Sunday, February 24, 2013

Holiday Ready - Easter Sides, Salads, and Hors D'oeuvres

Have you seen the calendar yet? 
                                                    Easter's coming early this year. 

Because March 31 seems to be right around the corner, I started thinking about Spring Side Dishes fit for my favorite holiday, and adaptable for any seasonal party you may be gearing up for. Whether you are attending the holiday somewhere else or hosting yourself, these easy Sides, Salads, and Hors D'oeuvres will help you stay one step ahead of the curve. Today's recipe round up of some of Neurotic Kitchen's greatest hits includes tried and true dishes that will please a crowd with minimal effort on your part. Here we go: 

Grilled Apricots with Burrata, Prosciutto and Arugula
Serves 8
Adapted from Food and Wine - Travis Lett
Use as: A showstopping salad to kick off the meal 

Photo: NK

5 or 6 Stone Fruits or Pears of your choice, pitted and halved or quartered
1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil plus more for brushing on fruit before you grill
1.5 Tablespoons fresh Lemon Juice 
Sea Salt and freshly ground Pepper
1/2 a small head of Radicchio, cored and sliced into thin ribbons
5 Oz of Baby Arugula or Wild Arugula
3/4 Lb Burrata Cheese (one or two large rounds work best) cut into chunks
1/3 Lb sliced Prosciutto or other thin sliced cold cut of your choice (Country Ham, Speck)
1/2 Cup Balsamic Vinegar   

Prepare your Balsamic Reduction - This can be done one or two days ahead if you prefer. Simply bring the 1/2 Cup Balsamic Vinegar to a rapid boil over medium heat, swirling the pan occasionally. Continue to boil for 5 minutes or more until the liquid reduces and becomes quite syrupy. Remove from heat, cool, and pour into an airtight container. If not using immediately, refrigerate.

Brush Fruits on the cut side with oil. Set on a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes until lightly charred. Set aside to cool.

Mix up Dressing separately in a small bowl - Combine Lemon Juice, Olive Oil, and Salt and Pepper to taste. Mix thoroughly.

Toss Arugula with Radicchio in another large bowl. Add Fruit and slowly add dressing to bowl. You may not need to use all of the dressing, so drizzle it and toss salad gently until you have the desired amount. 

To Assemble: Lay the Arugula and Radicchio mixture in small clusters on a large platter. Arrange grilled fruits to your liking around the platter. Dot with Burrata and add slices of Prosciutto that have been rolled up. Drizzle everything with the Balsamic Reduction. 

Delicious Crab Bites, Photo: NK
Crab Salad Bites on Cucumber 
Adapted from the Food Network Kitchens
Serves 6 - 8 
Use as: an elegant but satisfying pre-dinner bite/light hors d'oeuvre

1 Pound Lump Crabmeat, picked over for shells. 
1 stalk Celery, cut into an 1/8 inch dice
5 Tablespoons Fresh Chives, thinly sliced
1 Tablespoon Minced Fresh Tarragon
1/4 Cup + 1 Tablespoon Low Fat Mayonnaise
2.5 Tablespoons Sour Cream
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
1/2 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
Kosher Salt
Freshly Ground Pepper
3 Large Thick Cucumbers peeled and sliced into centimeter thick rounds. (You can also create a few cucumber cups if you like - click HERE for the how to.) 

In a medium bowl, lightly toss Crab, Tarragon, Chives and Celery together.  

In a small bowl, mix Sour Cream, Mayonnaise, Lemon Juice, Dijon Mustard and Salt and Pepper to Taste. Carefully mix into the Crab bowl. 

Spoon the Crab Salad onto the Cucumber Chips or carefully into the Cucumber Cups. 
Sprinkle some extra Chives to Garnish. Note - you can use any leftovers to make a Crab Roll Sandwich or Serve over a salad. 

French Cheese & Charcuterie Plate 
Servings Vary
Use as: an hors d'oeuvre course
Photo: NK

Choose 3 or more types of cheese with varying firmness - Cow, Goat and Sheep
We used:  
Boucheron - Runny Goat, minimal tanginess & pleasant salinity
Ossau Iraty - Firm Mild Sheep's milk from the French Pyrenees
Saint Nectaire - Earthy Tasting Washed Rind Cow's milk

And now for the rest:

Saucisson Sec - French Dried Sausage similar to Soppressata, we like D'Artagnan Brand

Blackberry Jam - goes nicely with the Ossau Iraty, we prefer Bonne Maman brand
Country Pate, also known as Pate de Campagne, a rustic-style chunky pate
Pate, Mustard & Cornichon Plate, NK

Pate Accompaniments: 

Cornichon Pickles, for the pate
Grainy Mustard, for the pate
Fruit, Starches, and Garnishes:
Grain Bread or Rye, for the pate
Dried Fruit, we used Turkish Apricots
Forelle Pears, because they are gorgeous 
Grapes - for taste, color and height
Crackers - nothing beats Carr's brand
Crusty French Baguette sliced thin
Frisee Lettuce and Parsley 

Design: Half the fun of a cheese plate is styling it. Experiment with varying heights and colors, and always be sure to let your creativity run wild. 

Oak Leaf Lettuce Salad with Blue Cheese and Black Grapes
Adapted from Food and Wine
Serves 4

Use as: a lighter side salad accompaniment

Photo: NK

3/4 cups Seedless Black Grapes, halved
20-25 Almonds, halved
Red Oak Leaf Lettuce (about 8 cups) - Gotham Greens brand available on Freshdirect
3 ounces Valdeon Blue Cheese, crumbled (Cabrales or Roquefort work well too)

For the Shallot Vinaigrette:    
1.5 Tablespoons diced Shallot
1/2 teaspoon Agave Nectar or Honey
1 Tablespoon Sherry Vinegar
2.5 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt

Wash and thoroughly dry lettuce leaves, tearing in half any larger ones.

To prepare the Vinaigrette, put Shallots in a small bowl, add Agave Nectar and Vinegar and stir.

Stream in Olive Oil, whisking constantly to emulsify. Season with salt.

Dress lettuce and toss in Grapes and Almonds. Add Salt and Pepper to taste.
Plate Salad and top with Blue Cheese Crumbles

Persimmon Carpaccio with Prosciutto and Manchego
Adapted from Zen Can Cook
Serves 4 
Use as: an elegant individually plated make-ahead appetizer

Photo: NK

2 Ripe Fuyu Persimmons, peeled
5 Ounces Frisee and Arugula Mix
1/4 Lb Imported Prosciutto
Aged Manchego, shaved (if you buy 1/4 Lb slab it will be more than enough)
1/4 Cup Walnuts, toasted
Juice of 1/2 a Lemon
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil + extra for brushing
Sea Salt
Black Pepper
1/2 Cup Pear Balsamic Vinegar (regular is fine too)


Toast Walnuts briefly if you have not already. 

Set a pot over low to medium heat and pour in Pear Balsamic Vinegar. Keep an eye on it and bring Vinegar to a boil in a small saucepan. Cook, stirring often, until the liquid is reduced and syrupy. Turn off heat. 

Meanwhile, peel the Persimmons and thinly slice them. You can use a mandoline for this but a sharp knife works well too, especially if the Persimmon is super ripe.

Set 4 to 6 slices of Persimmon on each serving plate, overlapping slightly in a clover shape (see photo above). Brush with a bit of Olive Oil and sprinkle with Salt.

Combine the Lettuce Mix with the Olive Oil and Lemon Juice and season with a bit of Salt and Black Pepper. 

To assemble, place one slice of Prosciutto (folded or flat) over the Persimmon. Sprinkle with Manchego and Walnuts. Place another slice of Prosciutto atop that, and again, sprinkle with Manchego and Walnuts. Finally, place mixed Salad on top of it all and sprinkle with Balsamic Reduction. If not serving immediately, leave off the Balsamic Reduction until ready to serve. 

ilili Brussels Sprouts
Lightly Adapted from ilili Restaurant, NYC 

Serves 2-3 as a side dish, easily adaptable for more people. 
Use as: an amazing vegetable side that can be mostly made ahead and tastes just great a room temperature as well

Photo: NK

1 lb Brussels Sprouts
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
Mint Yogurt, Recipe Follows*
Fig Puree, Recipe Follows*  
4 Tablespoon Toasted Walnuts, slightly crumbled. 
6 - 8 Tablespoons Seedless Red Grapes sliced into halves or thirds.
1/2 teaspoon Sherry Vinegar  or to taste
Equipment - a baking sheet with sides or shallow roasting pan and 2 one gallon ZipLoc bags

Fig Puree*  
Yields enough for 1 batch serving 2-3
Can be prepared a day ahead and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature or warm slightly before using.
1/2 Cup Water
1/2 Cup Fig jam 
Method - Combine Jam and Water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Allow to cook, gently boiling, for another 2-3 minutes or so, stirring occasionally until mixture thickens and is reduced by half. Remove from the heat and strain out and discard any solids. Alternatively, you can puree the mixture in a mini blender. Set aside. 

Mint Yogurt*
Yields enough for 1 batch serving 2-3 plus extra.Can be prepared several hours ahead and refrigerated. 
3/4 Cup (6 Oz) Plain Low Fat Yogurt - Emmi Swiss has great consistency and flavor
1 Tablespoon Water
3 Heaping Tbsp Mint, very finely minced
1/4 to 1/2 Teaspoon Salt* 

Method - Combine Yogurt, Mint, and Water. Stir to incorporate. Next, start by stirring in a 1/4 teaspoon of Salt first and taste.* If you choose to add another 1/4 teaspoon Salt, you may find the Yogurt very salty. In the end, when all flavors are combined, the extra saltiness becomes very balanced, but I have a salty palate so use your discretion! You can always add more Salt later if you prefer. 

NK's Smoked Salmon Canapes with Creme Fraiche on Blini
Serves 6 (2-3 Blini per person)
Use as: a light cocktail bite before appetizers

Photo: NK

8 Ounces Organic Smoked Irish Salmon
5 Ounces Creme Fraiche
1 small bunch of Fresh Dill
1 Lemon, zested with a microplane, and 7 or 8 long strips of zest cut in half (optional)
1/2 Cucumber, seeded and minced
1 Shallot, minced
3 Tablespoons Lemon Juice 
Black Pepper
18-20 Premade Cocktail Sized Blini, prepared according to package directions (ie warmed in the microwave or baked at 350 for 4 minutes - once cooked, they are fine served at room temp).         
Prepare Cocktail Blini as directed.
On a cutting surface, Stack Smoked Salmon Slices in layers and slice thin strips vertically. 
Turn your cutting surface ninety degrees, and slice the Salmon again vertically. This will create fine dice. Place diced Salmon in a medium bowl. 
Add grated Lemon Zest to Salmon mixture, and set the optional strips of Zest aside for garnishing later on.  
Combine Minced Cucumber, Minced Shallot, and Lemon Juice into Salmon Mixture. Add ample amount of Black Pepper to taste. Recipe can be prepared up to this point up to 6 hours before serving. Just cover mixture and place in the fridge if you choose. When ready to assemble, give the mixture a stir and add more Lemon Juice as desired.

To plate, top Cocktail Blini with a dollop Creme Fraiche. Spread Creme Fraiche into a flat circle, leaving some of the Blini edge uncovered. Top with the Salmon Mixture and dot with optional Zest Strip and a sprig of Fresh Dill. If not serving immediately,
 cool in the fridge up to an hour and allow to sit a few moments outside the fridge before putting out. The ideal temp for this hor's d'oeuvre is just a smidge cooler than room temp, but not fully chilled. 

Finally, if you are looking for a meatless main dish or Spring pasta side, Farmers Market Veggie Pasta is a great idea:

Whole Wheat Fusilli, Spring Garlic, Mushrooms, Asparagus Coins & Oven Dried Tomatoes
Loosely adapted from the FruitGuys Almanac
Serves 2 as a main, 4 as an appetizer - double the recipe for a crowd
Use as: A great side dish or Vegetarian Entree 

Photo: NK

1/2 Lb Whole Wheat Fusilli or other pasta of your choice
2 large stalks of Spring Garlic
5-7 Ounces Mixed Fancy Mushrooms (we used Beech and Hen of the Woods aka Maitake) 
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon salted Butter
1/4 Cup Lemon Juice
2 Tablespoons White Wine
4 Tablespoons minced Chives plus several whole Chives reserved for garnish. 
1 pinch Crushed Red Pepper Flake 
Kosher Salt, 1 Tablespoon for pasta water plus more for seasoning
Black Pepper
Optional pinch of Crushed Red Pepper
1/4 Cup Parmesan Cheese, freshly grated
*Asparagus Coins (Optionally prepare ahead, recipe below)
*Oven Dried Tomatoes ( Make at least one day ahead, recipe below)

Before you begin, prepare your Asparagus Coins (the day before or day of) and set aside the Oven Dried Tomatoes you prepared the day before. Recipes for both are listed if you scroll all the way down. 

Set a large pasta pot to boil with 1 Tablespoon Kosher Salt. Once boiling, prepare Pasta according to the box instructions.

Chop the white bulb ends of the Spring Garlic off. Mince the white bulbs until you have about 2 Tablespoons. Now, slice the green part of the stalks crosswise into rings until you have about 3 Tablespoons. Set aside 1 Tablespoon of the green parts to use as garnish when the dish is complete.

In a saute pan, heat 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil and 1 Tablespoon Butter over medium flame until Butter is melted. Add 2 Tablespoons minced Garlic (white parts) and 2 Tablespoons Sliced Garlic stalk (green parts). Saute until garlic becomes aromatic, about 2 minutes, taking care not to let the garlic burn. Add Mushrooms and Wine and sauté over low to medium heat for about 5 minutes or until mushrooms have softened and have created some moisture. Turn off the heat. 

When Pasta has cooked, drain fully (reserving some cooking liquid) and return to pasta pot. To the pasta pot, stir in the Mushrooms, Lemon Juice, Minced Chives, and one or two Tablespoons of reserved Pasta Water. Toss the contents well and season generously with Salt and Pepper to taste. Add the optional Crushed Red Pepper. Finally, stir in the Oven Dried Tomatoes and Asparagus Coins. 

To serve, scoop pasta into bowls, sprinkle with grated parmesan and the reserved garlic greens you set aside. Optionally garnish with a few whole chives. 

*Asparagus Coins
Serves 2
6-8 stalks of Asparagus, bottoms trimmed, tops cut off. 

Asparagus Coins, Photo: NK
Simply line stalks up and slice them into 1/4 inch coins.  
To cook, toss in boiling water for 60 seconds before draining and blanching in cold water. 
Season as desired.

Can be prepared up to 2 days ahead and stored in the fridge in an air-tight container. You can even skip the cooking and serve raw if you like. 

Asparagus coins are great in pastas, mixed into rice, or even as an addition to soups and salads.

*Oven Dried Tomatoes
2 Servings 
1 Lb or more medium or large Tomatoes of your choice, for this recipe Plum or Campari would work best.
Tomatoes Ready to Cook, Photo: NK
Kosher Salt
1/4 Cup Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 250. 
Slice Tomatoes to about 1/4 or 1/3 inch thick. Just be sure to keep them uniformly thick. 
Place Tomatoes on a wire rack over a baking sheet with sides.
Drizzle with olive oil and top with salt, a small pinch of sugar, and black pepper.
Cook for 2.5 to 3 hours until dried and wrinkled. 

Can be stored in an air-tight container in the fridge for 3-5 days. They will lose some of their dryness but will still taste delicious. 

Wonderful tossed into pastas, as a pizza topping, delicious on their own, or even as a crostini or sandwich topping. Can be stored in an air-tight container in the fridge for 3-5 days. They will lose some of their dryness but will still taste delicious. 


1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much. i was looking for a springy pasta dish to add as my veg option for easter. this looks good...