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Light, Spring Dinner From Star Chef

New York City is chock-full of good restaurants and celebrity chefs, but Michael Anthony has carved out a starring role for himself as executive chef at the hugely popular, three-star Gramercy Tavern.

He took The Early Show up on its "Chef on a Shoestring" challenge, and prepared a light, spring dinner for four Saturday on our $40 budget.

Anthony places a high priority on using farm-fresh ingredients and, now that spring is here, there's a whole new crop of fresh flavors to choose from!

His menu includes Carrot Soup with Spiced Cashews, Lemon Risotto and Rhubarb Shortcake.

FOOD FACTS

Carrots: No other vegetable or fruit contains as much carotene as carrots. The body converts it to Vitamin A, which is good for eyesight, especially as you get older - it helps with night vision.

Cashews: Cashews are a delicious snack that's also good for you. They contain healthy mono-unsaturated fats, magnesium, and copper, nutrients that help prevent heart disease, promote strong bones, and give you energy. Cashews contain about 180 calories per ounce.

Risotto: Classically, Carnaroli or Arborio rice is used. Short and plump, they are high in starch and able to absorb quite a bit of liquid without becoming mushy. Risotto can range from almost crunchy to very creamy. You control this by slow cooking and adding small amounts of liquid over time.

Rhubarb: Rhubarb can be eaten raw with a little sugar sprinkled over it, but it's generally cooked with other ingredients to produce a fruit dish of some type. Rhubarb can be used nicely to enhance the flavor of other fruits, such as pairing it with strawberries in baked sauces or beverages. Rhubarb stalks vary from red to pink and they may also appear speckled or green. This color variation has little or no impact on the ripeness of the rhubarb. When selecting, choose stalks that are fresh looking, crisp, and blemish free.

RECIPES

Carrot Soup with Cashew Garnish

Ingredients for Carrot Soup:
4 large Carrots, peeled and chopped
1 Shallot, peeled and minced
1 Clove Garlic, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon fresh Ginger, peeled and minced
1/4 cup Orange juice
1/8 cup Coconut milk
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Olive oil as needed for consistency

Method for Carrot Soup:
In a saucepan heat the olive oil. Sweat the shallots and garlic together for about two minutes (you do not want them to start browning). Add the ginger and season with salt and pepper.

Next add the carrots, orange juice, and water. Cover, and let simmer until carrots are tender, about thirty minutes. Remove from the heat and add the coconut milk.

Place contents of saucepan in a blender and mix until you have a silky consistency, adding olive oil as necessary.

Ingredients for Cashew Garnish:
1/2 cup Cashews
1 Egg white
pinch All spice
pinch Cinnamon
pinch Cayenne
pinch Ground nutmeg
pinch Ground ginger
pinch Paprika
1/4 box Brown sugar (1lb. box)

Method:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a mixing bowl beat the egg white, and combine and wisk together the all spice, cinnamon, cayenne, ground nutmeg, ground ginger, paprika, and brown sugar. Add the cashews and toss to coat.

Spread the coated cashews out in a single layer on a parchment lined sheet tray. Bake at 350°F for five minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool and rough chop.

To Serve:

Divide soup among four bowls. Garnish the soup with spice coated cashews, diced apples and raw sliced carrots. Serve immediately.

For recipes for Lemon Risotto and Rhubarb Shortcake, go to Page 2.

Lemon Risotto

Ingredients:
1 cup Carnaroli Risotto (or the brand of your choice)
1 Tablespoon Olive oil
1 medium Onion
1 clove Garlic
1/4 cup White wine
Peel of 1 lemon
about 2 quarts warm water
1 Teaspoon lemon juice
zest of 1/2 lemon
1 Teaspoon butter
1 Teaspoon Parmesan Cheese, Grate
1 Teaspoon Olive Oil
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste

Method:

Over medium heat, sweat the onion and garlic. Add the rice and toast for about one minute or until it turns opaque.

Deglaze with the white wine, stirring to loosen any browned bits. Add the lemon peel and season with salt and pepper.

Stir in the two quarts of water a little at a time (about 1 cup) until risotto has cooked (all of the water should be absorbed). You may not need to use all of the water. This should take about 20 minutes.

Remove lemon peels and garlic from risotto.

To make ahead, stop at this point and spread the risotto to cool on a sheet tray lined with parchment paper. When ready to serve, scrape risotto back into a pot and continue as directed.

Add lemon by hand, lemon zest, butter, parmesan cheese, and olive oil to risotto. Spoon risotto into shallow bowls and garnish with celery leaves, and diced celery.

Rhubarb Shortcake

Ingredients:
1 cup Flour
1 1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1/8 cup Sugar
1/4 teaspoon Salt
4 tablespoons Butter (small cubes, cold)
1/2 cup cream. Plus additional cream for brushing
Optional: Sugar in the Raw for dusting

Note: The biscuit recipe will yield approximately 10-12 biscuits

Method for Biscuits

Pre-heat oven to 375˚

In a mixing bowl combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Cut in the butter, working into large flakes.

Add all of the cream into the mixture, and combine well.

By hand, work the dough into shape, forming about 10 or 12 biscuits. Brush the top of each biscuit with cream and sprinkle with sugar in the raw.

Bake until lightly golden brown, about 18-20 minutes. Serve warm with whipped cream and rhubarb.

Ingredients for Whipped Cream:
1 cup Cream
powdered sugar to taste
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon orange blossom water

Method for Whipped Cream:

In a medium sized mixing bowl whip all of the ingredients together until beautiful, barely soft peaks form.

Ingredients for Rhubarb Jam:
1 1/4 cups diced rhubarb
1/4 cup sugar

Method for Rhubarb Jam:

In a small pot over medium heat cook together 3/4 cup of diced rhubarb and 1/4 cup sugar until jam-like consistency is reached.

Add an additional 1/4 cup diced rhubarb to the mixture, and continue to cook for 3-5 more minutes.

Add the final 1/4 cup of diced rhubarb and cook for one more minute.
Remove from heat and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Let's see how Anthony did with our $40 budget!:

For the first course, he bought carrots, shallots, garlic, fresh ginger, an orange, coconut milk, cashews, allspice, cayenne, ground nutmeg and ginger, paprika, and an apple.

For the main course, risotto rice, an onion, white wine, two lemons, Parmesan cheese, and celery.

And for the dessert, cream, powdered sugar, orange blossom water, and rhubarb.

The grand total? $39.41!