A Spring Dinner for Easter or Passover

Spring mix w/balsamic strawberries, bleu cheese and pecans;
honey and dill glazed carrots; baked salmon and roasted asparagus
with a Dijon, garlic and lemon compound butter;
dessert - rich white chocolate and lemon pudding/pie
Spring seems to have arrived and I'm hoping it sticks around for a while before we get hit with the heat of summer.  Crocus and daffodils have bloomed, tulips are just about to burst open, the trees are in bud or flower, and my palate is craving spring foods.  It's time to eat lighter fare after the comfort foods of winter.  With Easter and Passover so near each other my menu planning tends to include lemons, asparagus, strawberries, fish, and lighter yet satisfying desserts.  I tend to not want to cook complicated meals.  I want things simple yet elegant with minimal cooking steps.  I'm a big fan of one-pan or one sheet-pan meals, where you can add all of your ingredients to one cooking vessels and put it onto the stove or in the oven.  

My spring menu, fancy enough for your spring season holiday meal will satisfy you and make your guest feel like you fussed over them!  A simple spring mix salad with balsamic strawberries, topped with bleu cheese and pecans; honey and dill glazed carrots; baked salmon with a garlic herb lemon butter; roasted asparagus with the same compound butter as the salmon; dessert - a cross between a cheesecake and a pudding.  It's a no-bake white chocolate and lemon dessert that you can either make into a graham cracker crumb crust, or serve in individual ramekins.  Minimal prep, not a lot of clean up, that will yield big oohs and ahs at the dinner table.

I found most, if not all of my ingredients at McFarlan's Collingswood Market.  Once again, McFarlan's to my rescue.  With their compound butters and fresh fish in the butcher's case, I was inspired to make one of my favorite spring meals seem new again. Asparagus, carrots, lemons and oranges are in the produce case.  I found bleu cheese crumbles, strawberries, and spring mix too. They have an assortment of delightful Easter desserts or you can try your hand with my riff on a no-bake citrus cross between pudding or pie. 

As with other recipes I've shared, some things are just tossed together with little need for a true recipe.  I'll post the guidelines but do feel free to swap out ingredients to your liking.  Amounts can be easily increased for more servings or decreased to serve just you and your dining companion.  Allergic to strawberries? Use Raspberries or blueberries instead.  Don't like or can't have bleu cheese, use goat cheese or some other soft cheese.  Pecans not your favorite nut, use walnuts or almonds.  Can't stand garlic, use a compound butter with fresh herbs and lemon zest.  My dessert originally was a key-lime dessert poured into a graham cracker crust.  I wanted to change it out to lemons and make them individual portions for ease of serving and to make them portable - perfect for left-overs, picnics, or taking to work!

Macerate cut strawberries in a quality balsamic vinegar.
Toss spring greens with a bit of olive oil, salt and freshly ground pepper.
Add the macerated strawberries and accumulated
juices/vinegar to the greens and toss with bleu cheese and pecans.

Spring Mix with Balsamic Strawberries, Bleu Cheese and Pecans
  • 1 Pint of Strawberries - washed, stemmed and sliced half
  • 1 Package of Spring Mix (about 16 ounces) - washed and spun dry
  • 2 Tablespoons Best Quality Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
  • 2-3 Tablespoons Bleu Cheese Crumbles
  • 1/3 Cup Toasted Pecans or Candied Pecans
Directions:
  1. Prepare the strawberries and place the cut berries into a small bowl. Sprinkle two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar over the strawberries and cover and set aside, from 10 minutes to 1 hour.
  2. When ready to serve the salad, have your spring mix ready and add it to a large salad bowl.  Pour the olive oil over the greens and add in a generous pinch of kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper.  Toss the greens to coat them evenly with the olive oil.  You want the green coated with oil but not slick with oil, hence you only use enough to coat the lettuces.
  3. Now add in the strawberries and the balsamic vinegar and juices that have collected in the bowl.  Add in the bleu cheese crumbles and pecans.  Toss gently to combine.  Serve immediately. Serves 4-6.
Cut carrots cooked in a combination of honey, orange juice and zest, butter and olive oil, salt, pepper and dill.
Honey and Dill Glazed Carrots Ingredients:
Have your ingredients together - Mise en prep!
  • 1 Pound Carrots - Washed, Peeled and cut into 1/4 inch thick oblong slices
  • 2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • Zest and Juice of 1 Orange
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Kosher Salt 
  • 1/8 Teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons Honey
  • 1/4 Cup Water
  • 1/2 Tablespoon Dried Dill
Directions:
  1. Cut and prepare the carrots and add them to a 3-4 quart sauce pan.
  2. Zest and juice the orange, and add it to the carrots.  Add in the butter, olive oil, salt, pepper, honey, water and dried dill.  Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat down to a simmer and cover the pot. 
  3. Check and stir occasionally to mix the carrots and seasonings together.  Allow the mixture to simmer and reduce down until the liquid becomes thickened and syrupy - about 15 minutes.  The carrots should be tender but not mushy.  Serves 4-6.
McFarlan's Garlic Butter embellished with lemon zest and Dijon Mustard
serves double duty as a topping for both the asparagus and the salmon.
Both are baked/roasted together on the same sheet pan.

Baked Salmon and Roasted Asparagus with Dijon, Garlic and Lemon Butter Ingredients:
  • 2 Pounds Salmon Fillet - deboned - don't worry about the skin, it comes off after baking
  • 3 Tablespoons Softened Garlic Butter Compound
  • Zest of 1 Lemon - reserve lemon for slices for garnish
  • 2 Tablespoons Dijon Mustard
  • Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
  • 1-2 Bunches Asparagus - woody stems removed and spears washed
  • Sheet Pan lined with foil, or parchment, or a silpat
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 425 Degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Make the compound butter but mixing in to a garlic butter mixture the zest of one lemon and 2 tablespoons of Dijon Mustard.  (If making your own compound butter, use 1/2 stick of softened unsalted butter and mix in minced garlic, a pinch of salt, a dash of pepper, lemon zest, a teaspoon of fine herbs or parsley, and Dijon mustard.)
  3. Line a sheet pan with either foil, or parchment paper, or a silpat.  Lay the salmon fillet on the sheet pan and if there is room add the cut asparagus spears next to the salmon.  Carefully spread 3/4 of the compound butter mixture over the salmon.  Dot the asparagus spears with the remaining butter. Season both the salmon and the asparagus with a generous pinch of kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper.
  4. Cook/Roast the salmon and asparagus for 12-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the salmon fillet and the asparagus.  If the salmon is under 1/2 inch think, it will cook in about 8-10 minutes.  If the salmon is more than 1/2 inch thick to an inch thick, the cooking time will be 12-15 minutes.  The salmon is done when the inner part at it's thickest point is opaque inside but thoroughly pink on the outside.  Thinner asparagus spears will cook very quickly so watch them to be sure they don't burn.
  5. Serve the salmon either warm - allowing it to rest for about 10 minutes before cutting and serving.  Salmon and the asparagus will also be good at room temperature or cold.  Serves 4-6.
If you can (and YOU CAN!) melt chocolate, you can make this dessert 2-6-Quick!
White Chocolate and Lemon No-Bake Dessert Ingredients:
  • 1 Cup Heavy Cream
  • 11 to 12 Ounces Best Quality White Chocolate (break the bar into smaller pieces)
  • 1 Tablespoon Sour Cream
  • Zest of 2 Lemons (about 2 tablespoons) - finely grated
  • 1/3 Cup FRESH Lemon Juice (regular or Meyer Lemons will work well too!)
  • 1 - 9-inch Ready to Use Graham Cracker Pie Crust Shell for a Pie, or 8 Pecan Shortbread cookies, or 8 Vanilla Wafers, or 8 Lemon Shortbread Cookies
  • 8-small 4 ounce ramekins for making individual desserts (ramekins or 4 ounce canning jars with lids)
Directions:
White chocolate melted with heavy cream becomes a light yet
luscious dessert when lemon zest and juice are added.  It's a a no-bake
dessert delight!

  1. If making individual desserts, add the cookies to the bottom of each ramekin or 4-ounce canning jar.  Set them aside.  If making this dessert as a pie, have the graham cracker crust ready. For a Passover-safe recipe, instead of the cookie or graham crackers, use matzah cake meal or matzah cookies or the equivalent.  
  2. Either in a double boiler set over a sauce pot of water over low heat or in a microwave safe bowl, heat the heavy cream and white chocolate until the chocolate melts completely; stir constantly if heating over the stove; if microwaving, heat at 1 minute intervals, stir and heat again for a total of 3 to 4 minutes.  Whisk the cream and chocolate mixture to ensure that the white chocolate is completely melted (a few streaks or tiny pieces may remain, but the mixture should be nearly smooth).  The chocolate and cream mixture will be rather viscous and somewhat thin.
  3. Next, whisk in the sour cream and incorporate thoroughly.
  4. Carefully whisk in the finely grated lemon zest and the lemon juice - the mixture will change colour and texture, going from off-white to creamy lemony yellow and will thicken considerably.
  5. Stir to completely combine and then pour or ladle the mixture into the jars or the ready to use graham cracker pie shell. Refrigerate and chill at least 2-4 hours before serving.  Garnish with candied lemon slices if desired.
  6. Serve individual desserts with candied lemon slices and a dollop of whipped cream.  To serve the "pie", cut, using a thin knife, cleaned before cutting the next slice.  Serves 8.  Will hold for 3 days, refrigerated and covered.
Perfect little desserts made in 4-ounce canning jars. Easy to give as left-overs
or take to work in your lunch bag!

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