As I was writing in the last post, it’s simple to make an elegant meal with few, fresh ingredients. When you’re lucky enough to access fresh veggies and cheeses from the farmer’s market, there is something extra special about your meal. Of course, the best part, whether a mother’s day meal or Friday night with friends, is your own presentation. I can’t say hard work and sweat because this is really a basics kind of meal (though you will call me a phony when you see the Strawberry Chips below…)
To accompany my original Springtime Casareccia with Basil & Fresh Ricotta, a basic but thrilling little salad:
Leaf-Lettuce Salad with Parmesan Crisps
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (2 ounces)
3/4 lb. red or green leaf lettuce
1 fresh lemon, zested and juiced
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 small garlic clove
1/4 cup fresh herbs (basil, parsley, chives, or a mix)
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
coarse salt and fresh ground pepper
You will need parchment paper, or a silicone baking mat
Bake the Frico
Frico (freek-o) is a delicate parmesan wafer that adds a spectacular dash of Unexpected to a very simple salad. Even if you overbake the batch by a minute or two—points to self—they remain impressively cheesey and elegant.
Bake until melted and golden brown, about 10 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through. With a thin metal spatula, transfer the crisps to a wire rack and let cool.
Tear the lettuce leaves into bite-size pieces.
Mix the dressing
(This can also be whisked together by hand; chop the herbs and garlic fine). Salt and pepper the dressing, taste to balance the acid adding more oil if necessary.
Just before serving, add the dressing to the lettuce along with salt and pepper. Serve the salad with frico atop.
Speaking of the unexpected, strawberry chips are one of those Special Occasion accessories for a simple dessert. My sister-in-law (doing her part, and also saving my can’t-bake-worth-squat butt) provided homemade brownies and vanilla ice cream. This little garnish was so intriguing on paper, I was thrilled to have a holiday to try them out.
scribbled down from my working days at Azafran
1/4 lb. strawberries
3/4 cup sugar
you will also need: pastry brush, parchment paper
Preheat the oven to 225F (or 200 for a convection oven).
In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and 3/4 cup water and bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes or until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
Slice the strawberries
Slice the stems off the strawberries so that the berries have a flat end. Slice the strawberries on a mandolin or line up the berries and thinly slice with a sharp knife.
Bake the strawberry slices
Lay out the strawberry slices on the baking pans (lined with parchment baking or silicone mats). With a pastry brush, paint a thin layer of sugar syrup over each strawberry. Bake (convection: 30 to 45 minutes; regular oven: 40 to 50 minutes), rotating the pans halfway through baking.
To test if the chips are done, remove one from the oven and allow it to cool on the counter. If it is crispy once it has cooled, then it’s done. If the slices are browning, take them out of the oven. Remove the slices from the pan while they are hot, and cool on a clean, dry countertop.
These chips are a crunchy note on any creamy dessert, or a remarkable sweet snack. The original recipe calls for 1 lb. of strawberries for 60 strawberry chips; they keep well in a sealed container for 2 weeks. Keep them in a cool place. Or impress your mother-in-law 🙂