With spring arriving and sprouts sprouting, my thoughts turn to things green. While it is still early for local produce, I have embraced green ingredients as a way to invoke the season.
The salmon salad was a “write-in” for a late March dinner; we had an impromptu gathering of neighbors one Sunday evening and it occurred to me that I needed some type of appetizer to greet our guests.
Earlier that day, we had visited the Farmers’ Market and procured a piece of Ashbell’s Smoked Salmon, as well as some fresh dill and scallions, so I knew I had something to work with. Flaking the fish, adding some mayo, chopped fresh dill and scallions was the work of a moment, and cutting whole wheat bread slices into cute little squares for toasting delivered canapés was a big hit.
For carb cutters, serve the salmon on sliced cucumbers, which I did when I replicated this recipe at a subsequent ladies champagne reception.
Salmon Salad Canapés
Makes about two dozen
6 slices whole wheat or rye bread, cut in bite-sized pieces
8 ounces smoked salmon (not lox)
1 scallion, green and white part, chopped finely
2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped finely
¼ cup mayonnaise
Fresh cracked pepper
Toast the bite-sized bread pieces in a toaster oven and set aside until ready to serve.
In a medium-sized bowl, break up the salmon with a fork, and add the remaining ingredients.
Just before serving, spoon a small amount of the salmon mixture onto each toast point and serve immediately.
Cream of Asparagus Soup
This soup screams spring; it is wonderfully seasonal, but warms you up when the weather remains a big chilly. And if the temperature spikes, this can be served chilled, like a vichyssoise.
It makes an ideal seasonal first course at a formal dinner, but performs just as well on its own as a light lunch or supper. Be sure to save a few of the cooked asparagus tops to sprinkle in the soup for serving.
2 pounds asparagus, rinsed, tough stems removed
1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
5 cups vegetable stock
1 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot, melt the butter and sauté the onion until softened, about 3 minutes. While the onion cooks, cut the asparagus stalks into several pieces each, and be sure that the about 10 of the tops are intact, and about an inch or two inches long.
Add the asparagus to the pan and sauté for about 2 minutes.
Add the broth, salt and pepper, bring to a boil, lower heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes until the asparagus is totally cooked.
Using a slotted spoon, remove the cooked asparagus tips and save for serving.
Puree the soup using an immersion blender, regular blender or food processor until smooth. Be careful not to burn yourself.
Add the cream, stir, adjust the seasoning and add the reserved asparagus tips.
This pistachio cake was epic. Admittedly, the Pistacchiosa filling and pistachio butter are splurge ingredients, but if you were buying a specialty cake from a pastry shop to serve for guests, you would undoubtedly spend a bundle.
This Sicilian pistachio spread, available in Italian gourmet shops or online, is gloriously sweet and bursting with flavor (think a pistachio version of Nutella without the chocolate). I topped the cake with chocolate ganache, but it would be equally delicious with almond-flavored freshly whipped cream if chocolate is not your thing.
If you prefer to keep it simple, you can also skip the filling step, and top the cake as desired, but the extra jolt of sweet pistachio is a wonderful addition.
Another note on the ingredients: I prefer buttermilk for baking; it delivers a bit more richness and texture, but regular whole milk or nut milk can be substituted here without compromising the cake.
Finally, the color. I did add some green to the batter; I had some green decorating sugar, which I dissolved in a bit of water and added about a tablespoon of this mixture. A few drops of green food coloring would do the same, or you can omit this and go “au natural.” Taste and texture will not be affected.
1 cup flour, sifted
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
⅓ cup salted pistachio butter
⅓ cup Pistacchiosa
½ cup buttermilk
¼ teaspoon almond flavoring
1 stick butter, softened
1 cup sugar
Food coloring if desired
Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9-inch round cake pan with nonstick spray, and line the pan with parchment. Spray the parchment. Set the prepared pan aside.
In a large mixing bowl, place the flour, baking powder and salt; mix together.
Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake about 40 minutes until the cake springs back in the center when poked, and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.
Cool cake thoroughly.
¾ cup Pistacchiosa
When the cake is cooled, remove it from the pan, peel off the parchment and replace the cake, face up, on a platter.
Using a serrated bread knife, slice the cake horizontally across to make two equivalent layers. Set the top layer on a large plate and spread the bottom layer with the Pistacchiosa.
Replace the top layer.
1 bag dark chocolate chips
1 cup heavy cream
Place the chips in a medium-sized glass bowl with a lid.
In a small saucepan, heat the cream just short of boiling; tiny bubbles will appear around the perimeter. Pour the hot cream over the chips, jiggle the bowl slightly to make sure the chips are submerged and cover the bowl for 2 minutes.
Remove the cover and whisk the mixture until completely smooth. If the chips do not melt, place the bowl in the microwave on 30 percent power at 30-second intervals, stirring after each interval until the ganache is totally smooth.
Pour the ganache over the prepared cake. Let it set for about an hour, and serve.
Keri White is a Philadelphia-area food writer.