Spring Luncheon With Tweens!
Source: Robyn Pels
Temperatures are rising, grass is growing, and my tweens noticed little green buds on a tree this morning. It was inspiring. It was hopeful. It made me hungry.
When spring finally arrives, I come out of my winter hibernation and want to be out and social once again. It's a great time for you and your tween to invite friends over for a spring luncheon. (Even pastry chefs need a full meal now and then). I've put together a menu full of spring flavors that, working together, you and your preteen can fix up in a snap.
Tuna Salad Flowers and Creatures
Ingredients: canned tuna, mayonnaise
Fancy add-ins: diced celery, onions, carrots; chopped olives, hard boiled eggs, capers, sliced raw green beans
Garnish ideas: capers, canned garbanzo beans, sliced almonds; thinly sliced carrot, zucchini, cucumber (crosswise); scallions, chives, raw green beans
Make the tuna salad according to your taste. Place a scoop on a plate or serving platter. Use garnishes to turn your tuna into a fanciful flower. The round vegetables make great petals and the chives and green beans are good for stems. Or, for the ambitious, try a cute critter. I make hedgehogs using sliced almonds on the back and then make a face with appropriately shaped veggies.
Let your creative juices flow - use any ingredient you have around and have fun with your flowers and creatures. If you don't want to prepare in advance, put out all the ingredients in bowls, and make it a do-it yourself!
Here's another dish that's loose on the recipe and heavy on the improvising and decorating. Smorbrod are open-faced sandwiches that can have any ingredient from veggies to raw fish attractively arranged on sandwich breads (see photo above). Smorbrod are traditionally savory, but I've given suggestions for sweeter versions too. That's the pastry chef in me coming out.
Start with: sliced breads (white, wheat, multigrain, zucchini, carrot, date walnut, etc.), crusts cut off, cut into squares, rounds or any other simple shape.
Spread with: butter, cream cheese or other soft cheese (such as goat or neufchatel), hummus, peanut butter, honey or jam (light colored will let toppings show better).
Topping ideas: sardines, anchovies, sliced meats - ham, turkey, salami, etc.; sliced cheeses - cheddar, american, swiss, etc.; capers, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, sliced carrots, cucumber, zucchini, celery, etc.; raisins, fresh fruit -- sliced strawberries, melon, kiwi, whole blueberries or raspberries.
Now, the fun begins. Play with your food. Put together your wildest creations. Make a bunch with a single theme or have a contest for most beautiful, most inventive, weirdest combination. Then, eat!
Rustic Strawberry Rhubarb Tart
Early spring arrives full of visions of fresh produce a bit before much of the fruit does. But there is Rhubarb! And this free-form strawberry rhubarb tart is a must for me, to mark the beginning of the season. No need to get fancy decorating this one, it's got natural beauty. This is a particularly great recipe if you are short on time or have a fear of home-made tart dough, since it uses store bought phyllo dough.
12 sheets phyllo dough (fully defrosted)
12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks, approximately) unsalted butter
¾ cup (approximately) granulated sugar
¼ cup graham cracker crumbs or bread crumbs
1 recipe strawberry rhubarb compote - below
Strawberry Rhubarb Compote:
2 tablespoons butter
1 lb. rhubarb, cut into 1" pieces
¼ cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 lb. strawberries, hulled, washed and halved
In a large saute pan, over high heat, melt the butter. Add the rhubarb and cook, stirring, until the juices start running and the rhubarb just begins to lose its color. Toss in sugar, then the flour and stir just to coat. Add in strawberries, mix to combine and immediately remove from heat. Let cool.
Preheat oven to 425°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or grease lightly.
Work right on the baking sheet. Work quickly since phyllo dries out fast. Spread out a sheet of phyllo (keeping remainder covered) and brush with about 1 tablespoon butter. Sprinkle with about 1 tablespoon sugar. Repeat with 5 more leaves. Scatter graham cracker or bread crumbs over the top. Place strawberry rhubarb compote in center in a mound about 6" in diameter. Cover with 6 more phyllo sheets, using butter and sugar between each layer. I like to use a little more sugar on the top layer for a crispy top.
Trim the corners off the phyllo so you have a round about 8-9" in diameter. Turn the edges of the phyllo up and pinch to seal. No need to be too tidy, the tart should look rustic.
Bake on middle rack of the oven for about 30 minutes or until golden. Tart can be served immediately or reheated gently before serving. Try it with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Robyn Pels is the owner of Robyn Pels Baker-at-Large, which makes cakes, cookies and specialty baked goods to order. She also teaches cooking to young and older children alike, leads baking workshops and parties, and bakes obsessively.
For inquiries and orders, e-mail: email@example.com
Share your ideas about creating other spring luncheon ideas: