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Easy spring recipes from 'Everyone Can Cook Everything' by Eric Akis

04/01/2013 11:54 EDT | Updated 06/01/2013 05:12 EDT
Here are some recipes from "Everyone Can Cook Everything," the seventh book in Eric Akis's "Everyone Can Cook" series.

These easy examples from the Victoria-based chef and food writer are full of flavour and perfect for spring. Akis also provides some options for those who would like to vary the dishes.

Romaine With Oranges, Feta and Olives

Serve this colourful salad as a starter or alongside grilled fish, pork or poultry.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

45 ml (3 tbsp) orange juice

30 ml (2 tbsp) red wine vinegar

45 ml (3 tbsp) olive oil

2 ml (1/2 tsp) sugar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

3 medium oranges, peeled, halved and sliced

175 ml (3/4 cup) crumbled feta cheese

20 to 24 whole black or green olives

2 ripe medium tomatoes, cut into small wedges

1.5 l (6 cups) chopped romaine lettuce

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

In a salad bowl, whisk together orange juice, vinegar, oil, sugar, salt and pepper. Add remaining salad ingredients and gently toss. Divide among plates or serve on a large platter, ensuring some of the oranges, cheese, olives, onions and tomatoes decorate the top.

Makes 4 servings.

Eric's Options: Replace romaine with an equal amount of spinach leaves or baby salad greens. A sprinkling of capers is also nice. Replace regular oranges with blood oranges when available.

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Linguini With Mixed Peas and Artichokes

This pasta dish makes a delicious spring entree, Akis says, though the availability of ingredients means it can also be added to your repertoire to be enjoyed at other times of the year. The cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, artichoke hearts and three types of peas give the pasta a shot of colour.

Preparation Time: 20 minutes

Cooking Time: about 15 minutes

375 g (3/4 lb) linguini

45 ml (3 tbsp) olive oil

1 or 2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 can (398 ml/14 oz) artichoke hearts, drained and quartered

16 to 20 snap peas, trimmed

16 to 20 snow peas, trimmed

250 ml (1 cup) chicken or vegetable stock

125 ml (1/2 cup) frozen peas

12 cherry tomatoes, halved

75 ml (1/3 cup) freshly grated Parmesan cheese

50 ml (1/4 cup) chopped fresh basil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add linguini and cook until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add garlic, artichokes, snap peas and snow peas. Cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes. Add stock and bring to a simmer.

Drain pasta, reserving 125 ml (1/2 cup) of the cooking liquid. Add pasta, reserved cooking liquid, frozen peas, cherry tomatoes, Parmesan, basil, salt and pepper to skillet. Toss to combine, heat through for 1 to 2 minutes and serve.

Makes 4 servings.

Eric's Options: If desired, provide additional olive oil and Parmesan cheese for drizzling and sprinkling on the pasta at the table. Instead of linguini, use another noodle, such as spaghetti or fettuccine. Instead of chopped fresh basil and garlic, add 30 to 45 ml (2 to 3 tbsp) of pesto.

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Lemon Lover's Cupcakes

Anyone who loves lemon will be tantalized by this treat, which combines lemon zest, lemon juice, lemon glaze and a lemon candy into one delectable morsel.

Preparation Time: 30 minutes

Cooking Time: 20 to 25 minutes

Cupcakes

125 ml (1/2 cup) butter, softened

375 ml (1 1/2 cups) sugar

15 ml (1 tbsp) grated lemon zest

5 ml (1 tsp) pure vanilla extract

4 large eggs

125 ml (1/2 cup) fresh lemon juice

75 ml (1/3 cup) milk

500 ml (2 cups) all-purpose flour

15 ml (1 tbsp) baking powder

2 ml (1/2 tsp) salt

Glaze

30 ml (2 tbsp) fresh lemon juice

75 ml (1/3 cup) icing sugar

18 jelly lemon candy slices

18 small mint sprigs (optional)

Cupcakes: Heat oven to 180 C (350 F). Line one 12-cup muffin pan, and 6 cups of another muffin pan with paper liners.

In a bowl, place butter, sugar, lemon zest and vanilla and beat until well combined and lightened, 3 to 4 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time. Mix in lemon juice and milk.

In a separate bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt together. Gradually mix flour mixture into egg mixture until just combined.

Spoon batter into baking cups. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until puffed and golden and the top of a cupcake springs back when gently touched in the centre. Let cupcakes cool on a baking rack to room temperature before removing them from the pan.

Glaze: In a bowl, place lemon juice. Whisk in icing sugar very gradually, stirring constantly to form a smooth mixture. Spread on tops of cupcakes. Decorate top of each cupcake with a lemon candy slice. Let glaze set. Tent cupcakes with plastic wrap until ready to serve (can be made up to a day before serving).

When ready to serve, arrange cupcakes on a serving tray and, if desired, garnish each with a small sprig of mint.

Makes 18 cupcakes.

Eric's Options: Make orange-flavoured cupcakes by replacing the lemon juice, lemon zest and lemon candies with orange juice, orange zest and orange candies.

Source: "Everyone Can Cook Everything" by Eric Akis (Whitecap, 2012).

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