Culinary Curious

Spring Has Sprung! Four Course Menu

Spring Has Sprung!
Four Course Menu

Presented by Cooks Country TV

Baked Salmon with Lime Vinaigrette

Starting the salmon on a super-heated baking sheet renders some of its fat; roasting it at 275 degrees keeps the fish moist.

SERVES 4

Buy a whole center-cut fillet and cut it into four uniform pieces that cook at the same rate.

Ingredients

  • 1 (1 ½-pound) skin-on center-cut salmon fillet, sliced crosswise into 4 equal pieces
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • ¼ cup minced fresh cilantro leaves
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice (2 limes)
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 jalapeño chile, stemmed, seeded, and minced
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • ½ teaspoon sugar

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place rimmed baking sheet on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees. Make 4 or 5 shallow cuts about 1 inch apart along skin side of each piece of salmon, being careful not to cut into flesh.
  2. Pat salmon dry with paper towels, rub with 1 tablespoon olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Reduce oven to 275 degrees and remove baking sheet. Place salmon skin side down on baking sheet. Roast until thickest part of fillets registers 125 degrees, 9 to 13 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk cilantro, remaining 3 tablespoons oil, lime juice, shallot, jalapeño, garlic, and sugar together in bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer salmon to platter. Top with vinaigrette. Serve.

Stone Fruit Salad with Camembert Croutons over Mixed Greens

This Stone Fruit Salad with Camembert Croutons over Mixed Greens recipe combines sweet-tart plums and peaches with pungent Camembert. The cheese is breaded and baked in the oven so that the exterior is crisp and the interior creamy and soft. For the Camembert "croutons," freezing the crumb-coated croutons before baking ensured that the cheese wouldn't melt too much in the time it took for the crumbs to crisp. An unexpected ingredient in the dressing, peach or plum preserves, added a real boost of sweet-tart flavor. We found semifirm fruit ideal for this recipe; otherwise, it was very difficult to slice the fruit into neat, thin slices. We recommend a very sharp thin-bladed paring knife for the cleanest cuts. Try to find freestone peaches to make pitting easy.

SERVES 4-6

For a quicker version of this salad, omit the Camembert croutons.

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tablespoon peach preserves or plum preserves
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 (8-ounce) wheel Camembert, frozen for 30 minutes
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 10 Melba toasts, crushed fine (½ cup)
  • 1 small head (8 ounces) green leaf lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
  • 1 small head (8 ounces) red leaf lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
  • 1 plum, halved, pitted, and sliced thin
  • 1 peach, halved, pitted, and sliced thin

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 475 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk vinegar, onion, 1 tablespoon chives, preserves, and 1 teaspoon mustard in small bowl. Gradually whisk in oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Trim rind from Camembert; cut into ¾-inch cubes. Set 12 cubes aside; reserve remaining Camembert for another use.
  4. Mix egg and remaining 1 teaspoon mustard in bowl. Mix Melba crumbs, remaining 1 tablespoon chives, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper in second bowl. Dip Camembert cubes in egg mixture, roll in Melba crumb mixture, and place on prepared sheet. Freeze until firm, at least 15 minutes.
  5. Bake Camembert croutons until light golden brown, 7 to 9 minutes. Let cool on sheet for 2 minutes. Toss green and red lettuces with dressing and divide among plates. Top each portion with several plum and peach slices and 2 or 3 Camembert croutons. Serve.

Lemon Pudding Cake

For the brightest lemon flavor in our Lemon Pudding Cake, we used a full half-cup of lemon juice. To coax even more flavor from the lemons, we creamed a bit of grated zest with the butter and sugar. A bit of cornstarch gently firmed the pudding layer without muddying the lemon flavor.

To prevent the top layer of the cake from deflating, we beat sugar into the egg whites. This stabilized the whites and resulted in a high, golden, and fluffy cake. For the creamiest texture, it was important to bake the cake in a water bath. The hot water protected the pudding from cooking too quickly.

SERVES 8

This dessert is best served warm or at room temperature the same day it is made. Scoop it out and serve in a bowl.

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 ¼ cups sugar
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons grated zest and ½ cup juice from 4 lemons
  • 5 large eggs, separated
  • 1 ¼ cups whole milk, room temperature
  • 2 quarts boiling water

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. MIX BATTER: Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease 8-inch square baking dish. Whisk flour and cornstarch in bowl. With electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat ½ cup sugar, butter, and lemon zest until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in yolks, one at a time, until incorporated. Reduce speed to medium-low. Add flour mixture and mix until incorporated. Slowly add milk and lemon juice, mixing until just combined.
  2. BEAT EGG WHITES: Using clean bowl and whisk attachment, beat egg whites on medium-high speed until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes. With mixer running, slowly add remaining sugar until whites are firm and glossy, about 1 minute. Whisk one-third of whites into batter, then gently fold in remaining whites, one scoop at a time, until well combined.
  3. BAKE: Place kitchen towel in bottom of roasting pan and arrange prepared baking dish on towel. Spoon batter into prepared dish. Carefully place pan on oven rack and pour boiling water into pan until water comes halfway up the sides of baking dish. Bake until surface is golden brown and edges are set (center should jiggle slightly when gently shaken), about 60 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and let cool at least 1 hour. Serve.

The Best Sangria

Many people mistake sangria for an unruly collection of fruit awash in a sea of overly sweetened red wine. We wanted a robust, sweet-tart wine punch.

After trying a variety of red wines, we found that inexpensive wine works best. (Experts told us that the sugar and fruit called for in sangria throw off the balance of any wine used, so why spend a lot on something that was carefully crafted?) We experimented with untold varieties of fruit to put in our sangria and finally concluded that simpler is better. We preferred the straightforward tang of citrus in the form of oranges and lemons. And we discovered that the zest and pith as well as the fruit itself make an important contribution to flavor. Orange liqueur is standard in recipes for sangria, and after experimenting we found that here, as with the wine, cheaper was just fine, this time in the form of triple sec. Fortification with any other alcoholic beverage, from gin to port to brandy, simply gave the punch too much punch. What we wanted, and what we now had, was a light, refreshing drink.

SERVES 4

The longer sangria sits before drinking, the more smooth and mellow it will taste. A full day is best, but if that's impossible, give it an absolute minimum of two hours to sit. Use large, heavy, juicy oranges and lemons for the best flavor. Doubling or tripling the recipe is fine, but you'll have to switch to a large punch bowl in place of the pitcher. An inexpensive Merlot is the best choice for this recipe.

Ingredients

  • 2 large juice oranges, washed; one orange sliced; remaining orange juiced
  • 1 large lemon, washed and sliced
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup Triple Sec
  • 1 bottle inexpensive, fruity, medium-bodied red wine (750 milliliters), chilled

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Add sliced orange, lemon, and sugar to large pitcher; mash gently with wooden spoon until fruit releases some juice, but is not totally crushed, and sugar dissolves, about 1 minute. Stir in orange juice, Triple Sec, and wine; refrigerate for at least 2, and up to 8, hours.
  2. Before serving, add 6 to 8 ice cubes and stir briskly to distribute settled fruit and pulp; serve immediately.