Keep it light for Mother’s Day

05/07/2014 12:00 AM

05/07/2014 12:03 AM

How many breakfasts in bed does it take for a mom to get sick of breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day?

Rather than test the theory, I decided to go in a different direction this year. I wanted to create a light, yet still filling dish that would work well no matter what time of day it was served – brunch, lunch or dinner. And I wanted it to play nicely with whatever else was served.

The solution was deliciously easy – a salad of shaved fresh fennel and red onion tossed with a light dressing spiked with dill, whole-grain mustard and just a pinch of sugar. And heaped on top? Roasted new potatoes and a mound of thinly sliced smoked salmon.

Mom doesn’t like salmon? No worries. Substitute cooked and chilled shrimp. Or go crazy and serve a bit of each.

Another option for any time of day is chawanmushi, a savory Japanese custard-like egg dish that is steamed.

For a pretty and easy dessert, the solution is frozen puff pastry. It is easy to work with and bakes up into a deliciously flaky pastry.

You'll find puff pastry in the grocer’s freezer section, usually near the frozen fruit and pie shells. Be sure to thaw it completely before trying to unfold the sheets of pastry. You can place the box in the refrigerator overnight, or leave it (unopened) on the counter for about an hour.

We like the combination of blackberries and orange, but feel free to substitute any berry. Blueberries, raspberries and strawberries all would be delicious. This dessert also can be prepped ahead of time. Just bake the pastry squares, then store them covered at room temperature.

RECIPES

Shaved fennel and smoked salmon salad

Start to finish: 30 minutes

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

12 ounces new potatoes, quartered

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Salt and ground black pepper

1 large or 2 medium bulbs fennel, trimmed

1/2 small red onion

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard

1/2 teaspoon sugar

8 ounces cold-smoked salmon

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Chopped fresh dill

INSTRUCTIONS

Heat the oven to 425 degrees.

In a medium bowl, toss the potatoes with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Transfer the potatoes to a baking sheet, then roast until tender and lightly browned, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer the roasted potatoes to a plate and refrigerate just until no longer hot, about 10 minutes.

While the potatoes cook and cool, use a mandoline or food processor to shave the fennel as thinly as possible. Do the same with the onion. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, 2 tablespoons of the remaining olive oil, the mustard, sugar and a hefty pinch each of salt and pepper. Add the shaved fennel and onion, then toss until well coated. Divide the mixture between 4 serving plates. Top with the cooled potatoes.

Divide the salmon into thin slices. In a medium bowl, drizzle the salmon with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive and the lemon juice. Gently toss to coat, then season with pepper. Mound a quarter of the salmon over each salad, then sprinkle with fresh dill.

Per serving: 280 calories; 150 calories from fat (54 % of total calories); 17 g fat (2.5 g sat.; 0 g trans fats); 15 mg chol.; 22 g carb.; 3 g fiber; 2 g sugar; 13 g protein; 870 mg sodium.

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Blackberry-orange napoleons

Start to finish: 30 minutes

Serves 9

INGREDIENTS

One 17.3-ounce package puff pastry (each package contains 2 sheets), thawed

4 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided

2 cups fresh blackberries

Zest and juice of 1 orange

One 16-ounce container mascarpone

3 tablespoons powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

INSTRUCTIONS

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with kitchen parchment.

Unfold each sheet of puff pastry and lay flat on a work surface. Use 2 tablespoons of the sugar to sprinkle both sides of both sheets of puff pastry. Using a pizza wheel or a paring knife, cut each sheet into 9 squares.

Arrange the squares on the prepared baking sheet, then place another piece of parchment on top of them. Place a second baking sheet on top of that so that the puff pastry is sandwiched between them. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the top baking sheet and allow the squares to cool completely.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl combine the blackberries with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar and the orange zest and juice. Set aside.

In another bowl, stir together the mascarpone, powdered sugar and vanilla.

To assemble, place 1 pastry square on each serving plate. Top the square with 1 tablespoon of the mascarpone mixture, then 1 tablespoon of the berries. Top with another square of pastry, followed by another layer each of mascarpone and berries. Serve immediately.

Per serving: 490 calories; 340 calories from fat (69% of total calories); 38 g fat (17 g sat.; 0 g trans fats); 65 mg chol.; 29 g carb.; 3 g fiber; 10 g sugar; 8 g protein; 290 mg sodium.

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Chawanmushi

Prep time: 25 minutes (including marinate time)

Cook time: 18 minutes

Serves 4

Judicious amounts of shrimp, mushrooms and diced chicken are hidden under a delicate, savory custard here. The recipe calls for dashi, a broth that’s usually available in the Asian section of larger grocery stores.

You’ll need four 6-ounce ramekins and a steamer basket large enough to hold them.

Adapted by the Washington Post from “Egg: A Culinary Exploration of the World’s Most Versatile Ingredient,” by Michael Ruhlman (Little, Brown and Co., $40, 236 pages).

INGREDIENTS

2 ounces chicken thigh or breast meat, cut into 1/2-inch dice

1 teaspoon sake

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon soy sauce, preferably a light-colored Japanese usukuchi shoyu

4 small or 2 large shrimp, peeled and deveined, halved horizontally if large

A few mushroom pieces for each serving, such as enoki, maitake or shiitake, cut into bite-size pieces as needed

2 large eggs

11/2 cups homemade or store-bought dashi (see headnote)

2 teaspoons mirin

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 scallion, sliced thin on the diagonal, or 4 small watercress sprigs, for garnish

Grated lemon zest, for garnish (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS

Combine the diced chicken with the sake and 1 teaspoon of the soy sauce in a small bowl; marinate for 15 minutes, then drain.

Divide the chicken, shrimp and mushrooms among the ramekins, creating small piles at the bottom of each one.

Beat the eggs in a medium bowl until smooth. Add the dashi, the remaining 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, the mirin and salt; stir to incorporate. Divide evenly among the ramekins. Cover each ramekin tightly with aluminum foil.

Place a rack or steamer basket in a pot large enough to hold all four ramekins. Pour in enough water to just reach the bottom of the rack or basket. Bring it to a rolling boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium or as needed so the water is barely bubbling. Cover and cook/steam for 15 to 17 minutes, until the custards are set yet still jiggly. The shrimp and chicken should be cooked through.

Carefully remove the foil from the ramekins. Garnish each with the scallions or watercress. Re-cover the pot; cook/steam for about 1 minute, or just until the garnish has wilted a bit.

Discard the foil. Place the ramekins on individual plates. Sprinkle a little lemon zest on each chawanmushi, if desired. Serve immediately.

Per serving: Ingredients are too variable for a meaningful analysis.

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