Cookbook Review: Graze

Grazing is an great way to eat. It means skipping from dish to dish, tasting different things without committing to a single one. It’s about creating multiple dishes that work together as a meal, that all share a theme, an aesthetic. When she entertains, or even pulls together a quick dinner for just two, food stylist Suzanne Lenzer enjoys this tapas-style of eating—and with her guidance, you can too.

When it comes to making small plates at home, start with cheese and charcuterie, but then combine this classic with a few easy dishes that make a meal special. Try your hand at recipes like chickpea fries with Meyer lemon-scented aioli; roasted beet tartare with cheese and pistachios; kale, spinach, and Pecorino pizza slivers; sardine bruchetta with fennel and preserved lemons; scallop and plum ceviche with tarragon; and lemon-lavender posset—to name just a few.

Making delicious, beautiful dishes and snacks for grazing, whether for two or twelve, doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming. Graze is full of tips to help you prepare healthy, wholesome, and appetizing food without spending hours in the kitchen.

Graze: Inspiration for Small Plates and Meandering Mealsis available at Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.


Parmesan Pea Spread

Photography by Nicole Franzen

I love fresh peas. I even love shelling peas: the way the pods pop when they’re just off the vine; how the peas lie in their emerald cocoon lined up from barely-there to brazenly plump; how my fingers smell fertile and mossy after all the shells have been emptied of their virescent pearls.

Fresh peas are a treat, a seasonal romance I look forward to all winter that’s far too fleeting, which is why my freezer is rarely without a box of the frozen kind. Captured at their peak, frozen peas are reliable in flavor and dependable when you have nothing fresh in the house.

Derived many moons ago from a risotto recipe by Nigella Lawson, I’ve turned this commonsense combo of peas, butter, and Parmesan into a spread for crostini, smeared it on a pizza crust for something unexpected, loosened it with cream and served it over pasta, and even thinned it with chicken stock for a refreshing summer soup. Like with many recipes in my repertoire, I use the basic idea for many different dishes; but in its purest form, I smear it on toast.

 

½ stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 tablespoon minced shallot (about 1⁄2 shallot)

3 cups fresh peas or 1 box (10 ounces) frozen peas

½ cup chicken stock

½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, or more to taste

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Fresh mint leaves, for garnish

 

In a large saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook until just soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the peas and swirl them around in the butter until nicely coated, then increase the heat to medium-high and add the chicken stock. Bring the stock to a simmer and cook the peas until they’re tender but still bright green, no more than 2 or 3 minutes for frozen peas or about 5 minutes for fresh.

Carefully transfer the pea mixture to a food processor and add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and the Parmesan. Puree the mixture until smooth. Season with salt and pepper and adjust the seasoning as needed (add more cheese, if you like).

I serve this spread on toasted bread with a mint leaf and another good shave of cheese, but if you like the idea of adding mint to the puree, feel free to add a few leaves to the mix; just be cautious—the mint can overpower the delicate sweetness of the peas if you have a heavy hand.

Recipe reprinted with permission from Rodale Books.

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