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Spring is a transition time for me in many ways. My body’s circadian rhythm starts to adjust to the longer days and the warmer weather. I come out of my winter slumber and start thinking about things to change or fix. For me it’s my time for new resolutions because I never seem to have the desire to make a commitment in January like the rest of the world. Get more organized, rearrange the living room, lose weight, change my diet, entertain more. The list can become endless. Its weird but I’ve become accustomed to this yearly routine.

But like all transitions, sometimes it’s hard to figure out what is appropriate for a given situation and what to cook during this time of year. As I question what clothing to wear -- Will it be too cold for short sleeves? Can I get away with wearing white --I also question what I can cook. Will it be too hot to make that stew? Is it too early for a barbecue? Summer’s bounty of fruits and vegetables has yet to show up at the markets and yet I know I need to shed those winter recipes and move on to spring. So, I look for lighter recipes that don’t require a long, slow cook in the oven yet are more substantial than what I would want to eat during the dog days of summer. I’m usually trying to slim down too and lose the weight that I gained during my winter hibernation so it shouldn’t be too rich either

That is why I love this recipe from Joel Robuchon called Lemon Chicken. It’s terrific, it satisfies all requirements and it looks beautiful even before it’s cooked.

I’ve made a slight modification to his recipe, which calls for sautéing the chicken prior to roasting. I’ve left this step out with successful results. You can prep this dish in the morning and leave it sitting in your refrigerator until you are ready to bake.

Ingredients:

One whole chicken quartered
3 large onions
3 tablespoons olive oil
Marjoram, Rosemary and Herbs de Provence
2 lemons

Instructions:

1. Thinly slice three large onions and spread in a baking dish large enough to hold a chicken that’s been quartered.
2. Lay the chicken pieces on top of the onion slices.
3. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with 3 tablespoons of olive oil.
4. Thinly slice two lemons and scatter over the chicken pieces.
5. Sprinkle with fresh marjoram, or as I did, herbs de provence. Rosemary would be good too.
6. Drizzle with a little bit more olive oil and refrigerate for 30 minutes or more.
7. Preheat your oven to 410o F and when ready to bake slide the lemon slices down the sides the chicken onto the onions.
8. Bake the chicken for around 45 minutes or until well done and the skin is crisp and brown.

I like to accompany the chicken with asparagus. So while the chicken is resting and the oven is still on, I’ll toss the asparagus with olive oil and salt and roast single file in a baking dish until tender. Usually 5 to 7 minutes depending upon the thickness of the asparagus. If I have fresh parmesan in the house, I’ll thinly shave the parmesan to serve on top of the asparagus. With a salad of fresh greens, you’ll have a great spring dinner of which you can be proud.

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“Wow, do I have some good news for you” said my husband, glancing up from the morning paper. “Fairway is coming to Westchester next week.” Good news indeed!

We moved to Scarsdale from the Upper West Side almost 15 years ago and, like a homing pigeon, I return to shop for groceries at Fairway as much as possible. I love roaming the aisles, smelling the coffee and discovering new items. My favorites: olive oil, bread, all the fruits and vegetables (including a good organic selection), flowers, and delicious Murray’s Rotisserie chicken.

Fairway
847 Pelham Parkway
Post Road Plaza
Pelham Manor, NY 10803

914-712-0011
OPENING APRIL 14

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I’m an avid baker. I always have been, even before I started my own family at which point it becomes a touchstone to make a batch of chocolate chip cookies with your child. How many of us have made that emergency batch of cookies on a raining day, making the kitchen smell divine while at the same time providing a learning moment for your kids. That’s one of the great things about baking - its pure chemistry in action. How does that batter, that starts out wet and sloppy, with mundane ingredients like flour, baking powder or eggs, end up producing such a lovely golden confection? Every time I bake, I get the satisfaction of watching this wonder happen again and again. And I get this opportunity a lot. Last Sunday I made a raspberry tart and a batch of brownies, Tuesday evening I made oatmeal cookies, Thursday afternoon I made an apple galette, and on Saturday I made another apple galette and chocolate crunch cookies. That’s a pretty typical week for me. My family eats it up and I try not too. My son put in a request for madeleine cookies, so that’s what I have on the schedule to bake today.

I can thank my mom for my love of baking. When I was younger and used to walk home from school, I looked forward to arriving at my house to find out what she had baked. I still have vivid memories of opening the front door to be greeted by the scents of vanilla or maybe chocolate. There were many times that I just wanted to stay in that kitchen forever ensconced in the warmth of the stove and my mom. My mom wasn’t trying to be a June Cleaver. We were a large family of six children and at the time it was cheaper to make fresh baked products at home than to buy the mass produced cookies that are so cheaply offered in today’s markets. I’m grateful for the fact that she did take the time to bake and cook from “scratch” as they formed in me a lifetime love for nourishing foods and the art and craft of baking.

And so it is that next week we will be gathering together for a Passover Seder, which always presents unique problems in the dessert category. How do you bake a good dessert without flour? For me it’s the most challenging part of the meal. Baking cakes with matzo meal is a bit of a trial. The large quality of eggs that are usually added, (and I do mean large - usually 8 to 10) are suppose to add lightness to the cakes but I haven’t found a recipe that’s been worth it. They usually lack flavor and are very heavy. That being said I went in search of desserts that could handle very little flour but would taste rich and satisfying, like all good desserts should. Chocolate was the answer.

The first two years I made these brownies for Passover, they were eaten so fast I wasn’t able to try them. The third year I got smart and doubled the batch. The recipe came from a friend and remains a favorite. They couldn’t be easier to make.

  • Preheat your oven to 375F.
  • Melt a stick of butter.
  • Beat 2 eggs and 1 cup of sugar together.
  • Gradually add the melted butter and mix well.
  • To this add:
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3Tbsp matzoh cake meal
  • ½ cup cocoa
  • 1 cup chocolate chips.
  • Pour into a buttered square baking pan (8x8 or 9x9) and bake about 30 minutes or until toothpick plunged into the middle of the brownies comes out slightly moist.


I came across the next recipe several months ago and they’d be perfect for Passover, no flour required. They have lots of chocolate and coconut and are chewy, soft and moist. The recipe comes from Alice Medrich and they are called Chocolate Coconut Macaroons.

  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • Combine:
  • 4 egg whites
  • 3 cups sweetened shredded coconut
  • 3 ½ oz bar of semisweet chocolate finely chopped (all food markets carry chocolate bars in this size in the baking aisle)
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon salt in a heat proof bowl.
  • Set the bowl in a skillet of barely simmering water and stir the mixture continuously until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is sticky and hot to the touch.
  • Drop rounded tablespoons of the mixture onto a cookie sheet that’s lined with foil.
  • Flatten each cookie slightly with your fingers.
  • Bake for 13 minutes.
  • Cool the cookies before removing them from the foil.


Make sure you put these out while the children are looking for the afikomen. That way the adults are sure to get to taste one before they all disappear.

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Like most of the families I know in Westchester, pizza is a staple in our house. We have our favorites for frozen pizza (Fresh Direct), local delivery (Italian Village), pick-up (Sal's, no surprise) and homemade (individual pies assembled inside and then charcoal grilled on the Big Green Egg in our yard). They are all delicious options and, depending on the level of activity in our house, one of these choices works for any occasion. When I heard Frank Pepe's had opened in Yonkers, I was eager to try it. Frank’s was rumored to be the home of the greatest Neapolitan (think thin, crunchy crust) pizzas on the planet. More importantly, I found myself on Central Avenue on a cold, rainy day with two hungry kids, ages 4 and 7 in the car.

When I asked, "Who wants to try a new pizza place?" The chorus of "ME" from the backseat was music to my ears. We pulled into the parking lot at about 11:45, were quickly greeted, and told to sit wherever we liked. My kids chose a booth that easily could have seated ten and we began to peruse the menu. It only took 15 seconds. They have pizza and that's pretty much it. No pasta. No hero sandwiches. No milk, which, I must admit, I worried would be a deal breaker for my little guy. No dessert. Just pizza.

Of course, there are also toppings, including their fresh clams and tomatoes. I have a theory that if a store or restaurant basically sells only one thing, it is likely that they do it very well, and Frank Pepe's proved me right.

The pizza was extraordinary. It was cooked in a coal-fired brick oven that is an exact replica of the oven in the original New Haven, CT shop and it is unlike any pizza I have tasted in Westchester. It has a thin, slightly charred crust, an irregular shape, and is served on a hotel sheet pan, cut into pieces of all sizes. We ordered a medium with pepperoni and when I first saw it I was worried that we should have gone with the small (full disclosure: my little guy has been known to eat one grape and state, "I'm full" and really mean it). I should not have worried. He totally held his own drinking water no less, as we devoured that pizza, talking only enough to say things like, "wow" and "please pass another piece" and then finally, "do you think there will be any left to take home so dad can try it?" There was just enough left over, thankfully, and the friendly waitress brought us a box for the leftovers for dad, who, later that afternoon, sampled the reheated pieces with a huge smile on his face.

I recommend going early or at an off-peak time if you have hungry kids since as we left I noticed that the parking lot was completely full and there was a wait for a table. Frank Pepe’s was a welcome surprise on that dreary day and I certainly wouldn’t wait for another cold, rainy day to return.

Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana
1955 Central Avenue Yonkers, New York
914-961-8284
http://www.pepespizzeria.com

Sarah White is a mother of two living in Quaker Ridge. Prior to that, she completed a doctoral degree in psychology and worked as an academic advisor.

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We were invited to Sweet Grass Grill in Tarrytown on a chilly night and were not sure what to expect….was it a new Thai place? Chicken and ribs? We decided to suspend judgment and prepare to be surprised. And as it turned out we were in for a very pleasant surprise.

The restaurant is on Main Street in Tarrytown and even the décor did not betray what kind of cuisine was in store. It looked like a homey log cabin, with blond wood and an informal air. We were warmly greeted by Managing Partner Theresa McCarthy who knew our companions from her stint at Millennio on Scarsdale Avenue. She is now part owner of Sweet Grass, which she manages with partner David Starkey, who is known for his Mexican eatery, Tomatillo in Dobbs Ferry. Sweet Grass Grill shares a similar local food sensibility with Tomatillo, both using seasonal, home grown ingredients.Chef Tommy Lasley trained under Dan Barber at Blue Hill at Stone Barns and fetures organic, locally-sourced foods. In fact, Sweet Grass changes the menu four times to incorporate seasonal ingredients… on the night we visited squash, local pork, beets and cauliflower were featured on the winter menu.

The bar stocks an extensive variety of beer on tap and the wine list is impressive. With our drinks we were served homemade caraway and cumin bread that was warm, soft and difficult to resist.

The menu includes fresh, creative combinations without pretense or lofty prices. For starters we tried the Pigs in a Blanket which were local pork in pastry with tarragon mustard, the Cauliflower Veloute soup with smoked chicken and parmesan crackers and the Marinated Hudson Valley Baby Beet Salad, that came with shaved green apple, braised leeks, greens and walnut butter. Between the caraway bread, my beer and the salad I was full but the main course was yet to come.

The entrees include two lists – one of burgers priced at just $10-$12, and another of reasonably priced main courses. Along with a traditional hamburger, the burger list included an American Bison burger and a smoked vegetarian shroom burger with three types of mushrooms. For main courses there was a braised New Zealand lamb shank, grass-fed rib-eye steak, and a handmade pappardelle, with braised beef, poached egg, greens, and pistachios in a caramelized garlic sauce. For non-meat eaters, toasted fregola with smoked vegetables, dried fruits and nuts in a parsnip brown butter looked tempting as well as the crispy skin Scottish salmon.

Though we passed on dessert, we saw a plate of warm cider donuts with apple ice cream and caramel sauce go by and vowed to leave room for dessert on our next visit.

The entire experience was pleasant, relaxed and civilized… as if we had been served a thoughtfully prepared meal at the home of good friends. And like good friends, we’ll be returning to Sweet Grass Grill soon.

Sweet Grass Grill
24 Main Street
Tarrytown, New York
914-631-0000
www.sweetgrassgrill.com
Open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner
Brunch served on Sundays

Dinner Prices:
Soups and Appetizers: $6 to $10
Main Courses: $16 - $30
 

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