The Perfect Spring Lunch

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March 27, 2013 by caitlinvaclark

I realized that, since I only started this blog last winter, many of you have never met “Spring Caitlin.” Aaannnd then I remembered that I’m in London and you might never get to meet this person who loves all things spring. I love flip flops and flowers and cardigans and patio parties and my birthday (which is one month from today!) and other people’s gardens and white wine spritzers and rhubarb crumbles.

I kid you not, I honestly had sun dresses and open-toed shoes dancing in my head last night while I slept. But it seems like if you live, well pretty much anywhere lately, you’re likely suffering from the “Is Peter Cottontail Ever Coming” Blues. I promise I’ll stop writing about the weather, but it’s just so hard when snow is still in the forecast but my fridge is filling up with fresh light flavors.

So I have the PERFECT spring menu for you. It has a little bit of a nod to winter with some root vegetables (i.e. butternut squash) but it’s so colorful and tasty and I can just see you all serving it as the most beautiful Easter lunch ever!

Spring Lunch: A Broad Cooking

I used to make a version of butternut squash soup as a starter for Thanksgiving and for fall entertaining, but here I lighten it up with baby potatoes, leeks, and sherry. And along with the asparagus tart, you will feel like you are on your way to Spring City. Plus, everything can be made in advance which makes it the perfect meal for an easy lunch gathering. I just reheat the soup and serve the tart at room temperature.

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After sautéing leeks and mixing with the potatoes and squash, add DRY sherry. Once the alcohol has cooked off, add chicken broth and simmer for 20 minutes, covered.

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Then puree until silky smooth.

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I finished this soup with parmesan sage crisps and this an amazing pumpkin oil. You can read about that find on my second Borough Market installment on The Tortoise Shell. While the pumpkin oil finished the soup beautifully and I think it is worth searching out, if you couldn’t get your hands on some, I think the key is something else toasty. So maybe I would drizzle some brown butter??

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To make the parmesan crisps, mix about 1 cup of finely grated parmesan cheese with 2 Tbs. fresh chopped sage and spread into a small non-stick, oven-safe skillet. Bake at 400˚ for 10 minutes.

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Once you remove from the oven, let it cool. Then slide the cheese disk out and break it into pieces. Then serve a top the soup with a drizzle of pumpkin oil for a wow-factor presentation and huge pops of flavor!

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To make the tart, save your sanity by starting with a pre-made puff pastry. Roll it out and then create an edge by poking with a fork, leaving a 1-inch border:

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After baking for 8 minutes, so that the pastry begins to brown. This will prevent the base from getting soggy. Next, spread mascarpone cheese within the center of the tart. Then cover with thinly sliced asparagus and a light sprinkle of parmesan cheese.

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After baking top with slices of prosciutto and you are ready to serve. This tart is great hot or room temperature, so feel free to make it in advance!

Asparagus & Prosciutto Tart: A Broad Cooking

Butternut Squash Soup

Serves 6

1 Tbs. olive oil

1 small onion, diced or 2 leeks, sliced

1 ½ -2 lbs. butternut squash, peeled, deseeded, and chopped

1 lb. baby potatoes, chopped

2 Tbs. dry sherry

6 cups chicken broth

1 tsp salt

½ tsp white pepper

1 cup grated parmesan cheese

2 Tbs. fresh sage, chopped

Pumpkin oil to drizzle

In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add leeks or onion and cook for 5 minutes, until softened. Mix in the butternut squash and potatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the sherry and cook for 2 minutes before adding the broth.

Bring the broth to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for 20 minutes. Check that the vegetables are fork tender, then using a handheld blender, puree the soup until very smooth.

To make the parmesan topping, preheat the oven to 400˚F.

Mix the grated parmesan with the fresh sage and spread into a non-stick, oven-safe skillet. Bake in the preheated oven for 8-10 minutes, until melted and brown. Allow to cool, then break into pieces.

Pour the soup into bowls, top with the parmesan pieces and a small drizzle of pumpkin oil.

Asparagus & Prosciutto Tart

Serves 4-6

1 sheet puff pastry, rolled out

¼ cup mascarpone cheese

5 stalks asparagus, thinly sliced

1 Tbs. grated parmesan cheese

4 slices prosciutto

Preheat oven to 400˚F.

Place the rolled out pastry onto a buttered baking sheet. Spike the pastry with a fork, every inch, leaving a 1-inch border around all edges. Pre-bake the pastry for 8 minutes.

Spread the mascarpone over the center of the tart, leaving the 1-inch border. Then evenly spread out the sliced asparagus and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Bake for an additional 5-8 minutes.

Top with the prosciutto and serve.

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