By June Naylor
Photos by Ralph Lauer
Recipes from local chefs allow for maximum flavor and minimum time.
To create a menu of celebratory springtime flavors, we consulted area chefs for a contribution of an appetizer, entree or dessert. Fresh, festive and delicious, each of the three recipes has make-ahead elements — allowing you more time for decorating and hiding eggs.
We asked chef Javier Davalos at Kirby’s Steakhouse for just the right starter. His strawberry spinach salad is bright and colorful, with sweet-peppery walnuts serving as a good foil for the tangy goat cheese. A classic balsamic vinaigrette with notes of Dijon and maple pulls all the elements together. Kirby’s Steakhouse, 3305 E. Texas 114, Southlake, 817-410-2221, kirbyssteakhouse.com/southlake
Strawberry Spinach Salad
- 1 pound spinach leaves
- 8 fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
- 4 to 6 ounces crumbled goat cheese
- ¾ to 1 cup candied walnuts (see Note)
- ½ cup sliced grape tomatoes
- Balsamic vinaigrette (recipe follows)
Toss spinach, strawberry slices, goat cheese, walnuts and tomatoes in a bowl with balsamic vinaigrette. Divide evenly among plates and serve.
Note To make candied walnuts, heat oven to 325 degrees and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In a bowl, toss 1 cup walnut pieces with 2 tablespoons agave nectar, 2 teaspoons vegetable oil, ½ teaspoon sea salt and black pepper. Mix well. Turn out onto baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent clumping, until just browned. Cool and store in air-tight container.
Balsamic vinaigrette In a bowl, combine ¼ cup balsamic vinegar, 1 teaspoon each Dijon mustard and maple syrup, plus salt and pepper to taste. Whisk well while pouring in ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil until emulsified.
Lamb is a favorite Easter centerpiece. For expert preparation advice, we turned to Rena Frost at Mac’s on Main in Grapevine. She makes a lemon-spiked pesto to add with breadcrumbs for a crusted rack of lamb — she prefers Australian lamb — that cooks quickly. Best of all, you can make the pesto and breadcrumbs up to two days in advance. For serving, the chef-restaurateur recommends pairing with a pinot noir. Mac’s on Main, 909 S. Main St., Grapevine, 817-251-6227, macsteak.com
- 2½ cups fresh basil leaves
- 2/3 cup olive oil
- ½ cup walnuts
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan
- 3 tablespoons butter, softened
- 2 cups baguette cubes, with crust, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 ounce finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
- 3 medium garlic cloves, chopped
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 3 lamb racks, with 8 to 9 bones each, frenched
- 2 tablespoons avocado oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Make the pesto: Immerse fresh basil in boiling water just until the herb turns a bright green, about 10 seconds. Remove immediately, lightly squeeze out water. Combine basil, olive oil, walnuts, garlic, lemon juice and salt in the blender or food processor and process until a paste forms. Turn paste into a bowl and stir in cheese and then butter. Set aside.
Make the crumb coating: In a food processor, pulse the bread cubes, Parmigiano, lemon zest, garlic and a little salt and pepper until coarse crumbs form. Transfer to a medium bowl.
Heat a large heavy-duty skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Rub the lamb racks all over with avocado oil and season with salt and pepper. Sear lamb on the meaty side until browned, about
4 minutes per rack. Pour off any accumulated fat, as necessary. Let rest on a cutting board for about 10 to 15 minutes to cool. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
Rub pesto over the meat side of each rack. Firmly press the crumb coating over the pesto. Arrange the racks bone-side down in a large roasting pan (if the racks seem crowded, rest the bones on the edge of the pan). Cover with foil, place in center of oven and roast until the crumbs are browned and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the eye of the meat registers 135 degrees for medium-rare (about 25 to 30 minutes) or 145 degrees for medium (about 40 minutes).
Let the lamb rest in the pan at room temperature for 10 minutes. The temperature will continue to rise. Transfer to a carving board and carefully slice between the bones to make individual chops or cut rack in half. Lightly sprinkle the cut sides of each chop with sea salt and serve with any crumb coating that fell off during carving.
Abby Dumont of Pinch of Salt Pastries in Southlake is our go-to for gluten-free desserts, found at coffee shops from Fort Worth to Frisco. The baker’s pecan-carrot cupcakes also are free of dairy and refined sugar. She frosts these with cream cheese buttercream. Pinch of Salt Pastries, 280 Commerce St., Southlake, 832-798-0965, pinchofsaltpastries.com
Makes 12 cupcakes
- 1 cup gluten-free flour blend (such as Bob’s Red Mill)
- ¼ cup blanched almond flour
- ½ teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons coconut sugar (or light brown sugar)
- 2 large eggs
- ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons melted refined coconut oil
- ¼ cup pure maple syrup
- ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 11/3 cups grated peeled carrot (about 5 ounces)
- ¼ cup raisins
- ¼ cup coarsely chopped toasted pecans
- Cream cheese buttercream (recipe follows)
- 12 halved pecans for garnish
Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together gluten-free flour, almond flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl with a whisk or spatula) beat the coconut sugar, eggs and melted oil together until smooth. Add the maple syrup, applesauce and vanilla, and mix again to combine. Add in the flour mixture and mix until combined. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and mix once more to combine.
In a separate large bowl, grate the carrots using a hand or box grater. Mix the grated carrot, raisins and pecans into the batter until well combined.
Line cupcake tins with nonstick liners. Divide batter among the cups, filling each just over ¾ full. Bake 16 to 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Cream cheese buttercream In the bowl of a stand mixer or using electric hand beaters, combine 4 ounces cream cheese and ¼ cup butter with ½ teaspoon each fine grain sea salt and vanilla. Beat on medium-high speed until blended. Add 1½ cups powdered sugar, mixing on medium-low speed to combine. As the powdered sugar begins to incorporate, increase speed to medium for 30 seconds. Scrape bowl and add another 1½ cups powdered sugar, mixing on medium- low speed to combine. As newly added powdered sugar begins to blend, increase speed to medium for 2 minutes or until frosting is smooth. If necessary, to thicken, add another ½ cup powdered sugar. Frost cupcakes and top each with 1 pecan half.