Spring recipes that will dazzle

| April 1, 2019 | 0 Comments
Macadamia, Shrimp and Avocado Timbales make a nice first course and can be adapted into a canapé for cocktail parties as well. (Photo: Larry Dickenson)

Macadamia, Shrimp and Avocado Timbales make a nice first course and can be adapted into a canapé for cocktail parties as well. (Photo: Larry Dickenson)

In this issue, as we face a well-deserved spring, I feature recipes that always delight guests with the simple complexity of ingredients that strategically play off one another in terms of flavours, textures and even colours. The appetizer and dessert recipes can also be modified to become cocktail party favourites.

Macadamia, Shrimp and Avocado Timbales
Makes 4 servings

Everyone appreciates a simple, but tantalizing, combination that can be served as a first course at the table. The crunchy macadamia shrimp topping becomes even more scrumptious when set on creamy cubes of avocado drizzled with Tarragon Hollandaise Mayonnaise. (For cocktail events with guests holding drink glasses, the recipe can be modified to be served on Oriental porcelain spoons. This recipe makes approximately 18 small bites.)

1 cup (250 mL) avocado, cut into ¼-inch (0.6 cm) cubes
2½ tbsp (30 mL) Tarragon Hollandaise Mayonnaise*
Macadamia Aioli Shrimp Topping:
½ cup (125 mL) coarsely diced shrimps (peeled and cooked)
¼ cup (60 mL) coarsely chopped macadamia nuts
2 tsp (10 mL) chopped fresh chives
½ to 1 tsp (3 to 5 mL) finely chopped fresh garlic
½ tsp (3 mL) lemon juice
A drop of sriracha hot chili sauce
1 tbsp (15 mL) mayonnaise
To taste, salt (optional)

Garnish (optional)
Fresh herbs (dill, chives, tarragon) or deep-fried sprigs of fresh tarragon
1. To make the Macadamia Aioli Shrimp Topping, toss together shrimp, nuts, chives, garlic, lemon juice and sriracha sauce. Add mayonnaise and toss. Season with salt if necessary. (Makes about 3/4 cup or 180 mL.)
2. To present as free-standing timbales, use a cylinder (2 inches or 6 cm in diameter) to assist in the construction. For individual servings, place a cylinder in the centre of a luncheon plate or a wide-rimmed soup dish, add 1/3 tsp (2 mL) of Tarragon Hollandaise Mayonnaise, then 2 tbsp (30 mL) of avocado cubes, pressing avocado down gently into the bottom of the cylinder. Drizzle avocado with about 3/4 tsp (4 mL) of Tarragon Hollandaise Mayonnaise. Repeat the procedure adding the same amounts of diced avocado and Tarragon Hollandaise Mayonnaise drizzle.
3. Top each serving with one quarter of the Macadamia Aioli Shrimp Topping (about 3 tbsp or 45 mL).
4. Garnish the timbales artistically with fresh herbs (or deep-fried sprigs of fresh tarragon) and if desired, plates/soup dishes with drizzles of Tarragon Hollandaise Mayonnaise.
* To make 1/3 cup (80 mL) of Tarragon Hollandaise Mayonnaise, combine 1/3 cup (80 mL) of mayonnaise, 3/4 tsp (4 mL) of prepared mustard (French’s for example) and a pinch of crushed dried tarragon leaves.

Cinnamon-crusted haddock is quick and easy to prepare. (Photo: Larry Dickenson)

Cinnamon-crusted haddock is quick and easy to prepare. (Photo: Larry Dickenson)

Cinnamon-crusted Haddock 
Makes 4 servings

My husband used to say that this recipe was awesome. It is quick and easy to prepare while offering unusually exciting flavours. Think of ground cinnamon and grated fresh gingerroot rapidly seared with delicate haddock fillets. An accompanying White Wine Cream Sauce punctuated with drizzles of blackberry jam makes this dish a culinary experience not to be missed. To contribute to the wow factor, try serving the fillets on a cushion of mushroom wild rice and crown the fillets with frenched green beans bathed lightly with sesame oil. Note: Previously frozen fillets, which are less expensive, work well.

1 1/3 lb (600 g) haddock fillets, skin removed
1 1/3 tbsp (20 mL) peeled and grated fresh gingerroot
1 tbsp (15 mL) ground cinnamon
To taste, salt
3 tbsp (45 mL) canola oil
1 1/3 cups (325 mL) White Wine Cream Sauce (recipe follows)
1 1/2 tbsp (23 mL) blackberry jam, put through a sieve
Garnish: sprigs of fresh herbs
1. Rub all surfaces of fillets with gingerroot, sprinkle with cinnamon and season with salt.
2. Heat oil in 2 large non-stick skillets over medium-high heat. Add fish. Keep moving fillets and cook until first side is crisp (about 1-2 minutes). Carefully turn fillets over and reduce heat to low. Continue cooking second side and moving fillets until flesh flakes and just turns opaque — another 1 to 2 minutes or so. Transfer immediately to platter or individual plates.
3. Serve promptly with White Wine Cream Sauce and drizzles of sieved blackberry jam.

White Wine Cream Sauce
Makes 1 1/3 cups or about 325 mL
2 1/2 tsp (13 mL) instant chicken bouillon powder
1 1/3 tsp (7 mL) sandwich mustard
1 cup (250 mL) hot water
1 1/2 tsp (8 mL) finely chopped fresh garlic
1/3 tsp (2 mL) peeled and grated fresh gingerroot
1 1/3 tbsp (20 mL) butter
2 tbsp (30 mL) all-purpose flour
2 2/3 tbsp (40 mL) white wine
1/3 cup (80 mL) heavy cream (35 per cent fat)
2 tsp (10 mL) cognac (optional)
1. Dissolve chicken bouillon powder and mustard in hot water.
2. In a small saucepan, sauté garlic and ginger in melted butter over medium heat for about a minute; blend in flour and cook for another minute. Whisking constantly, add bouillon mixture and wine; whisk until smooth.
3. Reduce heat to medium-low; continuing to whisk constantly, add cream and bring sauce to a simmer. Allow sauce to simmer gently for a couple of minutes; remove from heat and, if desired, stir in cognac. The sauce may be stored refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for months.

Mushroom Wild Rice
Makes 3 1/2 cups or almost 1 litre (4 to 6 regular servings or about 10 cocktail buffet servings)

With its additions of garlic, ginger and crunchy almonds, this recipe gives a broader dimension of flavours and textures to the typical stellar combination of wild rice and mushrooms and it’s a perfect accompaniment for virtually everything — seafood, fish, game, beef, poultry and pork.

1 tsp (5 mL) finely chopped fresh garlic
1 tsp (5 mL) peeled and grated fresh ginger root
1/4 cup (60 mL) butter
1/4 cup (60 mL) peeled and diced shallot
2 1/2 cups or 8 oz (625 mL or 225 g) sliced mushroom caps
To taste  salt and crushed black peppercorns
2 cups (500 mL) cooked tasty wild rice (recipe follows)
1/4 cup (60 mL) toasted slivered almonds

1. In a large skillet over medium-low heat, sauté garlic and ginger in hot butter for about 1 minute. Add shallots and sauté carefully until transparent.
2. Add mushrooms, seasoning with salt and crushed black peppercorns; sauté over medium-high heat until just tender and slightly browned. Remove from heat.
3. Shortly before serving, heat mushroom mixture over medium-low heat. Stir in cooked wild rice; combine thoroughly and heat through, adding a few drops of water to keep mixture slightly moist. If necessary, adjust flavours by adding a touch of butter or garlic butter, salt and crushed black peppercorns. Cover and remove from heat immediately.
4. Stir in toasted almonds and serve.

Tasty Wild Rice
Makes 2 1/3 cups or 580 ml   (4 to 5 servings)

1 cup (250 mL) wild rice
1 cup (250 mL) cold water*
1/2 tsp (3 mL) finely chopped fresh garlic
2 tsp (10 mL) instant beef bouillon powder
1 1/2 tsp (8 mL) herb garlic butter (or butter)
To taste salt, optional

1. Rinse wild rice thoroughly. Place rice, water and garlic in a small saucepan over high heat; bring to a boil. Cover saucepan tightly and reduce heat to low.
2. Cook until grains are tender (about 40 to 45 minutes for very long-grain, top-quality wild rice). Grains will burst partially open, showing only some of the white interior. Avoid overcooking. During the last couple of minutes of cooking, stir in instant beef bouillon powder and combine well. It may be necessary to add touches of water during the final stages of cooking. Rice can be cooked up to three days before and stored in an airtight plastic container.
3. Remove from heat and drain off any excess liquid. Return wild rice to saucepan, stir in garlic butter.

Individual Blackberry Butterscotch Fondue 
Makes 4 servings

Will chocolate fondue ever lose its popularity? Personally, I am particularly fond of butterscotch. In my determination to offer simple but innovative alternatives to traditional favourites, I have come up with my own Butterscotch Fondue. Guests claim it to be a sensuous experience, while they continue to dip fresh blackberries into a creamy butterscotch sauce with uncontrollable enthusiasm. The stunning balance of tart and sweet mesmerizes absolutely everyone, including children and those who are not dessert fans.

2 cups (500 mL) fresh large blackberries, whole and clean
3/4 cup (180 mL) Creamy Butterscotch Dessert Sauce, chilled
Garnish (Optional or as desired)
4 sprigs of fresh lavender or mint

1. For each of 4 individual servings,
creatively arrange 1/4 of the blackberries and butterscotch sauce in 2 separate small bowls or dishes. Place them on a plate with a cocktail pick (or corn pick).
2. If desired, garnish the plates with a sprig of fresh lavender or mint.
3. Using the cocktail picks, securely pierce berries one at a time and dip into butterscotch sauce.

Blackberry Butterscotch Fondue is a hit, even with people who aren't fond of dessert. (Photo: Larry Dickenson)

Blackberry Butterscotch Fondue is a hit, even with people who aren’t fond of dessert. (Photo: Larry Dickenson)

Creamy Butterscotch Dessert Sauce
Makes about 2 1/4 cups or 550 mL

My Dickenson Blackberry Butterscotch Fondue owes its stellar reputation to this sauce. I keep the creamy butterscotch sauce on hand in the refrigerator and freezer ready to play its paramount role in my signature fondue or to be used in tempting dessert, pancake or waffle presentations.

1/3 cup (80 mL) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) heavy cream (35 per cent fat), divided
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) (packed) light brown sugar

1. In a medium-sized saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in 3/4 cup (180 mL) of heavy cream and bring to a boil.
2. Add remaining cream and brown sugar; stir constantly until sugar dissolves and mixture comes to a boil.
3. Reduce heat and allow sauce to boil fairly vigorously over low heat (uncovered) for about 8 minutes without stirring. To test for consistency, drop a touch of sauce into a little cold water. It should not disperse. Remove from heat. Whisk well.
4. With a clean damp cloth, thoroughly wipe exposed surfaces of saucepan above sauce to remove any lingering sugar crystals. This assists in preventing crystallization during storage.
5. Set aside until cool.
6. Stir sauce extremely well and transfer to airtight plastic containers. Avoid scraping “clean” inside surfaces of saucepan as sugar crystals may be present.
7. Refrigerate to thicken and until ready to use.
8. Serve this Creamy Butterscotch Dessert Sauce chilled from the refrigerator, at room temperature or warm. Stir well before serving. The sauce may be stored refrigerated for up to several weeks or frozen for months.

Margaret Dickenson is a cookbook author, TV host, menu/recipe developer and a protocol, business and etiquette instructor.

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Category: Delights

About the Author ()

Margaret Dickenson wrote the awardwinning cookbook, Margaret’s Table — Easy Cooking & Inspiring Entertaining (www.margaretstable.ca).

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