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A Warm Cozy Dinner By The Fire
From Appetizer To Dessert

Chef Linda Weiss, January 2010

It’s so cold here on the island that I just can’t make myself walk outside. Even the mail has to wait in the box until the sun is high. Being cold makes me want to be in the kitchen more and therefore, I have cooked more than usual just to stay warm.

Instead of going to the store, I’ve used ingredients that I’ve had readily available in the pantry and freezer and then I’ve just travelled out for what I have to have. Going through the pantry the other day I found a jar of artichokes in marinade, and a can of red salmon. In the freezer I found some frozen corn from the summer, and spinach that I’d put away a short time ago, while the fridge held the leftovers of colorful, delicious sweet red and orange peppers as well as red and Vidalia onions from another project that I was working on.

What could I put together with this food? I could and did make our favorite salmon cakes inspired by one of my favorite authors, William Faulkner, and served a warm corn relish as a side dish to the salmon. But, first, I used the jarred artichokes and frozen spinach to make an appetizer that I could serve as a first course with a glass of crisp white wine by the warm fire in our living room.

Last but not least, I used the lemons that I had in a small bowl on the counter and made a lemon curd to use with baked meringues for dessert-very sweet. This is a delicious and light ending to any meal. Lemons are in season now, and with little humidity in the air, the meringues are easy to make in cold weather. The other bonus to this dessert was that my house had the wonderful fresh smell of lemons all afternoon and into the night.

We had a delicious dinner without having to travel out in this frigid weather. It was warm in our house, and our hearts.

Stay warm and keep the kitchen warm, because after all a warm kitchen helps warm the heart.  Best, Linda.

Baked Artichoke Florentine Spread

This is half the recipe. For the full recipe when serving several, just double it.

1 ¼ cups thawed and chopped spinach or (10-11 ounces of chopped spinach by weight if you want to buy it)
1 (7-ounce) jar marinated artichokes, drained and chopped
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
¼ cup mayonnaise
1 ½ large garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¾ cup French bread crumbs
1 tablespoon butter, melted

Drain spinach and squeeze until all excess liquid is removed. Combine the artichokes, spinach and next 5 ingredients in a bowl. Mix well. Place mixture in a buttered baking dish or ramekin. Mix butter and bread crumbs and sprinkle over the mixture. Bake in a 375° oven until bubbly. Serve with sliced, toasted baguettes.

Toasted Baguettes

1 thin sliced French baguette
Melted butter or olive oil
Fresh garlic clove or garlic powder

If using fresh garlic, smear the clove or cloves across one side of the bread slices if not, wait until you have added the butter or oil to sprinkle with garlic powder. Spread slices with butter or olive oil.  Place the slices in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 375° oven until slices are toasted.

Salmon Cakes with Warm Corn Relish

If you want to use fresh salmon then by all means, do. I use fresh most of the time but growing up in the country in Alabama in my early years, we didn’t have fresh salmon available, and so I am comfortable with both fresh and canned. Both have good nutritive value

1 (14.75 ounce) can good quality red salmon or the equivalent of fresh cooked salmon
1 cup crushed Club Crackers ©
1 egg, slightly beaten
¼ cup finely chopped orange pepper
¼ cup finely chopped red onion
¼ cup finely chopped bread and butter pickles
Essence of Emeril© seasoning mix

Remove any excess skin and bones from the salmon. Drain well. Put the salmon in a bowl, and blend with the next 5 ingredients. Mix well. Make 4 large salmon cakes. Place the cakes on a plate lined with plastic wrap because this will make them easier to remove when ready to cook. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour or until ready to cook.

When ready to cook, sprinkle one side of the salmon cakes with the seasoning mix, or your favorite seasoning mix.  Prepare a skillet by heating to medium high. Add enough olive oil to “fry” the cakes. I cook them until brown on one side and then flip them to cook on the other side. Since there is raw egg in them, you want to make sure they are cooked through. When cakes are done, set aside and keep warm.  Serve with corn relish and some Spicy Remoulade if you have some on hand.

Warm Corn Relish

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
16 ounces frozen corn
¼ cup chopped orange or red pepper
¼ cup finely chopped Vidalia onion or red onion
3 sprigs (3-inches) fresh thyme
1 teaspoon orange zest
½ tablespoon red wine vinegar
½ teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

Place skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and butter. Let butter melt and start to sizzle. Add the corn and cook until almost tender. Add the pepper, onion, thyme sprigs and orange zest and cook for another minute. Add red wine vinegar and sugar. Stir. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove thyme sprigs. Serve with salmon cakes. Corn relish will make 4-6 small servings or 4 large. This will be great leftover too.

Lemon Curd

1 stick unsalted butter
1 ¼ cups sugar
Grated zest of and juice of 2 large lemons
3 eggs beaten

Put the butter, sugar, lemon juice and zest into a double boiler or into a heat proof bowl over simmering water. Stir the mixture with a wooden spoon until the sugar has dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat and stir a small amount into the beaten eggs. Then stir the eggs into the lemon mixture. This is called “tempering” so that the eggs and lemon mixture can be similar in temperature and the eggs won’t scramble when added all at once. Replace the mixture back over the heat and cook until thickened and mixture coats the back of a spoon. Strain the mixture to remove any “scrambled” egg. Let the mixture cool in the refrigerator before spooning onto the meringue. Save the leftovers for cake or toast.

Meringue Shells

3 egg whites
¾ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon raspberry vinegar
¼ teaspoon vanilla

Beat the egg whites until they are frothy. Gradually add the sugar, and then add the vinegar and vanilla. Beat until whites form peaks that are stiff enough to hold a shape. At this point, you could put the meringue in a pastry bag and pipe individual servings or you can use a spoon and place rounds onto parchment paper. This will make about 6 (3-inch) rounds when piped, or make smaller mounds and use a spoon to put an indention in the center to place your fruit, curd or ice cream.

Bake at 200° for about an hour. Cool. Store in an airtight container.

Assemble: Place meringue shell on a plate. Add lemon curd to the center. Place a mint leaf on the side. If you happen to have a few blueberries or blackberries in your fridge, just take a few out and let the berries fall over the side of the plate. This will make a pretty presentation.

Visit Chef Linda at her website:  www.cheflindaweiss.com
and her blog:  www.lindaallaboutfood.blogspot.com

Linda’s first book, Memories From Home: Cooking with Family & Friends
is available at Amazon.com or at her website.

All articles are copyrighted and remain the property of the author.

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