A May Day Dinner Party
STORY AND IMAGES BY SYLVIA FOUNTAINE
With the arrival of spring, cheerful, fragrant blossoms fill the air, and colorful, vibrant produce can be found in abundance at our local farmers markets. Brightly colored radishes, spring peas, asparagus, sweet local strawberries, fresh spring herbs, and alliums are all plentiful This is the time to inhale, take in all the beauty, and celebrate the bountiful harvest, remembering that many of these spring ingredients appear for only a short precious time.
Create a May Day–themed party by making May baskets. Fill small-handled baskets with fresh spring flowers as centerpieces. This multi-course, plated menu is simple to cook and easy to put together. Many of the steps can be made ahead — or, for a fun hands-on experience, enlist your guests to help plate and assemble the dishes with you, while sipping a floral sake, sparkling wine, Viognier, or Chenin Blanc.
Cucumber Watermelon Radish Salad with Shiso Ribbons
Serves 4 | Active time: 15 minutes
A light and refreshing Japanese-style cucumber salad with the addition of colorful watermelon radishes and shiso ribbons.
3 Turkish cucumbers (or 2/3 English cucumber)
4 watermelon radishes (or regular radishes)
5 shiso leaves (or basil, dill, mint, or chives)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon shallot, finely chopped
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Slice cucumbers and radishes into thin rounds and set aside.
Layer shiso leaves on top of each other, roll them up into a tube shape, then slice into thin ribbons.
Arrange cucumbers, radishes, and shiso ribbons on four plates. In a small bowl, whisk oils, vinegar, shallot, mustard seeds, salt, and sugar. Once salt and sugar are dissolved, spoon dressing over the plated cucumber and radishes. Let sit five minutes before serving.
Seared Scallops with Spring Peas, Tarragon, and Truffle
Serves 4 | Active time: 35 minutes
Fresh peas are highlighted in this recipe and served two ways: 1) blended into a flavorful, luscious pea and tarragon sauce with a hint of truffle oil and 2) quickly sautéed and left whole and plump, as a foundation for the scallops. Both can be made ahead and gently warmed before serving.
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 shallot, finely diced
4 cups fresh shucked spring peas
1 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons white pepper
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon white truffle oil
Pea and Tarragon Sauce
2/3 cup water
1/3 cup sauteed peas (from above)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
2 teaspoons white truffle oil
2 tablespoons fresh tarragon
12 extra-large scallops, patted dry, seasoned with salt
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon neutral oil (like safflower)
In a medium sauce pan or pot, heat oil and butter over medium heat. Add shallot, and saute until golden, about 2–3 minutes. Add fresh peas, salt, pepper, and water. Simmer briefly, until peas turn bright green, about 1–2 minutes. Drizzle with a teaspoon of truffle oil, leave uncovered, and turn heat off, careful to not overcook.
Transfer 1/3 cup cooked peas to a blender, add water, salt, pepper, truffle oil, and tarragon and blend until very smooth. Set aside.
In a heavy-bottom or cast-iron skillet, heat the oil and butter over medium-high heat. When the butter starts to brown, add the scallops and turn the heat to medium. Sear until golden, about 2 minutes, turn over, and sear the other side. The scallops will naturally unstick themselves from the pan when they have developed a good crust. Just give the pan a shake.
When ready to serve, quickly heat up the pea sauce and the peas, just briefly (so they don’t lose their lovely color) and divide the peas among 4 bowls or plates. Top with the scallops, drizzle with warm pea sauce. Garnish with lemon zest, fresh tarragon, and pea flowers. Serve immediately.
Strawberry Elderflower Tiramisu
Serves 4 | Active time: 30 minutes
This flowery, fruity dessert can be made ahead and stored in the fridge. It features local strawberries, the sweetest you can find — and you can tell you have local strawberries because generally they are small, sweet, tender, and red in color all the way through.
8 ounces mascarpone cheese, brought to room temp
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup whipped cream (or plain, full-fat Greek yogurt)
1 pound strawberries, sliced or quartered
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons orange zest
3/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup elderflower liqueur (Like St. Germain) or orange-flavored liqueur (like Grand Marnier)
16–20 lady finger cookies
elderflower syrup for drizzling (optional)
Bring mascarpone to room temperature. Place in a stand mixer and beat with sugar and vanilla until sugar is dissolved. Gently fold in whipped cream or yogurt. If using yogurt, test for sweetness; you may want to add more sugar. Set aside.
Cut strawberries and toss with a teaspoon or more of sugar (depending on how ripe and sweet the strawberries are). Add orange zest.
Stir and let them sit and release their juices, creating a syrup, roughly 20 minutes.
Pour the orange juice into a wide bowl, adding liqueur.
Arrange 4 glasses or cups and assemble tiramisu. Place a dollop of mascarpone cream in the bottom of each glass.
One at a time, dip a lady finger in the orange juice, letting it soak up just a little, break apart into 3 pieces and place in each glass over the cream.
Spoon in some strawberries along with their juices. Repeat this process, layering with cream, dipped lady fingers, then strawberries until all is divided. Serve immediately or refrigerate until serving. Drizzle with optional elderflower syrup.
Sylvia Fountaine, author of Feasting at Home Blog, is a Pacific Northwest chef, recipe developer, and food photographer. Find more of her work at www.feastingathome.com.