The tastes of summer

| August 2, 2020 | 0 Comments
Avocado Crêpe Rolls is a recipe that makes a great canapé or appetizer. (Photo: HEadshot: Michelle Valberg; avocado crepe rolls: Larry Dickenson)

Avocado Crêpe Rolls is a recipe that makes a great canapé or appetizer. (Photo: HEadshot: Michelle Valberg; avocado crepe rolls: Larry Dickenson)

I invite you to experience several of my summer recipes, each of which offers a unique and tempting twist to what one might normally expect. Avocado crêpe rolls include touches of caviar and drops of maple syrup, which contribute discretely to the complexity of flavours. Certain to catch one’s attention are the grilled steaks served with a most compatible truffle mayonnaise sauce and escargot-stuffed mushroom tempura as an optional but exotic accompaniment. One may choose to serve the latter as an hors d’oeuvre on a separate occasion. Finally, my white chocolate whipped cream will delight palates, taking traditional shortcake — whether blueberry, raspberry or blackberry — to a new level.


Avocado Crêpe Rolls
Makes 12 rolls (4 to 6 hors d’oeuvre servings)

This is a no-fail recipe, regardless of one’s culinary skill. Just follow the instructions. The recipe’s complexity of flavours never goes unnoticed. Served as an hors d’oeuvre — or appetizer — these rolls offer a well-appreciated vegetarian option.Regular or buckwheat crepes both work.
12 prepared crêpes (diameter: 4½ inches or 11 cm), recipe for regular crêpes follows
1 avocado, ripe (about 8 oz or 225 g)
¼ cup (60 mL) sour cream
2 tbsp (30 mL) Zesty Ginger Mayonnaise*
2 tbsp (30 mL) Tarragon Hollandaise Mayonnaise**
1 tbsp (15 mL) black caviar (e.g., well-drained mullet and herring roe), optional
¾ tsp (4 mL) maple syrup

1. Cut avocado in half, remove stone and peel carefully. Cut avocado lengthwise into 12 thin wedges (width: 1/3 inch or 0.8 cm) and set aside.
2. Lay crêpes out on a clean flat surface. To the centre of each crêpe, add 1 tsp (5 mL) of sour cream and ½ tsp (3 mL) of Zesty Ginger Mayonnaise and spread evenly over the entire surface of crêpe except for ½ inch (1.25 cm) at the top edge.
3. Place one wedge of avocado in a horizontal position near bottom edge of crêpe. Drizzle ½ tsp (3 mL) of Tarragon Hollandaise Mayonnaise along the length of the avocado wedge, sprinkle avocado with caviar (1/3 tsp or 2 mL) and drizzle with a few drops (i.e., 1/16 tsp or 0.3 mL) of maple syrup.
4. Starting from bottom edge, roll crêpe securely around avocado wedge to form a roll. If desired, wrap a fresh chive stem around the centre of each roll and tie into a bow. (If not serving immediately, arrange avocado rolls with seam-side down in a single layer in an airtight plastic container and store refrigerated for up to 6 hours.)
5. Just before serving, if desired, insert a fresh viola blossom under the chive bow.
* To make ½ cup (125 mL) of Zesty Ginger Mayonnaise, whisk together ½ cup (125 mL) of mayonnaise, 2 tsp (10 mL) of peeled and grated fresh gingerroot and ½ tsp (3 mL) of granulated sugar.
** To make ½ cup (125 mL) of Tarragon Hollandaise Mayonnaise, whisk together ½ cup (125 mL) of mayonnaise, 1 tsp (5 mL) of prepared mustard (sandwich type) and 1/3 tsp (2 mL) of dried tarragon leaves.

Crêpe Batter
Makes about 40 small crêpes*

1 cup (250 mL) all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp (8 mL) granulated sugar
1/8 tsp (pinch) ground ginger
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1½ cups (375 mL) milk, divided
¼ cup (60 mL) unsalted butter or margarine, melted

1. In a medium-sized bowl, sift together flour, sugar and ground ginger.
2. In another medium-sized bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together eggs, yolks and ¾ cup (about 180 mL) milk.
3. Continuing to beat constantly, gradually add ½ cup (125 mL) of flour mixture, then remaining milk (¾ cup or 180 mL) and remaining flour mixture (½ cup or 125 mL). Beat to form a smooth batter.
4. Beat in melted butter. (Note: If batter is not perfectly smooth, pass it through a coarse mesh sieve.)
5. Allow batter to rest for at least 30 minutes before using.

* Diameter: 4½ inches or 11 cm.

Make ahead tip: Crêpe batter may be prepared and stored refrigerated in an airtight plastic container for up to 2 days or frozen for months.


Escargot-stuffed Mushroom Tempura. (Photo: Margaret Dickenson)

Escargot-stuffed Mushroom Tempura. (Photo: Margaret Dickenson)

Escargot-stuffed Mushroom Tempura
Makes 24 pieces

It is wonderful to have a few recipes that are truly unique and innovative. These escargots are certain to thrill even guests who would not normally eat escargots — so, don’t tell them. Serve as an hors d’oeuvre or on top of grilled steak to really wow your guests.

Oil for deep fryer
24 cremini (or white) mushrooms, medium-sized
24 sautéed and seasoned escargots*

Delicate Tempura Batter:
½ cup (125 mL) cornstarch
¼ cup (60 mL) all-purpose flour
1/3 tsp (2 mL) baking powder
¼ tsp (1 mL) salt
½ cup + 1½ tbsp (150 mL) soda water (ice cold)

1. Twist stems out of mushrooms and stuff each mushroom cap snugly with a single sautéed escargot. They should be at room temperature.
2. To make the tempura batter, in a medium-sized wide-bottom bowl, sift together cornstarch, flour, baking powder and salt. Just before ready to use, whisk in ice cold soda water. Note: Batter is slightly thicker than heavy whipping cream.
3. In a deep fryer, heat oil to 350F or 180C.
4. Working in batches, drop stuffed mushrooms into batter and coat thoroughly; drain off excess batter and gently but quickly drop one at a time into hot oil. Avoid overcrowding. Turn regularly with a fork and cook until golden brown.
5. With a slotted spoon, transfer fried escargot-stuffed mushrooms briefly to a paper towel-lined tray, sprinkle lightly with salt before arranging them on a wire rack.
6. Serve as soon as possible. **Note: If necessary, set wire rack of tempura on a baking sheet and place in a warm oven (150F or 65C) for a few minutes until ready to serve.

* Take 1 can of escargots (4 oz or 115 g drained weight), rinse and drain escargots well. Melt 1 tbsp (15 mL) of butter into a small non-stick skillet over medium heat, add ½ tsp (3 mL) of both chopped fresh garlic and grated fresh gingerroot (peeled); stir constantly and cook for 1 minute. Add escargots, sprinkle with 2/3 tsp (3.5 mL) of instant beef bouillon powder and to taste with crushed black peppercorns. Cook for another 2 minutes. Remove from heat and allow escargots to rest for 10 minutes to absorb flavours. Cool.
** When serving as an hors d’oeuvre, offer a suitable dipping sauce (e.g. soy sauce, an aioli or sriracha mayonnaise-type sauce).


Grilled Steak with Truffle-Mayonnaise Sauce includes Margaret Dickenson’s versatile beef rub. (Photo: larry Dickenson)

Grilled Steak with Truffle-Mayonnaise Sauce includes Margaret Dickenson’s versatile beef rub. (Photo: Larry Dickenson)

Grilled Steak with Truffle-Mayonnaise Sauce
Makes 4 servings

In a search to reinvent grilled steak, instinct led me first to dust the steak with my versatile beef rub. Served with a unique truffle-mayonnaise sauce, the combination is a winner.

4 steaks (e.g., strip loin; each 7 oz or 200 g)
1½ tbsp (23 mL) Beef Rub
2 tbsp (30 mL) teriyaki sauce
2 tbsp (30 mL) sesame oil

Beef Rub:
1 tbsp (15 mL) each of ground coffee, granulated sugar and whole black peppercorns
2 tsp (10 mL) each of coriander seeds, ground cumin, ground thyme and garlic powder
2 whole star anise
¼ tsp (1 mL) ground cloves

Truffle Mayonnaise Sauce:
¾ cup (180 mL) mayonnaise
3 tbsp (45 mL), or to taste, white truffle oil*

1. To make the Truffle-Mayonnaise Sauce, whisk together mayonnaise and truffle oil to form a smooth mixture. (Makes ¾ cup or 180 mL.) Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
2. To make the Beef Rub, place all the appropriate ingredients in a spice or coffee grinder and process to a powder. (Makes more than 1/3 cup or 90 mL.)**
3. Using only 1½ tbsp or 23 mL) of Beef Rub, rub all surfaces of steaks, and allow steaks to come to room temperature.
4. Twenty minutes before grilling, drizzle steaks with teriyaki sauce and then sesame oil.
5. Place steaks on a lightly-oiled preheated (medium) barbecue grill over direct heat. With hood up, grill steaks to desired degree of doneness, turning once. (Note: Or, cook steaks on a preheated lightly oiled grill pan or heavy skillet over medium heat.)
6. Transfer steaks to a platter, cover with aluminum foil (shiny side down) and let rest for 5 minutes to allow for the redistribution of juices.
7. Serve with Truffle-Mayonnaise Sauce, your favourite accompaniments*** and fresh herbs. (Note: If topping the steaks with Escargot-Stuffed Mushroom Tempura, allow 3 per serving, cutting them in half for the final presentation.)

*Available at gourmet or specialty food stores.
** This makes much more than required so that one may keep it on hand for use on a regular basis.
***Whether the steak is cooked on a barbecue grill or a cooktop, I find that the traditional corn on the cob and garlic sautéed mushrooms make for satisfying accompaniments.


This reinvented shortcake features white chocolate in the whipped cream for a nice twist on an old classic. (Photo: larry Dickenson)

This reinvented shortcake features white chocolate in the whipped cream for a nice twist on an old classic. (Photo: Larry Dickenson)

Shortcakes Reinvented
Makes 4 filled mini shortcakes

Who doesn’t enjoy shortcake? This recipe features individual mini shortcakes made even more tempting with a White Chocolate Whipped Cream filling.

4 individual mini shortcakes/cake shells (commercial or homemade)
4 oz (115 mL) white chocolate
1 cup (250 mL) heavy cream (35% fat)
1½ cups total (375 mL) fresh raspberries, blueberries and sliced cherries (pits removed)

12 whole cherries (with stems)
4 stems of fresh herbs
3 tbsp (45 mL) caramel sauce (commercial or homemade), optional

1. Partially melt chocolate over hot water in a double boiler, or soften in microwave oven on “defrost” mode. Remove from heat; stir carefully until chocolate is completely melted and smooth.
2. Meanwhile, heat cream in a small saucepan over low heat until hot. Do not boil. Stirring constantly, gradually add hot cream to melted chocolate, forming a smooth mixture. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight to allow chocolate cream to chill and thicken.
3. Beat sauce in a chilled bowl with chilled beaters until very firm peaks form. This recipe makes 1½ cups or 375 mL of White Chocolate Whipped Cream. Store refrigerated in an airtight plastic container until ready to use.*
5. Just before serving, fill shortcakes/cake shells with White Chocolate Whipped Cream (about ¼ cup or 60 mL per shortcake) and crown with the fresh berries and sliced cherries; if desired, top with drizzles of White Chocolate Whipped Cream.
4. Garnish plates with whole cherries, a sprig of fresh herbs and, if desired, drizzles of caramel sauce..

* The White Chocolate Whipped Cream retains its quality for a week. It is firmest immediately after having been beaten; however, if the foam softens, transfer the chocolate whipped cream to a small chilled bowl (leaving behind some of the liquid if desired) and re-beat with chilled beaters until very firm peaks form.

Margaret Dickenson is a cookbook author, TV host, menu and 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 (

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