Simply Delicious Meals for May | Seasonal Foods Make Special Meals


You may remember from an earlier article that Elin and I read cookbooks like other people read novels. It’s in that spirit that I make a monthly pilgrimage to the Iowa City Public Library—to peruse their “new” cookbook shelf. Well, I hit pay dirt last month—I found a cookbook called Great Food Without Fuss: Simple Recipes from the Best Cooks. It’s a collection of recipes that are truly delicious but not too difficult.

Maybe it’s cabin fever (we had an awfully long winter this year), but I’m ready to minimize kitchen time and maximize outdoors time. So Elin and I decided to write our own “simply delicious” column. (We didn’t include any dessert recipes but the obvious May choice is strawberries: plain, with whipped cream, in raspberry sauce, dipped in chocolate, or served with sour cream and brown sugar.)

A reminder: simple and special meals rely heavily on quality ingredients. Be sure to pick the freshest vegetables and fruits and you’re halfway there.

Braised Artichokes with Red Wine Butter Sauce

This is a recipe from Toni D’Or, which is the best thing I’ve ever eaten. Serve it with rice or couscous or your favorite grain dish.

  • 2 artichokes
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • Juice of an orange
  • 1 whole garlic clove, peeled
  • 2/3 cup red wine
  • 5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into chunks

1. Wash artichokes and peel off the tough outer leaves. Quarter them and remove the choke. Put them in lemon water so they won’t discolor.

2. In a frying pan or saute pan, put in the stock, orange juice, garlic, and red wine. Bring to a boil, then add the artichoke quarters, reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and let stew for about 25 minutes, until the leaves pull out easily.

3. When the artichokes are tender, remove them from the red wine liquid and set aside. After removing the artichokes, raise the heat and let the wine-broth liquid cook down a little, about 5 minutes. Remove garlic cloves.

4. Whisk in the butter to make the sauce. Taste for salt, and adjust. Serve sauce over grains or in four small ramekins or cups for dipping the leaves in.

Endive Sauteed in Brown Butter

(Serves 4)

This is simple, but the combination of the bitter endive and the nutty brown butter is memorable and unusual. Endive is expensive but it’s worth it.

  • 3 medium heads Belgian endive, washed and dried
  • 6 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste

1. Cut endive in half lengthwise. Cut each half in half again lengthwise. If large, repeat lengthwise cutting.

2. Melt butter in heavy skillet, over medium heat, till butter foam subsides and butter turns a golden brown. Don’t let it burn.

3. Add endive, stir to coat. Saute, stirring occasionally, till endive is soft. Some strips will be dark—that’s fine. Taste and add salt and/or pepper if necessary. Serve hot.

Asparagus Poele

(Serves 4)

This is from the cookbook Great Food without Fuss: Simple Recipes from the Best Cooks, and solves the problem of how to serve those BIG asparagus.

  • 1 lb. medium asparagus
  • 2-4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • Salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 350°.

2. Break asparagus at natural “snapping point.” With vegetable peeler, peel off tough skin on lower two-thirds of asparagus.

3. Lay asparagus in large glass or ceramic baking dish in no more than 2 layers. Season lightly with salt and pepper if desired. Dot with butter. Add 2 Tbsp. water and cover tightly with foil.

4. Bake for 17-20 minutes.

Olive Walnut Sauce

Keep these ingredients on hand, and you’ll have an easy and quick sauce that’s good tossed with pasta, spread on bread, spooned over tofu slices, etc. (The sauce can be frozen.)

  • 1 cup pitted black olives
  • 3/4 cup toasted walnuts
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup roasted red peppers or pimentos
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1/2-1 cup fresh basil leaves or parsley

Finely chop all ingredients and toss with the lemon juice and olive oil. Add pepper to taste. Add additional oil, or more of the other ingredients, to create the balance of tastes you like the best.

This sauce is also good with chopped fresh tomatoes, cooked carrots, etc.

Alfredo Sauce

(Serves 2)

Quick, rich, and delicious! Toss with fettuccine or other pasta, or with vegetables, or a combination of both.
1 cup cream

  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • Pepper, freshly ground

1. Bring the cream and butter to boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and simmer about 1 minute.

2. Add the Parmesan and whisk until cheese is melted and sauce is smooth. Remove from heat, and toss with pasta (about 2-3 oz. dry weight per person) and/or vegetables.

3. Garnish with fresh pepper and serve immediately.