Menu for the Spring Palate


I had the good fortune to spend an early spring weekend at the Lodge at Woodloch in Hawley, Pa. In addition to the glorious setting, delicious cuisine, plethora of fitness offerings and relaxing spa treatments, the inn offers lectures and cooking demonstrations for guests.

I attended a lecture on cleansing herbs for spring — not really my thing, but we had a spare hour and thought it might be interesting.

And it was.

The herbalist, Nathaniel, talked a lot about “bitters,” which are associated with cleansing and cooling the blood after a winter of heavier, heat-producing foods.

Whether you buy the herbal theories or not, it is certainly true that we eat heartier meals in the cold weather, and that many of the vegetables we typically consume in the winter months are those that can be stored without compromising quality, such as starchy root vegetables and hardy greens.

A few of the tinctures that Nathaniel brewed were too bitter for me — gentian root tea and hops decoction, to name two. But the other items he mentioned, such as lemon, dill, parsley and vinegar, suggested a lovely spring menu that reflects the season and offers a light, healthy, tasty repast.

He can keep his gentian root, but this herb-centric dinner works for me.

Lemon Rosemary Roast Chicken

1 large roasting chicken, about 6 pounds

2 lemons

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 teaspoons fresh or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary

2 teaspoons kosher salt

Fresh ground pepper

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Rinse and dry the chicken. Slice the lemons thinly and place some of the lemon slices in the bottom of the roasting pan.

Separate the skin from the breasts, and place the salt, garlic, rosemary and lemon slices in the space between the skin and the meat. Rub it from the outside to distribute the seasoning.

Place the remaining lemon slices, salt, garlic and pepper in the cavity and on the outside of the skin.

Roast the chicken for about 80 minutes, until the thickest part of thigh registers 180 degrees on a meat thermometer. Remove the chicken from the oven, and let it rest for about 10 minutes. Carve and serve with pan drippings, if desired.

Serves 4 to 6

Rice With Peas and Parsley

1 cup cooked rice (any type of long grain, basmati or brown is fine)

1 cup cooked frozen peas

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 small onion, chopped

½ cup chopped fresh parsley

½ teaspoon salt

Fresh ground pepper to taste

Cook the rice according to the package directions, then set it aside.

Cook the peas according to the package directions, then set aside.

In a medium saucepan, heat the oil and sauté the onions until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the salt, pepper, rice and peas and mix thoroughly.

Toss in the fresh parsley, mix and cook another minute until parsley is warm.

Serve hot or at room temperature.

Serves 4

Dill Roasted Carrots

Because the carrots roast at the same temperature as the chicken, this is a convenient dish to serve with this menu. And they are delicious hot, warm or chilled as a salad, so they are quite versatile. The fresh taste of the dill complements the sweetness of the carrots for a delightfully seasonal side.

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 pound carrots, cut in coins

½ cup fresh dill, chopped

½ teaspoon salt

Fresh ground pepper to taste

Heat your oven to 375 degrees.

In a large baking dish, toss all the ingredients.

Roast for 30 minutes until the carrots are cooked through. Serve hot, warm or chilled as a salad.

Serves 4

Strawberries With Balsamic Vinegar

If you can get your hands on the liquid gold aged balsamic that pours like syrup and tastes like heaven, then you are a lucky cook indeed. But it is rare and costly, and if you don’t have any in your pantry, you can reduce regular balsamic to create a reasonable facsimile.

If balsamic vinegar, no matter how sweet, doesn’t qualify as dessert for you, consider strawberries with a spritz of lemon, a sprig of mint and a sprinkle of sugar, or a drizzle of chocolate sauce, or just plain. But if you are interested in the balsamic reduction, here’s how to do it:

Pour a bottle of balsamic vinegar into a saucepan.

Bring it to a boil and reduce the heat to medium.

Stirring occasionally, keep an eye on the pot and simmer as the vinegar reduces to about a third of its original volume.

Serve over fresh strawberries.

Note: Extra should be stored in the refrigerator and brought to room temperature before using. It is delightful on fresh fruit and ice cream, with salad, with a cheese plate and drizzled in a plate of olive oil and served with bread.


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