Story By Ann Cipperly
As spring’s pageantry of colors unfolds in azaleas and dogwoods in East Alabama, celebrate the season of rebirth with a scrumptious menu capturing the flavors of the season. Whether it is Easter, a bridal shower, club luncheon, friend’s birthday or getting friends together to savor the season, plan a menu to include fresh spring favorites.
To avoid spending time in the kitchen the day of the luncheon, rely on make-ahead recipes. Entertaining is stress-free when all of the dishes are prepared ahead and waiting to be placed in the oven or removed from the refrigerator and served.
Set the table a day ahead, and bring in a bouquet of spring flowers from the garden for a simple arrangement for the table.
Have as much done ahead of time as possible in order to relax on the day of the luncheon.
Invite family and friends for a wonderful meal to share together either indoors, on the patio or porch while spring flowers are in bloom. Linger over a yummy dessert, enjoying conversation and time together.
Select from the following recipes to create a celebratory occasion. Welcome the arrival of spring with a luncheon or supper, featuring the flavors of the South.
Tomato Pesto Tarts
– 1 pkg. miniature phyllo tart shells
– 1/3 cup mayonnaise
– . cup mozzarella cheese
– 3 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
– 2 tsp. basil pesto
– 1/8 tsp. pepper
– 2 chopped plum tomatoes
Combine filling ingredients. Spoon filling evenly into
miniature phyllo tart shells. Bake at 375 degrees for 12
minutes. Makes 15 tarts. Easy to double.
Smoked Salmon Mousse Tarts or Spread
– 4 oz. pkg. smoked salmon
– 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
– 1/2 cup heavy cream
– 4 Tbsp. butter
– 1 pkg. miniature phyllo pastry tarts
– Capers, dill for garnish
Combine salmon and lemon juice in food processor; blend until smooth. Add butter and then cream; process until smooth.
Can make ahead.
Bake pastry tarts as directed on package; cool. Fill pastry cups.
Top each one with a caper and sprinkle dill over top.
Store in refrigerator until ready to serve.
Smoked Salmon Spread:
Instead of pastry tarts, place salmon mousse in a small bowl and serve with crackers or toasted bread squares. Offer assorted toppings, such as capers, dill and finely chopped red onion.
Marinated Fresh Asparagus Salad with
Makes a lovely luncheon dish and can be prepared ahead.
– 1 lb. fresh asparagus
– Leaf lettuce
– 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
– 2 tsp. salt
– 2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
– 2/3 cup olive oil
– 1 ½ tsp. sugar
– ½ tsp. Tabasco, optional
– 3 Tbsp. chopped green onions
– 1 Tbsp. lemon juice-
– 2 Tbsp. chopped parsley
– Dash of pepper
– ¼ cup pimiento stuffed green olives, sliced
– Small jar chopped pimiento, fresh chopped tomatoes or sliced boiled eggs with parsley for garnish
Steam asparagus until just tender; plunge into ice water to stop cooking. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine vinegar, salt and mustard. Slowly add oil, beating well. Add remaining ingredients. Pour over asparagus; refrigerate overnight. When ready to serve, line platter with leaf lettuce.
Arrange asparagus on lettuce and garnish with topping of choice. Can serve remaining dressing on the side, if desired.
Baked Stuffed Chicken Breasts
with Fresh Tomato Balsamic Sauce
Can be made ahead.
– 4 (6 oz.) boneless chicken breast halves or thighs
– 4 thin slices prosciutto, trimmed of fat, or ham
– 4 slices Swiss cheese
– 4 basil or fresh spinach leaves, optional
– 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Fresh Tomato Balsamic Sauce:
– 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
– 1 bunch green onions, sliced
– 1 1/2 to 2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
– 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
– 1/4 cup or more chicken stock
– Salt and pepper to taste
Place chicken cut side up on cutting board; salt and pepper both sides. Place a piece of clear plastic wrap over or put in a baggie to make it easier to handle. Working from the center out, pound lightly with a meat mallet. Remove wrap.
Place a slice of prosciutto on each piece of chicken and cover with cheese. Top with basil leaves, if desired. Tuck in sides; roll up jelly-roll style, pressing to seal well.
Place chicken breasts into baking dish. Drizzle about 2 Tbsp. olive oil over chicken. Bake at 350 for 1 hour.
To make sauce, add 1 Tbsp. olive oil to skillet along with green onions and cook over moderate heat until softened. Add tomatoes and cook, tossing until heated through, about 2 minutes. Add vinegar and cook until nearly evaporated, about 30 seconds. Add stock, season with salt and pepper and simmer until slightly reduced for about 2 minutes. Spoon sauce over chicken and serve.
To make ahead: assemble chicken and store in refrigerator until ready to bake. Prepare grape tomato sauce ahead and reheat before pouring over chicken.
Individual Strawberry Shortcakes
– 3 1/2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced
– 1/3 cup sugar (or more to taste depending upon sweetness of strawberries)
– 1/3 cup fresh orange juice
– 2 tsp. vanilla
– 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
– 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
– 3 Tbsp. sugar
– 1/2 Tbsp. vanilla
– 1 loaf of good quality pound cake (homemade or Sara Lee)
– Fresh mint leaves for garnish, optional
Mix one cup of strawberries with 1/3 cup sugar, orange juice, 2 tsp. vanilla and 2 tsp. lemon juice and pulse in food processor.
Slice remaining strawberries into 4ths and mix with the strawberry/vanilla juice mixture. Keep refrigerated if using later.
Slice pound cake into 3/4 inch slices and then cube.
Whip heavy cream, 3 Tbsp. sugar and ½ Tbsp. vanilla in a mixing bowl until soft peaks form.
To assemble: Layer pound cake cubes in martini glasses or individual bowls. Top with about 2 Tbsp. of strawberry mixture and whipped cream. Garnish with mint sprig.
Mama’s Lemonade Tea
– 5 cups water
3 family size tea bags
– 6 oz. frozen lemonade concentrate
– 1 to 1 1/4 cups sugar
– Lemon slices
Place five cups of water and three family size teabags in a large container and microwave on high for 10 minutes. Remove teabags. Add frozen lemonade concentrate and sugar to the tea mixture. Stir until sugar is dissolved and concentrate is completely blended.
Pour into a 64 ounce pitcher and add as much water as is needed to fill the container. Add almond extract, if desired.
Refrigerate until chilled. Add lemon slices just before serving.
– Two 8 oz. pkg. frozen tart pie shells
– Bake shells as directed on package; set aside.
– 4 egg yolks
– 1½ cups sugar
– 1½ tsp. vanilla
– 2½ cups milk
– 4 Tbsp. cornstarch
– 2 Tbsp. light Karo syrup
– Dash of salt
– 1 can shredded coconut, divided
– ½ stick butter
Combine dry ingredients; add egg yolks, vanilla, milk, syrup, coconut (reserving some for topping) and butter. Cook in heavy saucepan until mixture thickens. Pour into baked tart shells.
– 4 egg whites at room temperature
– ½ cup sugar
– . tsp. cream of tartar
– . tsp. salt
Beat egg whites with remaining ingredients until soft peaks form.
Top pie tarts with meringue and press on reserved coconut. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about five minutes until golden brown. Makes 16 tarts.
Spring Coconut Cake with Lemon Filling
Edith Smith T Walker
– 1 3/4 cups butter, softened
– 1/4 cup Crisco shortening
– 2 cups sugar
– 4 eggs
– 3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
– 3 tsp. baking powder
– 1/4 tsp. salt
– 1½ tsp. coconut flavoring, optional (can use vanilla extract)
– 1 cup milk
Preheat oven to 350. Cream butter, Crisco and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each. Stir together remaining dry ingredients. Add flavoring to milk. Add milk and dry ingredients alternately to batter.
Bake in three 9-inch greased and floured pans for 25 minutes.
Allow to cool. Remove from pans and spread lemon filling between inner layers and coconut icing on the top.
– 1 cup sugar
– 1/4 cup cornstarch
– 1 cup boiling water
– 4 egg yolks, lightly beaten
– 2 tsp. grated lemon rind
– 1/3 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
– 2 Tbsp. butter
Combine sugar and cornstarch in saucepan; whisk in one cup boiling water. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until dissolved. Slowly whisk in 1/4 of hot sugar mixture into egg yolks, then add back to sugar mixture in pan. Continue to whisk; add lemon rind and juice. Cook until mixture is thickened, just a couple of minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in butter. Let cool and stir occasionally.
– 1/2 cup butter, softened
– 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese softened
– 16 oz. pkg. powdered sugar
– 1½ tsp. coconut flavoring
– 1 pkg. angel flake coconut
Beat butter and cream cheese until creamy. Gradually add powdered sugar and flavoring. Spread on top and sides of cake.
Pat coconut to cover.