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Recipes: Banish winter with a chicken-pesto dinner tart, salad, and dessert

Ring in spring with the vibrant and satisfying flavors of this easy-to-make meal.

A pesto-chicken tart and arugula and fennel salad with oranges.
photo by anthony tieuli; food styling by sheila jarnes/ennis inc.
A pesto-chicken tart and arugula and fennel salad with oranges.

With nor’easter after nor’easter after nor’easter in March and even dustings of snow in April, this winter felt like an extra-long slog. Praise be, it’s all a memory now. Spring is in swing, and we have a menu to celebrate. A dinner tart with a flaky puff-pastry shell and pesto-dressed chicken is as satisfying as it is simple to throw together. Arugula and fennel salad with lemon-honey vinaigrette adds fresh, bright flavors and textures, and strawberry buttermilk sherbet hits sweet-tangy notes that suit the season.

PESTO-CHICKEN TART

Makes 1 14-x-10-inch tart; serves 4 to 6

This recipe, adapted from thekitchn.com, was developed using Dufour Pastry Kitchens brand frozen puff pastry (available at Whole Foods). Dufour sheets measure 14 inches by 10 inches. If you use a different-sized product, you may have to trim it or piece sheets together to get the right measurements.

A rotisserie chicken is ideal for this recipe. The combination of pastry, mozzarella, and pesto makes the tart rich, so don’t be tempted to overdo the cheese or pesto.

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If you’re preparing Arugula and Fennel Salad With Oranges to accompany the tart, reserve and chop some of the fronds for garnish. Parsley makes a fine substitute.

1box frozen all-butter puff pastry (about 1 pound), thawed according to package directions or overnight in the refrigerator
3cups diced cooked chicken
2teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper
½cup pesto, homemade or prepared
¼cup finely grated Parmesan
¾cup coarsely grated mozzarella
2tablespoons chopped fennel fronds or parsley

With the rack in the middle position, heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment. Working carefully, unfold the puff pastry onto the lined baking sheet; if necessary, press and pinch the pastry to close any holes in the seams. Using a fork, thoroughly and evenly poke holes across the pastry, leaving a ¾-inch border untouched all the way around. Bake the pastry until golden brown and crisp, about 15 minutes, rotating halfway through the baking time. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and set it on a wire rack; leave the oven on. Using the tip of a paring knife and again following a ¾-inch border around the perimeter, cut part of the way into the baked pastry; do not cut through the bottom (the border becomes the edge of the tart shell). Press down the center portion with your fingertips or a wooden spoon to make a bed for the tart filling.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, toss the chicken with the lemon juice, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Add the pesto and toss to coat the chicken. Adjust the seasoning with additional salt and pepper if necessary. Spread the chicken evenly in the bed of the tart shell, then sprinkle evenly with the Parmesan and mozzarella.

Bake until the mozzarella melts and starts to brown and the tart edges are deeply browned, about 18 to 22 minutes. Carefully slide the tart onto a cutting board and let it rest for 3 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle with the fennel or parsley and serve at once.

TIP: PUFF-PASTRY SURGERY

When cutting around the perimeter of the prebaked puff pastry to form the edges of the tart shell and the bed that will hold the chicken filling, go about halfway through the layers, not all the way to the bottom. That will loosen the top layers of the pastry in the center so you can push them down to form the bed.
Anthony Tieuli
When cutting around the perimeter of the prebaked puff pastry to form the edges of the tart shell and the bed that will hold the chicken filling, go about halfway through the layers, not all the way to the bottom. That will loosen the top layers of the pastry in the center so you can push them down to form the bed.

ARUGULA AND FENNEL SALAD WITH ORANGES

Makes about 7 cups

You can mix the vinaigrette ahead, but don’t assemble this salad until you’re ready to serve it — the baby arugula that’s common in supermarkets wilts quickly upon contact with dressing.

teaspoons finely grated zest and 1 tablespoon juice from 1 lemon
2tablespoons minced shallot (about 1 small)
½teaspoon ground fennel seed
Salt and pepper
1tablespoon honey
2tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1medium fennel bulb (about 1 pound), trimmed, cored, quartered lengthwise, and very thinly sliced crosswise (scant 3 cups)
8cups baby arugula, loosely packed (about 4 ounces)
1large navel orange, peeled, segments separated and cut crosswise into thirds

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In a large bowl, whisk the lemon zest and juice, shallot, ground fennel seed, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste until salt dissolves. Add the honey and whisk vigorously to dissolve and blend. Add the olive oil and whisk vigorously to blend (you should have about cup). Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette.

Add the fennel to the bowl and toss to coat. Add the arugula, ¼ teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste, and toss to coat. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary. Scatter the orange pieces over the salad, drizzle with the reserved vinaigrette, and serve at once.

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ROASTED STRAWBERRY AND BUTTERMILK SHERBET

Makes about 1 generous quart

Be sure to use a nonreactive bowl, because the sherbet mixture is acidic. You’ll need a blender, an instant-read thermometer, and an ice cream maker. This recipe was adapted from bonappetit.com.

2pounds fresh strawberries (about 4 pints), rinsed, hulled, and halved (about 7 cups)
1/3cup sugar
½cup strawberry preserves or jam
1teaspoon vanilla extract
2teaspoons framboise, kirsch, or vodka
1cup buttermilk
½cup sour cream
Salt

In a large bowl, toss the berries and 2 tablespoons sugar and set aside, stirring occasionally, until the berries are wet-looking and glistening, about 20 minutes.

With the rack in the center position, heat the oven to 425 degrees. Scrape the berries into a 13-by-9-inch or other 3-quart baking dish and spread into a single layer (or as close as possible), cut sides up. Roast until the berries collapse and their juice bubbles vigorously, about 15 to 20 minutes. Cool the berries to room temperature, at least 15 minutes (juice will thicken as it cools).

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Scrape the roasted berries, thickened juice, strawberry preserves, and remaining sugar into a blender and puree until smooth. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a nonreactive bowl and work the puree through the strainer with a flexible spatula until only seeds and a tiny bit of pulp remain (you should have about 3 cups). Add the vanilla, framboise, buttermilk, sour cream, and a pinch of salt, and whisk to combine well. Cover and refrigerate until the mixture reaches 35 to 40 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, at least four hours.

Following the manufacturer’s directions, churn the mixture in an ice cream maker until frozen (the sherbet should have the consistency of soft-serve ice cream). Serve at once, or scrape into a container, cover, and freeze until firmer, at least two hours. Rest the sherbet at room temperature for a few minutes to soften slightly, and serve at once.

Adam Ried appears regularly on “America’s Test Kitchen.” Send comments to cooking@globe.com. Get the best of the magazine’s award-winning stories and features right in your e-mail inbox every Sunday. Sign up here.