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A Spring Meal

If your dream is to leave the urban jungle behind and run your own bed and breakfast, it might help your vision to read Donna Leahy's new book, "Recipe for a Country Inn."

In the book, in addition to her recipes, she shares the highs and lows of running an inn with her husband. This week, as The Saturday Early Show's Chef on a Shoestring, she has created a spring meal for four with just $30.

Here is her menu:

Chilled Asparagus Soup
Lamb Tenderloin with a Ginger-Soy Sauce
Chocolate Mocha Pie

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Leahy is the chef-owner of the Inn at Twin Linden in Churchtown, Pa. Her husband Bob not only runs the inn with her, but also took many of the beautiful photographs in the cookbook.


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Buy "Recipe for a Country Inn"
They have been innkeepers for more than 13 years. She and her husband initially decided to run an inn to "chuck it all" (meaning they wanted to give up the daily commute, the intense competition, and the technological madness of the working world). They thought, like many people, that owning an inn was the ultimate antidote to life's pressures. While owning an inn certainly does cut out the commute, she has concluded that the real appeal of owning an inn is the chance to interact with people, to meet new friends, and to savor relationships.

From the beginning, Donna and her husband decided that food would be an essential part of the inn experience. She wanted to offer her guests something exceptional to eat. Their motto: "If you cook it well, they will come."

She has three simple tips about cooking:

  1. Always buy the best. Sometimes, the simplest dishes are raised to the sublime because of the stellar attributes of the individual components.
  2. Don't overcomplicate the dish. If you're serving veal chop, let it take center stage. It isn't necessary to add an array of other complicated elements to fill the plate. If you do have several different items on the plate, make sure they're tied together through some common feature.
  3. Believe in your ability to create. To be an inspired chef, you have to muster the will and the confidence to get into the kitchen and literally have it all. Get in there and try things. Some of the world's best culinary chefs didn't go to culinary school.
Chilled Asparagus Soup

Ingredients
1 1/2 pounds asparagus
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 leeks, white part only, thoroughly washed and coarsely chopped
1 small potato peeled and diced
2 sprigs flat leaf parsley
4 1/2 cups basic chicken stock
3/4 teaspoon white pepper
Salt to taste
1/2 cup heavy cream (optional)
8 chives chopped

Method:

  1. Trim the woody ends of the asparagus and discard. Bring a small pot of lightly salted water to boil. Cut off the tips of the asparagus and cook them in the boiling water until they just turn green, about 2 minutes. Immediately drain the tips and submerge them in a bowl of ice water. Reserve 18 tips for the garnish; refrigerate them until ready to serve. Chop the remaining asparagus spears into 1-inch segments.
  2. Heat the butter in a large saucepan. Add the leeks and cook until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the potato, parsley, chicken stock, and white pepper and bring to a boil. Add the asparagus segments and boil at high heat until tender 5 to 7 minutes. Puree the mixture in batches in a food processor or blender until smooth. Season with salt to taste.
  3. Place the mixture in a bowl and set in a larger bowl filled with ice water; this will cool is rapidly and preserve its bright green color. Stir in the cream if desired, cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, about 1 hour.
  4. Divide the soup among six chilled bowls and garnish with the reserved tips and the chopped chives.
Note: the soup may be made up to 24 hours in advance and refrigerated. Blend the soup again just before serving.

Lamb Tenderloin With Ginger Soy Sauce

Ingredients:
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
8 lamb tenderloins, about 2 ounces each
1 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil
4 carrots julienned
4 leeks, white parts only, thoroughly washed, julienned

Method:

  1. Combine the soy sauce, ginger, brown sugar and mustard in a small saucepan and simmer until slightly thickened, 5 to 7 minutes.
  2. Preheat a grill or a boiler.
  3. Grill the lamb on a grill or boiler pan for 11/2 minutes per side for medium rare (1 to 2 minutes longer for medium to well-done, 1/2 minute less for rare). Reserving one tablespoon of the glaze, brush the lamb with the remaining glaze and allow it to rest for a few minutes.
  4. In the meantime, heat the sesame oil in a large skillet. Add the carrots and leaks and saute until just beginning to soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the reserved 1 tablespoon soy glaze.
  5. Slice the tenderloins into thin pieces, and arrange them on six warm plates. Divide the carrots and leeks among the six plates and serve.
Chocolate Mocha Pie:

This creamy pie with candy bar crust must be made at least 3 hours ahead to give it time to set up in the refrigerator.

Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/3cups packed light brown sugar
1 1/3 cups cold unsalted butter
3 tablespoons chopped semisweet chocolate
3/4 cup finely chopped pecans
5 teaspoons instant coffee granules
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
4 large eggs
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/3 cup bittersweet chocolate shavings

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F
  2. Combine the flour and 1/3 cup of the brown sugar in a food processor (or use a pastry blender). Add 1/3 cup of the butter bits, and process until crumbly. Add the chocolate, pecans, and 2 tablespoons cold water, and pulse briefly until the dough sticks together. Press the mixture evenly into the bottom and sides of a nine-inch pie pan. Bake for 15 to 18 minute.
  3. Combine the remaining 1 cup butter, the coffee granules, melted chocolate, and remaining one cup brown sugar in a large bowl, and beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until smooth after each addition. Spoon the mixture into a pie shell, smoothing the top. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours, until the filling is firm and thoroughly chilled.
  4. Just before serving, whip the cream, confectioners' sugar and cocoa powder together until stiff. Spread on top of the chilled pie, or use a pastry bag to pipe on rosettes. Garnish with the chocolate shavings, and serve.
Note: This pie is also delicious frozen.
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