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Simple Spring Fare with Chef Mike Ward

Spring is upon us and typically that means thawing out from our hibernation and shrugging off the slow, heavy feeling of winter. In the kitchen, spring marks a return to simpler, lighter flavours that anticipate the onset of summer’s bounty. These three comfort dishes are simple to put together using ingredients you likely already have in your kitchen. Most importantly, they’re bursting with flavour. I guarantee they’ll have your family gathering around the table.

Lemon Cream Cheese Shortbread Snowstorms

I’m not a huge fan of the rigid recipe that’s typically required for baking—but this super easy, hard-to-mess-up, six-ingredient concoction hits the note for my daughters and I. And they taste like heaven.

Prep 45 mins/cook time 20 mins

Cookie ingredients:

3/4 cup icing sugar

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups all-purpose flour

Filling ingredients:

4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

zest and juice of ½ lemon

¼ cup sugar

Using a mixer (or in bowl by hand) beat your icing sugar, butter and salt until fluffy. Add flour until combined. Roll mixture into a cigar shaped tube one to 1 ½ inches thick. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in freezer for 10 to15 mins.

Preheat oven to 300 F

Remove plastic wrap from cookie dough and cut into 1/3 inch slices. Place slices about 1 inch apart on parchment paper-lined baking tray. Bake at 300 F until slightly golden—about 20 minutes. Remove and let cool.

Meanwhile in a small bowl, use a fork to mash together cream cheese, lemon juice, zest and sugar. Spoon into plastic bag and slice the corner with scissors (to create a piping bag). Squeeze a decent dab between two cookies and press firmly. Dust with confectionary sugar if you like. Then devour!

Sun-dried Tomato & Feta Hummus

A luxuriously rich spin on a classic, this sun-dried tomato hummus is perfect on a crispy pita or as my girls do, dip n' lick it off your fingers.

In a food processor combine until smooth:

3 cups of chickpeas (canned or cooked)

½ cup of sun-dried tomatoes

150-200 grams of feta

juice of ½ a lemon

1 1/2 cups of olive oil
(feel free to adjust to your own preference)

1 teaspoon of your favourite hot sauce (to taste)

salt and pepper to taste

Some prefer a silky texture, some chunky; either way is perfectly fine. Garnish with a splash of olive oil, crushed chili flakes and a dusting of cumin. Dip until your little heart is content.

The World’s Richest Tomato Sauce

Sure, basic marinara sauce works OK, but this sauce takes it to the next level. Puree it for any dish that works with tomato sauce. I even use it as ketchup with my kids!

Takes 20 mins - Serves 4-6

700/800g linguine or fettuccine

1 garlic clove, thinly sliced

½ white onion, finely chopped

1 medium red pepper, thinly sliced

½ cup sun-dried tomatoes, rough chopped

4 anchovy filets

1 tablespoon capers

1/3 cup black olives, pitted and rough chopped

1 tin whole peeled tomatoes (28 oz – 794g)

100g grated Parmesan

1 cup basil, rough chopped

1 tablespoon chilli flakes (to taste)

Add a splash of olive oil to a large fry pan. On medium-high heat, add garlic, onion, sun-dried tomatoes, red pepper, olives, anchovies and capers. Sauté until onions and garlic soften and begin to turn brown, being careful not to burn them. When onions and garlic have softened, add tinned tomatoes, crushing the tomatoes in your washed hand as you add them.Reduce heat to medium, simmer and reduce for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, boil pasta in well-salted water. Strain water from pasta, saving a little pasta water to thin out sauce if needed. Add sauce to pasta pot and toss. Add chilli flakes to taste.

Serve with basil, Parmesan and a drizzle of good olive oil. Feel free to puree your sauce slightly with a hand blender for a less chunky version.

-by Mike Ward