Smoked Salmon and Dill Mini Sandwiches. Photos by Dan Kacvinski. Food coordinated by Judy Zeidler
Perhaps the most anticipated family event during May is Mother’s Day. If you are cooking for your wife, mom or mother-in-law for the first time, why not delight her with a delicious brunch, dinner or dessert?
It’s easier than you might think to create a meal she will remember — especially if you can get the rest of the family to help.
Begin with an appetizer served with champagne or Prosecco and perhaps mini sandwiches like egg and arugula or smoked salmon and dill that can be prepared in advance.
And making a good Caesar salad is simpler than you might think. All you have to do is combine chopped romaine lettuce with a generous amount of grated Parmesan, mashed anchovies and olive oil.
Is a raw egg important to your salad? No! But you could add a little balsamic vinegar. Taste before adding salt, as the cheese and anchovies may be slightly salty.
For the main course, consider bouillabaisse, a fish stew, but made the kosher way. It’s easy; just don’t use shellfish, swordfish or any other non-kosher seafood. The fish stew is ideal for a large group — use a larger pot and double or triple the recipe.
I still remember the first time I met Julia Child and explained to her how I made her bouillabaisse recipe with the necessary changes for the kosher requirements. She was delighted at the idea and always spoke of it whenever we met.
Don’t forget to include the rouille that is served on toasted bread. I make the classic version of rouille and sometimes add fresh basil for an extra-piquant taste.
For dessert, strawberries are a favorite that I always enjoy, especially at this time of year. When ripe, they are luscious, beautiful, juicy and sensual in flavor.
Serve them in individual bowls on top of sour cream, yogurt or fromage blanc, a thicker, silkier version of the other two. Drizzle them with lemon-flavored honey, and everyone will be happy.
If you have extra time, consider making everyone’s favorite, chocolate chip cookies. You can make the dough days in advance, and refrigerate until ready to bake. Nothing tastes better served warm, right out of the oven.
SMOKED SALMON AND DILL MINI SANDWICHES
∗ Cream Cheese Mixture (recipe follows)
∗ 12 very thin slices whole-wheat honey sandwich bread
∗ 12 slices smoked salmon
∗ 1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
∗ Fresh dill sprigs for garnish
∗ Prepare Cream Cheese Mixture.
Lay out 12 slices of bread, and spread bread slices with a thin layer of Cream Cheese Mixture. Place smoked salmon on 6 of the slices; sprinkle with minced fresh dill. Top with the remaining 6 slices of bread, cream cheese side down. Place the sandwiches on a baking sheet and wrap with plastic.
Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Place the sandwiches on a cutting board. Using a very sharp knife, cut off the crusts (optional) and cut each large sandwich diagonally twice to make a total of 24 small triangles. To serve, arrange on plates and garnish with sprigs of dill.
Makes 24 mini sandwiches.
CREAM CHEESE MIXTURE
∗ 1 cup cream cheese, room temperature
∗ 1 teaspoon minced garlic
∗ 2 tablespoons minced scallions
∗ 2 tablespoons minced fresh dill
∗ 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
∗ Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Combine the cream cheese, garlic, scallions and dill in a food processor or bowl using a fork and beat until mixed; do not whip. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Makes about 1 1/4 cups.
THE BEST CAESAR SALAD
∗ 2 heads romaine lettuce, hearts and tender leaves only
∗ 1 cup Toasted Oil-Free Croutons (recipe follows)
∗ 2 tablespoons mashed anchovies (about 8 anchovy fillets)
∗ 1/4 cup olive oil
∗ 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (optional)
∗ 4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Separate the lettuce leaves, and discard any coarse outer leaves. Wash, drain well, pat dry with paper towels, and tear into pieces. Chill.
Prepare Toasted Oil-Free Croutons; set aside.
In a large glass bowl, toss the lettuce with the mashed anchovies, olive oil and balsamic vinegar to coat. Add Parmesan cheese and toss. Spoon onto 6 to 8 chilled salad plates and top with croutons.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.
TOASTED OIL-FREE CROUTONS
∗ 1 loaf good-quality white or egg bread, unsliced
Preheat oven to 250 F.
Remove crusts from the bread, and cut the loaf into 1/4-inch slices. Stack the slices and cut into 1/4-by-1 1/2-inch strips. Place strips in a single layer on a baking sheet, and bake until lightly golden and crisp, about 20 minutes. (Leftover croutons can be stored in plastic bags in the refrigerator or freezer and toasted just before serving.)
Makes about 4 cups.
BOUILLABAISSE WITH ROUILLE (FISH STEW WITH GARLIC SAUCE)
∗ Classic Rouille (recipe follows)
∗ 1/4 cup olive oil
∗ 2 onions, diced
∗ 2 leeks (white and green parts), thinly sliced
∗ 3 garlic cloves, minced
∗ 4 celery stalks, sliced
∗ 2 carrots, thinly sliced
∗ 1 can (28 ounces) whole tomatoes or 3 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
∗ 1 tablespoon tomato paste
∗ 1 teaspoon thyme
∗ 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
∗ 2 bay leaves
∗ 3 to 4 cups dry white wine
∗ Pinch saffron (optional)
∗ 5 cups vegetable broth
∗ 3 to 4 pounds white firm-fleshed fish fillets (such as halibut, whitefish or sea bass), cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
∗ 2 or 3 potatoes, peeled, diced and parboiled
∗ Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
∗ Tabasco sauce to taste
∗ 2 large carrots, cut into julienne strips, parboiled and drained
Prepare Classic Rouille; set aside.
Heat oil in a large saucepan; sauté onions, leeks and garlic until tender but not brown, about 5 minutes. Add celery and carrots; simmer 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, thyme, fennel seeds, bay leaves and 3 cups wine. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 20 to 30 minutes. Add saffron and vegetable broth. Simmer for 1 hour.
Add the fish and potatoes. Season to taste with salt, pepper and Tabasco sauce. Simmer 15 to 20 minutes or until the fish is cooked through; do not overcook. Ladle into hot soup bowls, and garnish with the julienned carrots. Let guests add Classic Rouille to taste.
Makes 8 to 10 servings.
∗ 4 garlic cloves
∗ 1/2 roasted red bell pepper
∗ 2 slices white bread, crusts trimmed
∗ 2 tablespoons tomato paste
∗ 1 teaspoon paprika (optional)
∗ 4 to 5 drops Tabasco sauce
∗ 1/2 cup olive oil
∗ 1/2 to 1 cup vegetable broth
In a food processor or blender, process the garlic, bell pepper, bread, tomato paste, paprika, Tabasco sauce, olive oil and 1/2 cup vegetable broth, turning the machine on and off for 5 seconds.
Then continue processing 10 seconds to make a smooth paste. Add additional broth if needed.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups.
STRAWBERRIES WITH FROMAGE BLANC AND LEMON HONEY
Strawberries with fromage blanc and lemon honey
∗ 1 1/4 cups (about 9 ounces) fromage blanc, sour cream or yogurt
∗ 1/4 cup heavy cream
∗ 2 pints strawberries, preferably small
∗ 1/2 cup honey
∗ Finely shredded zest of 1 1/2 lemons
In a bowl, whisk together the fromage blanc and cream until very smooth. Divide the mixture evenly among 6 shallow bowls.
Set aside 6 to 12 small, perfect berries. Hull the remaining berries and halve or quarter lengthwise if large. Scatter the berries over the fromage mixture in each bowl.
In a glass measuring cup, combine the honey and lemon zest; microwave until it begins to bubble, about 30 seconds. Let cool about 5 minutes. Drizzle the warm honey over the berries and fromage blanc. Top each with 1 or 2 of the reserved berries.
Makes 6 servings.
EGG AND ARUGULA MINI SANDWICHES
∗ 2 large eggs, hard-cooked, peeled and chopped
∗ 1 or 2 tablespoons diced fresh fennel
∗ 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh arugula
∗ 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
∗ Salt and pepper to taste
∗ 12 very thin slices whole-wheat honey sandwich bread
∗ 24 whole arugula leaves
In a medium bowl, mash the eggs using a fork. Stir in the fennel, chopped arugula and mayonnaise.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Spread 6 bread slices with the egg mixture. Then top each with 4 whole arugula leaves and the remaining 6 bread slices. Using a very sharp knife, cut off the crusts (optional) and cut each large sandwich diagonally twice to make a total of 24 small triangles.
Makes 24 mini sandwiches.
DOUBLE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
I’ve been baking chocolate chip cookies since I was 9 years old, and I know a good recipe when I see one. This version is irresistible to chocolate lovers — dense and incredibly chocolaty, with both chocolate chips and chocolate chunks.
∗ 3/4 pound plus 1 tablespoon margarine, at room temperature
∗ 1 cup granulated sugar
∗ 1 cup light brown sugar
∗ 2 eggs
∗ 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
∗ 12 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
∗ 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
∗ 1 1/2 cups toasted, chopped pecans
∗ 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 325 F.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, cream 3/4 pound margarine and both sugars. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and beat until light and airy. Blend in the vanilla and chopped chocolate. Add the flour and beat for 20 seconds. Stir in the nuts and chocolate chips, and mix by hand just until well blended. (The chopped chocolate and chocolate chips should not be too soft or the dough will turn brown and not bake properly. Do not overmix after adding chopped chocolate or chocolate chips.) Line baking sheets with parchment paper, aluminum foil or a silicone baking mat. Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon margarine and brush it over parchment paper or foil. Use a small ice cream scoop to scoop out the dough, and transfer to the prepared baking sheets. (Bake in batches, if necessary.) Press dough with the palm of your hand to flatten cookies. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour.
Bake cookies 6 minutes in preheated oven, then turn baking sheet for even baking. Bake 6 minutes longer, turn baking sheet again, and bake 3 minutes longer. (Total baking time is 15 minutes.)
Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool.
Makes about 5 dozen cookies.