, then you stir into the cooked noodles the eggs mixed with the grated cheese, some black pepper and some pasta water to make the sauce thicken slightly. Next comes the cooked meat, garlic and sprinkling of chopped parsley. The egg-cheese-pasta water mixture makes for a creamy and naturally smooth sauce that is out-of-this-world tasty.  I liked this specific recipe from Delicious Magazine because it used slices of Parma ham instead of pancetta or guanciale, which is lighter on the grease and crisps up beautifully in the pan.

(To view this recipe, click on the following link: http://www.deliciousmagazine.co.uk/recipes/spaghetti-carbonara-with-parma-ham/)

‘Lemongrass-Ginger Chicken Soup with Swiss Chard’

Recipe Courtesy of Fine Cooking Magazine

This fragrant Vietnamese-inspired soup gets its depth of flavor from homemade chicken stock, sesame oil, lemongrass, garlic and fresh ginger.  Those flavorings in combination with diced chicken, Swiss chard stems and leaves, and final touches of mirin and rice vinegar really make for a healthy and detoxifying soup.  I decided last minute to add even more green to the soup’s base with some crispy sugar snap peas.

(To view this recipe, click on the following link: http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/lemongrass-ginger-swiss-chard-chicken-soup.aspx)

Lemony Risotto with Green Olives & Parma Ham

One of my favorite go-to comfort foods is a hearty serving of creamy risotto.  Made with Italian Arborio rice, risotto is thick and creamy thanks to the natural starches that exude from the slow-cooked, short-grain rice.  Once you master the basic risotto cooking method, you can flavor the cooked rice with anything your heart desires.  I decided to flavor this one with chopped Parma ham, Pecorino cheese, sliced Castelvetrano olives and lemon zest for tang.  Utterly delicious indeed!

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Rosemary-Baked Salmon with Mushrooms & Broccoli

A healthy one-pan dinner like this one is a refreshing idea for a weeknight dinner.  Little prep time, little cook time, but big on flavor and nutrition–we all love that!  For this dish I placed salmon filets on sliced lemons and then seasoned the fish with salt, pepper and chopped, fresh rosemary.  I surrounded the fish with broccoli florets, sliced cremini mushrooms and blanched pearl onions before roasting at 400 degrees.  A last minute splash of tangy balsamic vinegar on the veggies and this lovely one-pan dinner is served!

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Broccoli with Lemon & Walnuts

This healthy broccoli side dish gets its flavor from three things: tangy lemon zest, buttery walnuts and rich walnut oil.  Before tossing the broccoli florets and sliced stems together with these ingredients, I think the best way to cook them is to steam them in a pot of lemon-scented boiling water until slightly tender.

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Veal Chops with Wild Mushrooms & Herbs

When I see veal chops at our local market, it’s a done deal.  Similar in appearance to a thick-cut, bone-in pork chop, veal chops are much more tender however, and have a delicate meaty taste.  Veal chops are best grilled or seared and take no time at all.  For this recipe I decided to sear the chops and then finish them off in a wine-soaked pan in the oven, and to serve them with a wild mushrooms, garlic and fresh herb sauce that is out-of-this world.  Fabulous over a serving of risotto Milanese or even flavorful cooked beans like I did, this Northern Italian meal is just screaming out for a glass of rich Chianti.

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Black Rice Pilaf with Toasted Almonds, Scallions & Goat Cheese

Black rice, also called Forbidden Rice, is aptly named because as the story goes, its exclusivity and powerful health benefits were saved especially for Chinese Emperors.  Now available to the masses, this lovely purple-hued rice tastes a bit nutty and actually contains the same amount of antioxidants as blueberries.  For this side dish, I cooked the black rice until slightly tender, and served with sliced scallions cooked in a touch of fragrant almond oil, toasted almonds, and a sprinkling of creamy goat cheese.  Hearty and astonishingly healthy, give this ancient grain a whirl next time you have rice-on-the-brain.

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