Kitchen Wit & Wisdom: Dreaming of fresh produce and lighter fare

Spring is here at last, and it's time to start thinking about cooking fresh, local fruit and veggies.

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dward Giobbi once said, “I think that no matter how old or infirm I may become, I will always plant a large garden in the spring.  Who can resist the feelings of hope and joy that one gets from participating in nature’s rebirth?”

These words are so applicable to my own nature in regards to spring, that I just had to share them. March has been teasing us with sunshine, then snow, sunshine, then wind and cold, sunshine, then more snow. Sigh. Besides wind, mud, and unpredictable weather, March also brings us the dreaded tax time.  No wonder it’s a tough month to relax in.

I was outside yesterday in the sunshine pleased to see my crocuses blooming, and daffodils and tulips up a couple of inches. It made my heart sing in anticipation of the coming season.

With spring will come Easter and then the first new lettuces and vegetables of the year, leading to lighter eating for many of us.

Today I’m offering a lamb recipe with a pesto made with parsley and sharp Pecorino Romano cheese. It makes a colourful topping for tender lamb chops. It could also be tossed with pasta, spread on sandwiches, or mixed with cream cheese for a dip to serve with crudités. With Easter in mind, I’m also offering a delicious recipe for a special Key lime pie, a perfect dessert this season.

Nut-free Parsley Pesto and Lamb Chops

For pesto:

2 cups packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

3/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese (2 ounces)

1 small garlic clove, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for storing (optional)

Freshly ground pepper

For Lamb:

8 lamb loin chops (each 4 oz. and 1 inch thick)

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup Parsley Pesto

In food processor, finely chop parsley, cheese and garlic. With motor running, add oil in a slow, steady stream; season with pepper. Serve immediately, or transfer to an airtight container and cover with a thin layer of oil; refrigerate up to 4 days or freeze up to 3 months. Makes 1/2 cup.

For lamb: Heat large skillet over medium. Pat  lamb dry with paper towels. Season chops on both sides with salt and pepper. Cook (in two batches, if necessary) 4 to 6 minutes per side for medium-rare. Serve immediately, topped with pesto. Serves 4.

Tip: Pesto keeps very well in the freezer, so it’s worth making extra. Freeze in small airtight containers, covered with thin layer of olive oil. Defrost in refrigerator before using.

Coconut

Key Lime Pie

1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk

1 can (13.5 ounces) unsweetened coconut milk

1/3 cup fresh or bottled Key lime juice

7 large egg yolks

1 Easy Press-In Pie Crust, made with graham crackers

2 cups cold heavy cream

2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

3 tablespoons sweetened shredded coconut, toasted

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In medium bowl, whisk together condensed milk, coconut milk, lime juice and egg yolks until smooth. Pour into crust and bake until set but still slightly wobbly in centre, 40 minutes. Let cool on wire rack, 1-1/2 to 2 hours, then refrigerate 3 hours (or up to 1 day).

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat cream and sugar on high until stiff peaks form, about 3 minutes.

To serve, top pie with whipped cream and sprinkle with toasted coconut.