Salmon Photograph, Linda Weiss
Basil Photograph, Anne K Moore
I really love hearing one of America’s most famous television food host call an herb a herb. The first time I heard her say it I was shocked. Hey wait, I thought, isn’t that supposed to be an herb (ûrb). Had I been saying it wrong all these years, I wondered? But, guess what, it doesn’t matter. Herb is the English term and the French term is pronounced ûrb, which is the way we learned to pronounce it in school. Whatever the pronunciation, we would have some pretty boring food without wonderful herbs, which brings me to our column this week.
I had a party to prepare for over the weekend, and in the process, I realized that I was using a good cross section of herbs and vegetables, so I thought that if you have a wedding, picnic, or garden party this month that this would be a good time to share some of the recipes and some of the ideas that I used for preparation and presentation.
The first thing I did was plan my menu (for 50 people), and then I made a list of everything I needed to buy. I then made a list of what order I needed to prepare the food in based on ingredients and freshness and put the list on the fridge with a magnet. As I made each item and put it away in the fridge, I crossed it off my list. You would be surprised at how easy and clear this will make your work.
This was the menu minus the dessert: Pork tenderloin with jezebel sauce and tiny rolls; tomato, feta, basil salad; tiny pimiento cheese tarts with a slice of cherry tomato tucked in on top; and two salmon molds, one served with sliced cucumbers and the other served with fine crackers.
I made the salmon spread first and put it in fish molds that had been lined with plastic wrap. I let the plastic wrap hang over the sides so that I could protect the molds in the fridge.
Salmon Spread with Fresh Dill
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese
1/4 cup sour cream
1/3 cup minced onion
1 tablespoon fresh dill
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 pound smoked salmon (thinly sliced)*
3 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
Place all ingredients except capers into a food processor, and pulse lightly until blended. Remove to a bowl and stir in capers. Makes 2 ½ cups. * If you prefer the taste of freshly baked salmon, use that instead of the smoked salmon. Place the salmon spread into a plastic wrap lined 2 ½ cup fish mold, and refrigerate until just before serving. ( I made two and a half recipes for 50 people), or enough to fill a 2 ½ cup mold and a 3 cup mold).
For presentation: Unmold the salmon onto a large plate. Smooth out the salmon with a flat knife. Place slices of cucumber around the salmon except for the tail area. At the tail area, place a bunch of dill, and top the dill with a lemon twist.
If you make two salmon molds, put fine crackers around the second mold, and do the same thing with garnish.
Tomato, Feta, Basil Salad
This recipe is never going to be exact, but you will have a good idea of how much to prepare by following the guidelines below. I had to prepare the salad for 50 people, so the day before, I washed the tomatoes and put them in plastic bags and then into the fridge. I also made the dressing the day before and put it in a glass jar and into the fridge. The feta can be cut early and kept separate in bags until ready to mix with the other ingredients. Put everything together a few hours before the party and place in gallon size plastic bags. All you have to do when time to serve is to remove the salad from the fridge and place the salad on the platter and garnish.
5-6 grape tomatoes per person
3-4 (1-inch blocks) of feta cheese per person
3-4 Kalamata olives per person (optional)
Salt to taste
Fresh Basil Salad Dressing (recipe below)
If using a block of feta cheese, cut it into one-inch pieces, and use 3-4 pieces per person. Mix the grape tomatoes, feta cheese and olives together in a large bowl. Add enough of the dressing to moisten the salad. Refrigerate until ready to use.
When ready to serve, place the salad on a large platter and garnish with basil leaves. This salad was very colorful and appetizing on the white platter that I served it on, and I didn’t have a bite of it left over.
Fresh Basil Salad Dressing
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon fresh chopped basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Mix all together, and pour just enough on the tomato mixture to moisten well. Garnish with fresh basil leaves in the salad. Half or double the dressing recipe for whatever amount you need. Refrigerate any leftover dressing. Use within a few days.
Enjoy, and if you’d like the other recipes just let me know, I’ll be happy to provide them for you.
Avid gardeners who know how to get their hands dirty tend the beautiful gardens featured in this article. Special thanks to Betty Norris & Laura Lander, Publicity Co-Chairs from the Cape Fear Garden Club, for the tour of many wonderful gardens during the Azalea Festival Garden Tour in Wilmington, North Carolina. Read more...