Food & Drink

This family forages for a perfect Easter feast

Asparagus and wild spring onions, or ramps, accompany a butterflied leg of lamb, which Boswell roasts in three pieces to ensure that each piece is cooked to a perfect medium-rare.
Asparagus and wild spring onions, or ramps, accompany a butterflied leg of lamb, which Boswell roasts in three pieces to ensure that each piece is cooked to a perfect medium-rare. Dana Gallagher

When longtime foodie friends host a springtime celebration in rural Connecticut, they rustle up elegant seasonal dishes, using elements just plucked from the surrounding garden and fields.

Dandelions don’t get a lot of love. Gardeners greet the homely yellow flowers with annoyance, if not weed killer. But when food stylist and editor Frances Boswell and photographer Dana Gallagher spy the bright buds each spring, they think the same thing: Lunch!

“Dandelion leaves make wonderful salad greens,” Boswell says. “They’re bitter, but in the most delicious way, like watercress.”

It’s Easter weekend, and Boswell has invited Gallagher and her 9-year-old daughter, Imogen, up to her family’s house in West Cornwall, Conn., for a few days of cooking and eating. One of the first things the two women do is send their girls out to collect the jagged-edged greens from a nearby field.

“The store is a half-hour drive from here,” says Boswell, who’s mom to Sophie, 15, and Plum, 12. “It’s so satisfying to find what you need in nature.”

Friends and colleagues for more than two decades (and longtime contributors to Martha Stewart Living), Boswell and Gallagher co-publish a blog called Kitchen Repertoire, featuring Gallagher’s beautiful images of Boswell’s inspired recipes.

“It reflects the way we live and cook, which is improvisationally,” Gallagher says. “We’ll change gears on a dime, depending on our mood or what’s at the market.”

Which is not to say that their meals suffer from a lack of meticulous planning. Boswell has invited a half-dozen of her neighbors to join them for the weekend’s centerpiece Easter lunch, featuring roasted lamb.

But the biggest stunner of the day is dessert: a meringue cake heaped with fresh-rhubarb compote that is both beautiful and inspired — in other words, a classic Boswell-Gallagher collaboration.

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Forager’s salad

Serves 8 to 10

  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  •  1/4 cup best-quality extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 packed cups fresh dandelion greens
  • Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, and freshly ground pepper

Whisk together shallot, vinegar and oil in a small bowl; let stand 1 hour. Whisk dressing; toss with greens. Season with salt and pepper; serve.

Nutritional analysis per serving, based on 8: 91 calories, 7 grams fat, 5 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams protein, no cholesterol, 57 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber, 70 percent of calories from fat.

Roasted leg of lamb with asparagus and herbs

The lamb is cut into three sections for quicker cooking.

Serves 8 to 10

  • 3 lemons, thinly sliced (2 cups)
  • 1 boneless butterflied leg of lamb (about 6 pounds), trimmed of excess fat and cut into 3 equal-size pieces
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  •  1/2 cup ramp pesto (see recipe below)
  • 2 pounds asparagus, trimmed
  • 1 bunch spring onions (1 pound), trimmed, well washed and halved lengthwise (quartered, if large)
  • 1/3 cup packed chopped fresh dill
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives, plus whole chives for serving
  • Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, and fresh mint sprigs, for serving

1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Scatter lemons in bottom of a roasting pan. Season lamb with kosher salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Working in 3 batches, cook lamb until browned, about 5 minutes per side, removing as done and placing on top of lemons in roasting pan. Brush lamb with 6 tablespoons ramp pesto and roast until a thermometer inserted into thickest parts of flesh registers 130 degrees for medium-rare, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer lamb and lemons to a plate, tented with foil; let stand 20 minutes. Pour pan juices into a small saucepan; keep warm.

2. Meanwhile, toss asparagus and onions with remaining 2 tablespoons oil; season with kosher salt and pepper. Divide between two rimmed baking sheets and roast, tossing halfway through, until tender and lightly charred, 20 to 25 minutes.

3. Transfer lamb, lemons, asparagus and onions to a serving platter. Add any accumulated juices from lamb to saucepan with reserved juices. Brush lamb with remaining 2 tablespoons ramp pesto, pour some of reserved juices over it to moisten, and sprinkle with chopped dill and chives. Season with flaky salt, garnish with chives and mint, and serve.

Nutritional analysis per serving, based on 8: 780 calories, 60 grams fat, 9 grams carbohydrates, 51 grams protein, 186 milligrams cholesterol, 162 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber, 69 percent of calories from fat.

Ramp pesto

For a milder pesto, blanch the whole ramps in boiling water for one minute before processing. To store, transfer pesto to an airtight container, pour a thin layer of oil over top, and refrigerate for up to 1 week.

Makes 1 cup

  • 2 bunches ramps (about 16), trimmed and chopped
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for storage
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Pulse ramps in a food processor until finely chopped. With motor running, pour in oil. Season generously with salt and pepper.

Nutritional analysis per 1-tablespoon serving: 90 calories, 10 grams fat, trace carbohydrates, trace protein, no cholesterol, 8 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber, 99 percent of calories from fat.

Rosy rhubarb-meringue cake

Serves 8 to 10

  • Coconut oil, for brushing
  • 5 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 2  1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon white-wine vinegar
  • 2 pinches of kosher salt
  • 1 bunch rhubarb (1 pound), trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 3 1/3 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons muscat, such as Muscat de Beaumes de Venise
  • 1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly brush an 8-inch springform pan with coconut oil; line bottom with parchment. Beat egg whites on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Slowly add 1  2/3 cups granulated sugar while beating continuously until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 7 minutes. Fold in cornstarch, vanilla, vinegar and 1 pinch salt.

2. Spoon meringue into prepared pan, smooth top level with an offset spatula, and transfer to oven. Immediately reduce heat to 325 degrees; bake, without opening oven door, until cake has a pale honey color, 70 minutes. (If top appears to be getting too brown, lower heat slightly.) Turn off oven; let meringue stand inside, without opening oven door, at least 1 hour and up to overnight. (Marshmallow center will sink and leave high, crisp sides.)

3. Meanwhile, place rhubarb, remaining 2/3 cup granulated sugar, muscat and remaining pinch of salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved and rhubarb is tender and partially broken down, about 7 minutes. Transfer rhubarb to a bowl with a slotted spoon and continue to cook liquid until reduced by half. Pour liquid over rhubarb; let cool completely. Rhubarb can be made to this point and stored in an airtight container in refrigerator up to 1 week.

4. Just before serving, carefully remove cake from springform and place on a serving platter. Whisk together cream and confectioners’ sugar until soft peaks form. Pile 2  1/2 cups whipped cream into center of meringue, then spoon 1 cup rhubarb mixture over. Serve, with remaining rhubarb mixture and whipped cream on the side.

Nutritional analysis per serving, based on 8: 437 calories, 18 grams fat, 66 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams protein, 61 milligrams cholesterol, 71 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber, 37 percent of calories from fat.