Rhubarb-Rosewater Compote

You may need to add sugar if your rhubarb is very tart (early rhubarb tends to have a more tart flavor than later rhubarb). The mixture should not be too sweet, though (think cranberry sauce or strong lemonade), so use a light hand.

1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
1/2 cup sugar, or as needed
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 cups chopped rhubarb (about 1 pound)
1 tablespoon rosewater

Combine the vanilla bean, sugar, lemon juice, and 1/2 cup water in a saucepan. Heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Add the rhubarb and stir to blend. Bring to a simmer and simmer for about 8 minutes, until the rhubarb has mostly broken down. Remove from the heat and add more sugar, if desired. Stir in the rosewater. Serve warm or cold. The compote will keep, covered and refrigerated, up to a week.

Salmon with Sorrel Beurre Blanc and Toasted Hazelnuts

I love salmon when it's cooked properly (I cook it just to medium--it still has a little bit of dark pink flesh and is still moist)... I think many people are afraid of fish because they have not had it prepared in a way that preserves the fish's delicate flavor. It's unfortunate, because seafood is so wonderful and versatile. This sauce could also be served with shellfish like shrimp or crab. Mashed potatoes are a perfect partner for this dish; when serving, spoon them into the center of the plate, then top with salmon and sauce as below.

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup skinned hazelnuts
1 shallot, sliced
1 serrano pepper, sliced
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/4 cup white wine
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets, skin and pin bones removed
1/4 pound sorrel (about 4 cups), washed, dried, and finely shredded
Salt and pepper

Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat until melted. Add the hazelnuts and toast quickly until lightly browned. Remove from the heat and set aside. In a heavy saucepan, combine the shallot, serrano, garlic, and wine. Heat over medium heat until the wine has evaporated. Whisking constantly, add the butter a few pieces at a time, letting each addition melt completely before adding more. When all the butter has been incorporated, whisk over the heat for 1 minute. Stir in the sorrel, remove from the heat, and keep warm. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil until hot. Season the salmon with salt and pepper and add to the pan, rounded side down. Cook about 3 minutes, until golden, turn, and cook 4 minutes more on the other side. (I cook salmon to medium--it will still have a little of its dark pink color.) Remove the pan from the heat.

For a fancy presentation, warm 4 plates. Place one salmon fillet in the center of each plate. Spoon butter sauce over each fillet, drawing the spoon diagonally across the salmon to make kind of a thick stripe of sauce. Sprinkle each fillet with hazelnuts.

Makes 4 servings.

BONUS RECIPE!! Mushroom Chips

These are so yummy I can't keep from eating them before they make it to the soup bowl. They're also a great garnish for sauteed or cream spinach and by themselves as an aperitif.

1 pound white mushrooms, cleaned, stems trimmed
Vegetable oil

Slice the mushrooms paper-thin on a mandoline. (I use my Benriner slicer; if you don't have one, get one! They're cheaper than the big metal mandolines and much easier to use.) Heat about 2 inches of oil in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat until hot. Line a plate with paper towels. Working in batches, fry the mushrooms until lightly golden and crisp (this happens very quickly). Drain on paper towels as you remove them from the oil. Store in an airtight container up to a week.

Blanched Asparagus with Poached Eggs and Miso Butter

(adapted from David Chang)

1/2 cup white miso
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 teaspoons mirin
1 pound asparagus, trimmed as needed
4 poached eggs (see below)
Salt and pepper

In a small saucepan over low heat, whisk together the miso and butter until smooth. Whisk in the mirin. Set aside and keep warm. Meanwhile, heat a large pot of water to a simmer. Add the asparagus to the pot and cook until bright green and just tender. Drain well.

For a fancy presentation, warm 4 plates. Ladle some of the butter on each plate, using the ladle to spread the butter into a circle. Top with the asparagus, placing the spears so they all face the same direction. Top each plate with an egg, season lightly with salt and pepper, and serve.

To poach eggs: Heat 1 inch water in a large skillet to a simmer. Add 1 tablespoon white vinegar to the plan, then crack the eggs directly into the water, being careful not to break the yolks. Swirl the pan slightly to help the whites stay together (the vinegar helps with this too). Cook until the whites are set and opaque. Remove the eggs from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain well before serving.

Spring Pea Soup with Tasso Ham and Mint

I sometimes stir the Tasso in at the end and garnish the soup with mushroom chips. You could also use this recipe to make corn chowder; puree only half of the soup to keep a classic chowder chunkiness. (Keep the mint--corn and mint are fantastic together!)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup diced Tasso ham
2 shallots, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
4 cups shelled peas (about 4 pounds in the shells)
2 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock, plus more as needed
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons fresh mint chiffonade

Heat a heavy saucepan over medium heat until hot. Add the ham and saute until lightly browned. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add the butter to the pan and heat just until melted. Add the shallots and sweat them (cook until translucent but not browned; you may need to reduce the heat a little). Add the peas and saute until coated with butter. Add the stock and mint and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 15 minutes. Working batches, transfer the soup to a blender and puree until mostly smooth (you may need to add a little stock to the blender). Transfer to a clean pot and bring back to a simmer. Simmer 5 minutes, then stir in the cream. Season with salt (keep in mind the ham will add a little salty flavor). Pour into bowls and sprinkle each serving with ham.

About 4 servings.