Hello April!

I love April! Several of my favorite people in the world were born in April (Mom, Laurie, Smelly, Andrew... happy birthday to all of you!) and I love that the days are starting to get a little warmer, but that the nights are chilly enough to warrant hot chocolate. To me, April is when the city starts to yawn and stretch from her winter nap. (So poetic!) This is the time to balance heavier dishes like broiled and roasted meat and vegetables (while you can still stand to turn on your oven!) with lighter salads and soups featuring some of the greenmarket's spring goodies.

Broiled Leg of Lamb Leg of lamb is a classic dish for both Passover and Easter. I prefer to get a boneless butterflied leg; it cooks faster (and I can just slice it straight through without that pesky bone getting in the way)! This is a quick way to have a roast—with a little planning, you can very easily enjoy this yummy roast on a weeknight.

Fennel and Radicchio Salad with Vanilla-Grapefruit Vinaigrette Fennel is one of those vegetables that I eat every chance i get. I love it cooked, raw, as an ingredient of a larger dish or by itself. Vanilla is also a favorite, and the two flavors mesh incredibly well. (I must admit, though, I would add vanilla to just about everything.)

Fava Beans with Caramelized Onions and Bacon Fava beans are a lot of work, what with the blanching and peeling (this is why I have not used them for a dinner party)—but they are so delicious that if you're making them for a smaller crowd it's totally worth it. (You can also buy frozen peeled favas and skip this step entirely.)

Flourless Chocolate Cake This is a Passover dessert staple. This version is the easiest I've found I made it a couple of weeks ago for some friends... it is so dense and rich it's more like a really good brownie. Raspberry sauce would be a perfect partner for this cake: its tartness tempers the intense flavor of the cake. Unsweetened whipped cream also works very well.

Enjoy these spring favorites and please join me April 25 for the next Lightbulb dinner. Working out the menu now—look for the invitation next week!

see you soon!


BONUS RECIPE!! Raspberry Coulis

1 (10-oz) package frozen raspberries, thawed
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste

In a blender, combine the ingredients with 2 tablespoons water. Puree until smooth. Press mixture through a fine sieve, pressing on the solids to extract all of the liquid.

For a fancy presentation, pour the coulis into a plastic squeeze bottle and use that to decorate individual dessert plates. Do dots of different sizes, or a series of parallel lines, or even just a single circle. Top with a slice of cake and serve immediately.

Flourless Chocolate Cake

I usually add about 1 teaspoon ancho chili powder to the dry ingredients for this cake. The chili adds the tiniest bit of heat, but also adds depth to the cake's chocolate flavor. You can leave out the cinnamon if you prefer, but try it that way once if you've not had this combination—cinnamon's aroma and spicy flavor adds another dimension to chocolate desserts, which are often a little one-note. Other spices—allspice, cloves, black pepper—pair really well with chocolate, so feel free to substitute those! I would start with small amount, about 1/2 teaspoon, and gradually increase so as not to overpower the chocolate.

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cut into pieces
  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 cup sifted unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Raspberry Coulis, for serving (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 10-inch springform pan and line the bottom with parchment; butter the parchment. In a heavy saucepan over low heat, melt butter and chocolate, stirring until smooth. Remove the pan from the heat. (Or melt in the microwave at 50% power, stirring at 45-second intervals. Be very careful that the chocolate doesn't scorch. Err on the side of "less melted" and let the mixture stand a minute; the residual heat will do the rest of the work.) In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, cocoa, and cinnamon. Whisk in the eggs until well blended, then whisk in the vanilla. Whisk in the chocolate mixture. Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake until a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool the cake completely in the pan on a rack. Run a table knife around the edge of the cake to loosen, then release the pan sides. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate; remove from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving.) Serve with the raspberry coulis on the side, or create individual dessert plates by decorating them with the sauce, then placing the cake on top.

Fava Beans with Caramelized Onions and Bacon

  • Blanching the shelled fava beans (after being removed from the big green pod) makes it much easier to peel the thin membrane that surrounds each bean. If you want to make this a vegetarian dish, caramelize the onions in 2 tablespoons each butter and olive oil.

  • 3 cups peeled shelled fresh fava beans (2 1/2 pounds in pod)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 6 slices bacon, diced
  • 2 onions, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine, such as pinot grigio
Salt and pepper

Heat a pot of lightly salted water to boiling; add the olive oil, then the fava beans. Return to a boil and cook just until tender, about 7 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large cast-iron skillet, cook the bacon just until crisp. Use a slotted spoon to remove it from the pan, leaving the fat in the pan. Scatter the onion slices in the pan. Saute over medium-high heat until lightly golden and translucent. Push them into an even layer and reduce the heat to medium-low. Continue cooking the onions until they are softened slightly, but do not let them burn. Pour in the wine and stir the onions until the liquid evaporates. Season with salt and pepper to taste. The onions should now be light brown and very wilted (if they are not, continue cooking them until they are—it won't take long). Add the fava beans to the pan and toss until heated through and mixed with the onions. Toss in the bacon and serve right away.


Fennel and Radicchio Salad with Vanilla-Grapefruit Vinaigrette

You can substitute orange juice for the grapefruit juice if you like; I would leave out the honey in that case. You can add grapefruit segments to the salad also—just remember to toss very gently to avoid breaking them up.

2 Tablespoons Champagne vinegar
2 Tablespoons grapefruit juice
1 Tablespoon honey
1 vanilla bean, slit in half, and tiny beans scraped out, or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 Tablespoons olive oil
1 head radicchio
2 fennel bulbs, fronds removed and reserved
Salt to taste

In a bowl, whisk together the vinegar, juice, honey, and vanilla to blend. Whisking, drizzle in the olive oil until it is all incorporated. Season with salt, then let stand while you're preparing the lettuce and fennel. Remove the tough outer leaves from the radicchio and cut the head into quarters. Remove the white core, then slice the leaves crosswise into 1/4-inch slices. Remove the outer later from the fennel, then quarter the bulb and slice 1/4-inch thick. Combine the vegetables in a mixing bowl and season with salt. Whisk the dressing to blend, then pour over the lettuce and toss to coat. Mound the salad onto individual plates and garnish with the reserved fennel fronds.

Farro Risotto with Mint and Feta

  • If you want to keep from mixing meat and dairy, you can leave the butter and cheese out of the risotto (if you're serving it with the lamb). Or you can use vegetable broth in place of the chicken broth if you want to make it vegetarian.

  • 1 cup farro, soaked for 20 minutes
  • 8 cups water
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves

Drain the farro and rinse. Bring the water to a boil in medium saucepan. Stir in 1/2 cup oil and the farro. Bring to a simmer and simmer 20 minutes. Drain and rinse. Melt 1 tablespoon butter with 1 tablespoon oil in the saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic; sauté 1 minute. Stir in the farro. Cook, stirring frequently, until almost all liquid evaporates, about 5 minutes. Stir in the broth 1 cup at a time, simmering after each addition until the liquid is absorbed and farro is just tender, stirring frequently, about 14 minutes total. Stir in the remaining butter, then the cheese, then the mint.

Broiled Leg of Lamb

Broiling kind of went out of style in the 80s, in favor of grilling. While it does not add the charred smoky flavor of grilling, broiling is much simpler, especially if you live in an apartment without an outdoor space! You can of course grill the lamb; just do it over a medium-hot grill for about 8 minutes per side. Farro Risotto with Mint and Feta is the recipe I created to go along with this lamb; it's a play on the classic "lamb with mint jelly" and also a nod to theis recipes Mediterranean origins.

Juice of 1 lemon (about 1/4 cup)
3 fresh rosemary sprigs, chopped
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 butterflied boneless leg of lamb, about 4 pounds
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

In a zip-top plastic bag, combine the lemon juice, rosemary, olive oil, and 1 tablespoon salt. Knead to mix, then add the lamb and knead the bag a little to coat the lamb. Refrigerate at least 3 hours, but overnight is best.

Preheat the broiler. Remove the lamb from the marinade and brush off any excess marinade. Make slits in leg of lamb, about 1/4-inch deep and about 1/2 inch apart. Stick a slice of garlic into each slit. Season with salt and pepper. Place the lamb under the broiler (it should be about 4 inches from the heat source) and broil for about 7 minutes on each side, until medium-rare.