Lemon Custards with Strawberries

FOR THE CUSTARDS:
2 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest (from 1 to 2 lemons)
Pinch of fine sea salt
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 to 3 lemons)

FOR THE STRAWBERRY TOPPING:
1 cup sliced strawberries
1 to 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
Freshly ground black pepper, for serving

In a medium saucepan, combine cream, sugar, lemon zest and salt over medium-high heat. Bring to simmer, stirring frequently to dissolve sugar. Simmer vigorously until mixture thickens slightly, about 4 to 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Let sit until mixture has cooled slightly and a skin forms on top, about 20 minutes.

Stir mixture, then strain through fine-mesh strainer into a measuring cup with a spout; discard zest. Pour mixture evenly into six 6-ounce ramekins or small bowls.

Refrigerate, uncovered, until set, at least 3 hours.

As the custards chill, prepare the strawberry topping: Toss strawberries and sugar in a small mixing bowl. Let fruit macerate at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour, until the sugar is dissolved.

To serve, top each lemon custard with some strawberry topping and grind black pepper on top.

Overnight Oats

1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup dried fruit, cut into small pieces, if needed
1 tablespoon chia, flax, poppy or sesame seeds
1 cup milk or unsweetened dairy alternative, such as almond or oat milk
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Maple syrup, honey or brown sugar (optional)
2 tablespoons chopped or sliced nuts, toasted, if desired

Mix oats, dried fruit, seeds, milk and salt in a pint jar or 2-cup airtight resealable container. Seal tightly and refrigerate for at least 5 hours or up to 5 days.

Uncover, stir well, and taste. If you prefer more sweetness, stir in some sweetener. Top with the nuts just before eating.

Tip: The soaked oat mixture will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Spicy Corn and Coconut Soup

5 ears yellow or bicolor corn (or 5 cups frozen corn kernels)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, thinly sliced into rings
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 (1-inch) piece ginger, peeled and minced
1 serrano chile (or other chile), minced
2 small red potatoes (6 to 8 ounces total), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth (or 2 1/2 cups of hot water whisked with 1 1/2 teaspoons jarred bouillon)
1 (15-ounce) can full-fat coconut milk
1 tablespoon lime juice (from 1/2 lime)
Kosher salt, to season
Torn cilantro leaves, toasted coconut flakes, chopped roasted peanuts, crispy fried shallots, lime wedges and more sliced Serrano chiles, to serve (optional)

Cut the corn kernels off the cobs and transfer to a bowl. Using the back of a butter knife, scrape the cobs so that all of the milky juices collect in the bowl and the cobs look completely dry, like wrung-out sponges. Set aside. (If using frozen kernels, skip this step.)

In a large stockpot over medium heat, heat olive oil. Add shallots, garlic, ginger and chile, and sauté, stirring occasionally, until soft and fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes. Add corn kernels and juices to the pot, and sauté until the corn is softer and brighter, about 3 minutes more.

Add potato pieces, and stir to coat, 1 to 2 minutes.

Now, pour in the vegetable broth and coconut milk. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until the potatoes are tender all the way through.

Use an immersion blender to roughly purée the soup, so that it’s creamy with some kernels of corn, chunks of potato, and chile flecks remaining. (Alternatively, ladle about half of the soup into a blender, blend until smooth, and return to the pot.) Season with lime juice and salt, and mix to combine. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with toppings of your choice.

Crispy Brussels Sprouts and Gnocchi

1 pound brussels sprouts
1 lemon
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
1 (18-ounce) package shelf-stable or refrigerated potato gnocchi
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, sliced into 6 pieces
1/2 teaspoon honey
Freshly grated Parmesan, for serving

Trim and halve the brussels sprouts. Using a vegetable peeler, peel thick strips of lemon zest, then coarsely chop. (You should have about 2 teaspoons chopped zest.)

In a large (preferably 12-inch) skillet, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high. Add the brussels sprouts, season with ½ teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper, then arrange the brussels sprouts in an even layer, cut-side down. Scatter the lemon zest over the top and cook, undisturbed, until the brussels sprouts are well browned underneath, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the red-pepper flakes, stir and cook until the brussels sprouts are crisp-tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl.

In the same skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high. Break up any gnocchi that are stuck together, add them to the pan and cook, covered and undisturbed, until golden brown on one side, 2 to 4 minutes. Add the butter and honey, season with salt and a generous amount of black pepper, and cook, stirring, until the butter is golden, nutty smelling and foaming, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the brussels sprouts until warmed through. Serve with grated Parmesan.

Sweet Potatoes with Tahini Butter

2 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes of any color (about 4 medium), washed
6 tablespoons unsalted butter (3/4 stick), at room temperature
1/4 cup well-stirred tahini
2 to 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice, plus lime wedges, for serving
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 clove garlic, finely grated or pounded smooth with a pinch of salt
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons white sesame seeds
Flaky sea salt, for serving

Bring a few inches of water to a boil in a medium pot fitted with a steamer basket or footed colander. Place sweet potatoes in the steamer. Cover, reduce heat to medium and steam until potatoes are completely tender, 35 to 40 minutes. (Use a skewer or paring knife to check for doneness; the potatoes should be soft all the way through.)

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk butter, tahini, lime juice, soy sauce, sesame oil and garlic until smooth. It might seem as if the butter and liquids will never fully combine, but they will — just keep stirring! Taste, and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and more lime juice as needed.

Set a small pan over medium heat. Toast the sesame seeds, swirling the pan continuously, until seeds are golden. They’ll give off some oil and start to clump together, so if needed, stir with a wooden spoon to keep them moving so that they toast evenly. They’ll turn a nice deep-golden shade just as they dry off a bit, about 4 minutes. Transfer seeds to a small bowl to prevent them from overcooking.

When the sweet potatoes are tender, use tongs to transfer them to a large plate or platter. When they are just cool enough to handle, split potatoes in half lengthwise, and season with flaky salt. Spread tahini butter generously onto the flesh, and top with sesame seeds. Serve immediately with lime wedges.

Ricotta Dumplings with Peas and Asparagus

2 cups whole-milk ricotta
2 large eggs
Kosher salt and black pepper
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for serving
1 large leek, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
1 bunch asparagus, woody ends removed, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 cups shelled fresh or frozen peas
3 cups pea shoots or leaves, thick stems removed
1/4 cup parsley or mint leaves, for serving
Parmesan or pecorino, for serving

Options: This dish is a truly excellent canvas for anything seasonal (asparagus and peas in the spring, cherry tomatoes in the summer, mushrooms in the fall, squash in the winter), so adjust as you like.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Combine ricotta and eggs in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper and, using a large wooden or metal spoon, gently mix in the flour, taking care not to overmix (which could result in tough dumplings).

Meanwhile, heat butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add leeks and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until leeks have softened completely and are starting to pick up some color, 5 to 8 minutes.

Add asparagus and peas to the skillet and season with salt and pepper. Cook, tossing occasionally, until asparagus is just tender and bright green, 2 to 4 minutes, depending on its thickness. Remove from heat while you cook the dumplings.

When the water is at a nice steady boil, drop the ricotta mixture into the pot by the heaping spoonful. (The dumplings will expand in the water, so make them slightly smaller than you’d like them to end up.) Be careful not to crowd the pot; cook the dumplings in batches if need be.

Once the dumplings rise to the top, let them boil until cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes. (You can always pull one out and cut it in half to test its doneness; the texture will go from dense and doughy to light and pillowy.)

As the dumplings finish cooking, use a slotted spoon to transfer them to the skillet with the peas and asparagus. Once they’re all in there, give everything a quick toss over medium heat just to evenly coat the dumplings in the buttery sauce. Add pea shoots and toss just to wilt slightly.

Transfer to a large serving bowl or platter and top with parsley, cheese and more olive oil, if you like.