Lunch Among the Hydrangeas
Fresh Fig, Prosciutto, and Arugula Salad with Parmesan Shavings
Suggested wine: Mormoraia Vernaccia di San Gimignano
Poached Salmon with Tarragon Sauce and Fingerling Potatoes
Suggested wine: Qupé Bien Nacido Reserve Chardonnay
Berry Tart with Mascarpone Cream
This menu is from “The Best of Gourmet: 1999.” What attracted me to this menu was few and easy looking components. But, as the day approached when everyone came over for the meal, I started to worry that this menu would not make my guests full–it just looked too light. I guess I always worry that there won’t be enough food, but rest assured with this menu, you and your guests will leave the table satisfied.
I served this menu for Mother’s Day which just happens to be when my hydrangea plant starts to be in full bloom. One hydrangea plant provides ample amount of blooms, so I was able to have a few bouquets around my home and on the table full of the flowers. My Mother loves flowers and gardening so this theme and menu started to take shape.
When I have people over I generally don’t want to rely on my sometimes abrasive personality, so I feel that I need to provide my guests with some enticing reason to be at my home. Thus, I try to present my food with a pleasing presentation. That way my guests will at least leave my home thinking it was worth their while to drive all the way over because at least they had a nice meal. This menu does not let anyone down. The presentation is simple, but the colors, textures, and flavors come together elegantly.
I looked over my previous menus that I have made for this blog but none are plated that are served to seated guests. The served, plated dish is one element of many that elevates this menu to something special. Serving a plated meal also makes your guests feel special too. For me that is always what I try to achieve: that my food and the environment in which the food is served becomes my gift to my guests.
To plate the salad and the main course I did enlist helpers, my daughter and her boyfriend. The key with this menu is to prep, prep, prep. If you have prepped all your ingredients then it is a snap to assemble. KitchenAid has an informative page that has a few good tips for plating your food. Below you will find my kitchen notes on each of the courses and at the end of this page is my Ebay Design Collection for this menu.
One reason why I prep so much before my guests come over is because I like to chit chat and drink wine. After all it is a party, but all that chit chat and wine drinking gets me off my mark when I am cooking. With this meal I was so focused on getting everything prepped for the main course and this salad looked so easy, I didn’t really do any prepping for it. What could go wrong it looked so simple? Well, everyone said the salad was great, but I knew something was missing. I completely forgot the Parmesan cheese! A minor oversight, yes, but if I had placed each ingredient into little bowls ready to go, I would not have forgotten anything. Things like that just bug me. It’s like painting a room and everyone says it looks great, but I can see every little imperfection. Get your prep bowls out and this salad is a snap to plate and you won’t forget a thing!
This menu is for 6 people, but I had 11 at my table, so I doubled everything. But, original 6 person salmon recipe calls for 2 1/2 to 3 pounds of salmon. I did not double the salmon as I thought that would be way too much fish. I was right. I think I purchased 3 1/2 pounds and it was the perfect amount. I had light eaters and two guests were children, so when making this dish keep in mind who you are feeding, unless you want a lot of leftover salmon (which can get expensive).
The sauce is amazing and combined with the creamy potatoes and the crunchy snap peas it is a wonderful spring flavored meal. Each part of the menu can be made well ahead of serving. The potatoes I made last and close to serving so they were slightly warm.
As I mentioned, I doubled all the recipes for this menu, so I made two tarts. I only have one round removable bottomed tart pan, so I used my rectangle tart pan too. If you like berries, then this dessert is for you! Tons and tons of berries and somehow they all fit on the tarts. The light sauce for the berries has raspberry liqueur and marmalade, it is simple and highlights the berries flavors. I used cream cheese rather than the mascarpone because I just like cream cheese better in desserts.
The cheese filling for the tart does not need to set nor does it need to bake. Once you fill it you can top with the berries and eat. You do, however, have to bake the crust and I would recommend doing that the day before. This dessert is not time consuming or complicated, but because of all the berries, it has a nice “Wow” look to it.
“The Best of Gourmet: 1999” designed this menu to be set among a Cape Cod garden theme. Muted colors of lavender, blue, and green complement the soft frosted plates, glasses and flatware. The garden has a quaint Victorian feel with wicker furniture and whitewashed shuttered windows. Have fun decorating your May gathering with beautiful blooming hydrangeas.