Spring is now slowly sauntering it's way across the mid-atlantic. Flowers are blooming, the sun actually provides a modicum of warmth, and it just smells better (what, you don't notice the absence of ice on the breeze with a tinge of goose poop?). I'm convinced I'm a solar-powered person, and I've certainly been much happier and much more productive in the last week. Being able to walk outside and have a wave of warm air with the soft scent of blooming magnolias overtake me is generally a +5 to my mood.
Anyways, I blame the abundance of fresh-squeezed valencia and pineapple mimosas on Easter Sunday for not having this post ready on the day of. Better late than never? I decided to tweak some traditional dishes and see what the family thought: I played on deviled eggs (adding the creamy richness of crème fraîche instead of mayonaise and topping it with gravlax) and the staple of honey-baked ham (salty prosciutto balancing with the creamy tartness of chèvre, while honey and sliced pears bring the sweet to the savory).
In case you aren't aware, I could eat salmon all day, every day. I kid you not, I am addicted to the buttery-soft texture of sushi-grade salmon, the perfect balance of pungent onions, smooth cream cheese and salmon you get with bagels + lox, the rich and intense taste of smoked salmon--oh god. I'm drooling again, aren't I? Gravlax was something I've had before, but only as a dish unto itself. Gravlax isn't smoked, but rather it's salt-cured with dill and sugar. Way back yonder in the middle ages, some genius fishermen in the region of the world where reindeer and vikings ruled the roost decided to bury salted salmon in the sand (say that five times fast) and let it ferment. In many nordic languages, the word grav means grave, where the more familiar term lax means salmon. Over the years, we've stopped fermenting the fish in order to prepare gravlax, and we're left with a more mild version. Wait, did I really just spend a half an hour of my time researching the history of salt-cured salmon? No regrets!
I purchased Grindstone Neck of Maine's gravlax not only because they are awesome and support sustainable seafood harvesting practices, but also because I'd tried their smoked clams a few months ago and they were absolutely delicious.
Woof, that was a lot of preamble. Anyways! Without further ado, I give you my pre-game tasties for Easter:
crème fraîche deviled eggs with gravlax
- 1.5 dozen hard-boiled eggs
- 4 oz of gravlax
- 4 oz of crème fraîche
- 3 tablespoons of mustard (if using dried, be careful! it tends to be stronger than prepared mustard)
- chives and fleur de sel, for garnish
Peel your hardboiled eggs and slice them in half length-wise. Arrange the whites on a plate, or a fancy egg-dish if you've one at your disposal.
If you have some where the yolk is extremely close to the white, you can get creative with your cutting and make differently staggered cups instead of having to throw them in the discard pile (discard pile = the waiting mouth of any of our dogs).
Place the yolks in a large bowl and mash them until they are as homogenous as possible.
Add the crème fraîche (it may separate--but don't pour out the liquid on top. It's whey, and it's got lots of protein in it) and the mustard. Depending on how big of a mustard fan you are, I wouldn't hesitate to add more if you'd like to really get a tart punch in. But be careful! The mustard can easily overpower the gravlax, so do your best to find a good balance. You may need to add water in small increments to the mixture in order to achieve a consistency that is easily piped.
Fill a piping bag with the yolk mixture, then pipe in to the cavities of the egg whites.
Slice the gravlax in to approximately one inch scalene triangles (and you said you'd never use geometry in the real world. ha!). Gently roll the slices to create a spiral shape, then place atop the yolk mixture.
Coarsely chop the chives, then sprinkle them atop the eggs. Give them a light dusting of fleur de sel, and voila! A tasty little labor of love popping with bright colors.
On to the other! This a very simple recipe that yielded great results. Do you know the Rice Krispies commercial from the 90s that's always aired around the Winter holidays? The one where the mother whips up a batch of Rice Krispie treats, then sprinkles flour on her face before feigning exasperation before delivering the plate of goodies? This is pretty much the same situation, except you've no miserably stubborn and sticky pan, and the preparation takes about 1/4 of the time.
pear, prosciutto and honied chèvre bites
- 4 oz. of chèvre (plain will do just fine, but I scooped some honied cheese from Trader Joe's)
- 1 bartlett pear
- 4 oz. of prosciutto
- 1 package of 34° Wholegrain Crispbread (any mild cracker will work)
- honey, to be drizzle atop
Arrange the crackers on a plate or platter. Tear or slice sheets or prosciutto in half, then lightly fold and place atop the crackers. Cut the chèvre in to approximately 1/4 inch slices and place atop the prosciutto. Wash and slice the pears and (you guessed it!) place atop the cheese. Drizzle crackers with honey (I'd suggest using a generous amount if your chèvre isn't of the honied variety) and watch as your guests fight over the sweet and savory concoction.
I used my leftover chèvre to make a quick little cheese platter. Fresh pineapple, buckwheat honey, pears and strawberries made for a sweet version of the pre-meal cheese party.
All-in-all, we had a great variety of food; smoked meats, fruit, green and potato salad, lasagna (that'll be my next food post!) chocolates, and cookies. I've good reason for getting up at the crack of dawn and going to the gym all last week--let's hope that's a new habit I can keep up.
Before I go off to bed, here's some photos of an amazing detour I took yesterday on my way home from this shoot. I spent close to half an hour walking around in awe at the amazing abundance of Purple Deadnettle. Apparently, it's a good source of early pollen for bees!
Hope everyone had a great weekend and is ready for whatever nonsense Monday morning is going to be throwing at us. Until next time! -Mary