Dinspiration: 10 Mini-Recipes to Launch Us Into Spring

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1. Chilaquiles

To avoid frying fresh tortillas, you can use tortilla chips. Cut corn tortillas (flour tortillas will do, but they’re not as good) into strips. Fry in not too much oil—with a few chopped jalapeños, pickled or not, if you tend in that direction—until crisp, about three minutes, turning; drain on paper towels. Beat a few eggs with a bit of milk or cream and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat a tablespoon or so of the frying oil (save or discard the rest) and add the tortilla strips and eggs. Cook, stirring, until the eggs are done, two to four minutes. garnish with salsa (or stir some salsa in there), chopped avocado, cheese, scallions, sour cream, or whatever else you like.

2. Lemongrass-and-Chicken Soup

Heat chicken stock, about a cup-and-a-half per serving. Trim a stalk of lemongrass per serving; bruise the pieces with the back of a knife. Add the lemongrass and a few slices of ginger to the stock, along with two or three minced hot chiles, or to taste. After a few minutes, remove the lemongrass and ginger and add fish or soy sauce and chopped oyster mushrooms or any other mushrooms and some chunks of cooked chicken (or pork, beef, or cubed tofu). Season with lime juice (lots) and salt, and garnish with cilantro leaves. You can add rice vermicelli or mung bean noodles to this if you like.

3. Chilled Cucumber and Dill Soup

Peel and seed three cucumbers. Chop them up and put in a blender with two cups of buttermilk, a half cup of sour cream, a tablespoon of olive oil, a couple of tablespoons of freshly chopped dill, a pinch of sugar, salt, and a splash of white wine vinegar. Puree and garnish with fresh dill. Serve with crusty bread.

4. Asparagus and Sesame Salad

Trim a bunch of asparagus (thinner ones are better), then cut the spears on the bias. Cook them quickly in a bit of vegetable oil for a minute or two, or until they turn bright green (you can also blanch them quickly in boiling water). Toss the cooked spears with a tablespoon or two of sesame oil, a splash of rice vinegar, a drizzle of soy sauce, and a sprinkle of sugar if you like; garnish with toasted sesame seeds and chopped scallions.

5. Lebanese Potato Salad

Peel and chop four or five large Yukon Gold potatoes; put them in a pot, cover with salted water, bring to a boil, and cook until tender, adding about a cup of frozen peas during the last couple of minutes of cooking. (Frozen favas are a lovely addition to the pot; allow a minute or two more cooking time.) Drain and run under cold water to stop the cooking. Transfer to a large bowl; dress with olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice, minced garlic, chopped parsley and scallions, salt, pepper, and coriander seeds if you like and toss to mix well. Serve warm, cold, or in between.

6. Minted Pea and Prosciutto Sandwich

Blanch half of a bag of frozen peas in salted, boiling water. Put the peas in a food processor or blender with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, a handful each of grated Parmesan and chopped mint, salt, and pepper; puree until smooth. Spread the pea mixture onto toasted sourdough bread and layer with slices of prosciutto.

7. Pasta with Moroccan Tapenade

Boil and salt water for pasta, and cook it. Meanwhile, in a food processor, combine a couple of handfuls of pitted green olives, a few tablespoons of capers, a drained can of oil-packed tuna, a couple of cloves of garlic, a teaspoon cumin, freshly ground black pepper to taste, and olive oil as necessary to get a coarse paste. Put the tapenade in a bowl; drain the pasta, reserving some of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the tapenade, tossing to coat; add pasta water or olive oil as needed to make a sauce.

8. Seared Fish with Fennel and Orange

Slice a bulb of fennel very thinly (a mandoline works best). Peel two large oranges and segment them. Sprinkle four fish fillets (thin fillets are best) with salt and pepper; dredge in flour, a beaten egg, and then panko. Sear in a mixture of olive oil and butter, turning once until both sides are golden and the fish is cooked through. Mix together a few tablespoons of olive oil, some freshly squeezed lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Drizzle the dressing on the fennel and orange slices and serve alongside the fish.

9. Lemon Parmesan Chicken

In a bowl, combine the grated rind from a large lemon, a cup of breadcrumbs (homemade are ideal), about a quarter cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese, chopped fresh parsley, and some salt and pepper. Pound chicken cutlets to about a quarter-inch thickness; dredge in a beaten egg and the breadcrumb mixture. Cook the crusted cutlets in a couple of tablespoons of butter or olive oil over medium-high heat until golden on both sides and cooked through. Serve with lemon slices.

10. Lamb “Gyro”

Cut lamb (preferably shoulder; leg is okay; chicken is great too) into two-inch chunks. In a large bowl, combine a teaspoon each dried thyme, and ground cumin and coriander; a tablespoon of minced garlic; and a pinch of red chile flakes. Add the lamb and toss to coat well. Sear the lamb pieces in olive oil until browned on all sides. In a separate pan, cook a sliced onion and a sliced red pepper in olive oil, until just soft. Serve the lamb with the onions and pepper in a pita (or wrapped in fresh lavash bread) with a dash of hot sauce, topped with plain yogurt.