Easy recipes that shine on the plate

| December 29, 2018 | 0 Comments
Hot Smoked Salmon on Seaweed Salad is a simple appetizer or hors d'oeuvre.   (Photo: Larry Dickenson)

Hot Smoked Salmon on Seaweed Salad is a simple appetizer or hors d’oeuvre. (Photo: Larry Dickenson)

If you want to add a touch of pizzazz to casual dining experiences and you enjoy relaxed and easy entertaining, the following recipes hit the mark. Enjoy.

Hot Smoked Salmon on Seaweed Salad
Makes 12 hors d’oeuvre portions

With a bit of imagination, one can create simple hors d’oeuvres with nothing but commercial products. Here is an example of one that only takes minutes to assemble. (For an appetizer/first course at the table, increase the quantities appropriately and serve in martini glasses.)

12 hors d’oeuvre porcelain Oriental spoons
1/3 cup (80 mL) seaweed salad* (commercial)
2½ oz (75 g) hot smoked salmon**
2 tbsp (30 mL) sour cream (thick)
1½ tbsp (23 mL) black caviar (mullet and herring or lumpfish roes)

1. Arrange seaweed salad in bottom of each spoon (a little more than 1 tsp or 7 mL per spoon).
2. Remove and discard skin and any dark fatty areas of the salmon. Flake salmon into largish pieces. Divide the smoked salmon into 12 equal portions. Add one portion to each spoon, top with ½ tsp (3 mL) of sour cream and crown with caviar (about 1/3 tsp or 2 mL).
3. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

*Note: Seaweed salad is available at some grocery and fish stores or at most Japanese and Korean food stores. I usually add a touch of sesame oil to balance the flavours.
** Home-smoked or commercial

Make-ahead tip: This hors d’oeuvre may be assembled up to an hour in advance. To avoid the possible weeping of black liquid onto the sour cream, add the caviar immediately before serving.

Zucchini Ribbon Salad with Feta is a playful way to begin a meal. (Photo: Larry Dickenson)

Zucchini Ribbon Salad with Feta is a playful way to begin a meal. (Photo: Larry Dickenson)

Zucchini Ribbon Salad with Feta
Makes 4 servings

This playful salad is the perfect way to begin a meal. The delicate notes of fresh herbs, plus a discreet accent of lemon zest, give these zucchini ribbons a subtle depth of flavour. However, it’s the small pickled capers and walnut pieces working in tandem that make the salad pop.

8 oz (225 g) young zucchini (yellow or green, but preferably both)
1 tbsp (15 mL) finely grated lemon zest
2 to 3 tbsp (30 to 45 mL) basil-infused olive oil
3 oz (90 g) feta cheese, coarsely crumbled
3 tbsp (45 mL) walnut pieces
1½ tbsp (23 mL) of both fresh mint leaves (small or torn into small pieces) and fresh thyme leaves
1½ tbsp (23 mL) of both coarsely chopped fresh parsley and tarragon
1½ tbsp (23 mL) pickled small capers (drained)
To taste, crushed black peppercorns and Kosher salt

1. Slice zucchini lengthwise into paper-thin ribbons. Use a special vegetable slicer/peeler, a mandolin (or perhaps even an ordinary vegetable peeler) for this job so the ribbons are almost paper thin.
2. Just before serving, on a large platter, gently toss together zucchini ribbons and lemon zest. Drizzle with basil-infused olive oil and toss lightly. Sprinkle with feta, walnut pieces, mint, thyme, parsley, tarragon, capers plus crushed black peppercorns and kosher salt to taste. Gently toss again.
3. Divide the zucchini ribbons between 4 individual bistro bowls or dinner plates, arranging them with the ribbons intertwined and in a delicate “pile” formation. Sprinkle with another touch of kosher salt. Serve promptly.

Mushroom-dusted veal chops with Mustard Red Currant Sauce make for a meaty main course. (Photo: Larry Dickenson)

Mushroom-dusted veal chops with Mustard Red Currant Sauce make for a meaty main course. (Photo: Larry Dickenson)

Mushroom-Dusted Veal Chops with Mustard Red Currant Sauce
Makes 4 servings

4 veal chops (each: 8 oz or 225 g; 1-inch or 2.5-cm thick)
2½ tbsp (38 mL) garlic-infused olive oil
3/4 tsp (4 mL) crushed black peppercorns, divided
6 oz (175 g) fresh mushrooms (e.g., shimeji, cremini, small oyster; etc.)
¼ cup (60 mL) garlic butter
½ cup (125 mL) pulverized dried mushrooms* (such as shiitake)
To taste, salt
3 tbsp (45 mL) butter
½ cup (125 mL) Mustard Red Currant Sauce**

1. Drizzle veal chops with garlic-infused olive oil and sprinkle with only ½ tsp (3 mL) of crushed black peppercorns. Let rest for at least 20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium-high heat, sauté fresh mushrooms in garlic butter; season with crushed black peppercorns and salt to taste. Set aside.
3. Dust veal chops with pulverized mushrooms, pressing powder gently into all surfaces.
4. Heat butter in a very large skillet over medium heat. Sprinkle chops lightly with salt and place in skillet. Cook chops for 1½ to 2 minutes per side, turning once, until chops are browned and internal temperature approaches medium on an instant-read thermometer (i.e., 130F or 55C). Transfer chops immediately to plates or a platter and tent loosely with aluminum foil (shiny side down).
5. Serve veal chops with sautéed mushrooms. Drizzle individual plates with about 1½ tsp (8 mL) of Mustard Red Currant Sauce and pass remaining sauce at table.

* Pulverize the dried mushrooms to a powder using a coffee or spice grinder.
** To make ½ cup (125 mL) of Mustard Red Currant Sauce, in a small saucepan over low heat, melt ½ cup (125 mL) red currant jelly. Whisk in 2 tsp (10 mL) of Dijon mustard and 1 tsp (5 mL) of raspberry (or red wine) vinegar to create a smooth sauce. If desired, thicken sauce by whisking in ½ tsp (3 mL) of cornstarch suspended in ½ tsp (3 mL) of cold water and bring the sauce to a boil. Place in a glass jar and store refrigerated for weeks.


Crunchy Toffee Chocolate Bark is a tasty way to wind down a meal. (Photo: Larry Dickenson)

Crunchy Toffee Chocolate Bark is a tasty way to wind down a meal. (Photo: Larry Dickenson)

Crunchy Toffee Chocolate Bark
Makes about 20 pieces

Who doesn’t enjoy chocolate or toffee? I put the two together for a doubly yummy treat. Biting through thin chocolate with the fun of crunching on bits of crisp toffee is part of this recipe’s appeal.

3½ oz (100 g) semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2½ tbsp (38 mL) plus 1½ tbsp (23 mL) toffee bits*, divided

1. Line a baking sheet with wax paper. (Note: To hold the paper in position, apply a couple of dabs of soft butter to the baking sheet before adding the wax paper.)
2. Put the chocolate in a microwave-proof bowl. Place the bowl in a microwave oven at medium-low heat or defrost mode until the chocolate softens. (This will take about 2 ½ minutes.)
3. Remove the chocolate from oven; carefully stir until it is completely melted and smooth. Add 2½ tbsp (38 mL) toffee bits and stir to incorporate.
4. Promptly pour the chocolate mixture onto the wax paper-lined baking sheet.
5. Gently tap the baking sheet on the counter so the chocolate mixture spreads evenly into a thin layer (about 1/5 inch or 0.5 cm thick). Sprinkle the surface of the chocolate lightly with the remaining 1½ tbsp (23 mL) of toffee bits. Refrigerate until firm.
6. With clean fingers, break the slab of firm chocolate into about 20 pieces. Store the chocolates in a wax paper-lined airtight plastic container, separating the layers with wax paper. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

* “Toffee Bits” are available at supermarkets. Don’t confuse them with butterscotch chips.

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

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Category: Delights

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

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