Feast on the spring harvest with this fresh May menu

Rhubarb is ready for picking.

Ontario asparagus, rhubarb and maple syrup are here in time for Victoria Day celebrations on the 24th of May and all of those other springtime events. Asparagus is just now starting to be harvested and all being well should be with us until mid-June. As for rhubarb, their curly leaves are up and pink stems are emerging ready for the first picking. If you do not have a clump of your own rhubarb, try Sobey’s or Fresco in their frozen food section. It is an excellent product ready for all seasons – and certainly for the recipes here.

Chicken, Asparagus and Pecan Salad

This main course salad is bursting with all the flavours of spring and, with the help of the barbecue, can be ready in no time. If you are not a barbecue enthusiast, simply bake the chicken in the oven and slice as described in the recipe.

If you are planning on opening the cottage this long weekend, this salad makes an ideal main course tote. It can be transported in a plastic container in a cooler and the chicken barbecued, sliced and served warm with the salad, as a quick but tasty main course. Serve with fresh baguette and dinner is ready!

Tarragon Vinaigrette:

1 clove garlic, crushed

1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt

1/4 tsp (1 mL) fresh black pepper

2 tbsp (25 ml) maple syrup or liquid honey

1 tbsp (15 mL) dijon mustard

1 – 2 tsp (5 mL) dried tarragon

1/4 cup (50 mL) cider vinegar

3/4 cup (175 ml) vegetable oil

Salad:

1 lb (500 mL) asparagus, trimmed and blanched

8 cups (2 L) mixture, baby spinach and arugula leaves or all one kind (depending on preference)

3/4 cup (175 mL) toasted pecan halves

1/2 cup (125 mL) each, sliced, fresh mint leaves and sliced red pepper

4 (6 oz/ 175 g each) boneless skinless chicken breasts drizzled with 2 tbsp of vinaigrette and grilled or baked at 350 F( 180 C).

1/2 cup (125 mL) crumbled goat cheese or feta cheese

Vinaigrette: In food processor or blender puree garlic, salt and pepper together. With motor running pour maple syrup, mustard, tarragon, vinegar and oil through feed tube. Puree. Pour into bottle and refrigerate until ready to use. Any leftover vinaigrette can be saved and used for other salads.

To cook chicken: Use 2 tbsp (25 mL) of this vinaigrette to brush on outside of chicken before either grilling or cooking chicken. Cook chicken on barbecue weight foil sprayed with baking spray; barbecue or bake in the oven (350 F/ 180 C) until chicken reaches 165 F (74 C). Slice diagonally into 1/2 inch wide (1.2 cm) strips after chicken has been cooked to this temperature.

To prepare asparagus, break off tough ends of asparagus and refrigerate until ready to use. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil and cook asparagus for 2 minutes; drain and pat dry with tea towel. Cut into 2 inch (10 cm) strips on the diagonal.

To toast pecans arrange pecans on parchment lined baking sheet. Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C); once pre-heated, arrange pecans on baking sheets and toast for 5 – 8 minutes or until golden brown.

To prepare salad: In large bowl, arrange salad greens, asparagus pieces, pecans , sliced red pepper, and chopped mint leaves. Keep chilled either in refrigerator or in a cooler with ice packs. Just before serving, add the sliced barbecued or baked chicken and toss salad with enough dressing to coat leaves. Any remaining vinaigrette can be used for other salads.  Sprinkle salad with crumbled goat cheese or feta and serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Simple Rhubarb Fool or Ice-cream

Pale pink, refreshing and oh, so delicious, this easy recipe is sure to be a hit.

4 cups (1 L) rhubarb fresh or frozen, washed and cut into 1 inch (2.5 cm) pieces

1/2 cup (125 mL) each, granulated sugar and water

1 each, cinnamon stick and 2 inch piece (2.5 cm) piece of orange peel

1 can (300 mL) sweetened condensed milk (note: condensed such as Eagle brand – not evaporated milk)

1 cup (250 mL) whipping cream whipped until stiff.

In a stainless steel saucepan bring rhubarb sugar, water cinnamon and orange peel to the boil; reduce heat and cook uncovered until rhubarb is very tender. Discard cinnamon stick and orange peel. Pour rhubarb mixture into blender with can of sweetened condensed milk. Puree until smooth. Refrigerate until cold. Meanwhile whip cream, fold into pureed mixture and spoon into serving dishes. Serve immediately as a fool or freeze and serve as an ice-cream. Makes 6 – 8 servings.

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