When spring won't settle down, I comfort myself by planning menus for meals I'd like to make when we're finished with all this nonsense. Here's a lunch I will definitely serve some spring weekend when there are friends or family here for lunch.
First, I'll create a platter of just poached asparagus spears. I'll grate the rind from a navel orange so I have 2 teaspoons zest. Then I'll peel that orange and a second one, carefully removing the white pith. Sliced into rounds, those oranges will decorate my asparagus platter. I'll sprinkle the asparagus with a bit of salt and drizzle with a vinaigrette dressing to which I've added the orange zest. A drift of finely chopped fresh mint or parsley will garnish. I'll serve this gorgeous presentation as a first course with toasted Italian or French bread slices.
Worth the splurge for the main course in my spring lunch are crab cakes, here served with a tarragon tartar sauce. A great partner is a red cabbage and carrot slaw. I'll serve a chilled chardonnay or sauvignon blanc throughout the meal. For dessert, vanilla ice cream scooped into some of my largest wine glasses and topped with warm blueberry sauce.
CRAB CAKES, TARRAGON TARTAR SAUCE
(12 cakes, serving 6)
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
6 tablespoons sour cream
1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
2 pounds lump crabmeat, picked over
2 cups fine fresh bread crumbs
1/3 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup vegetable oil
Lemon wedges as garnish
Whisk together butter, eggs, sour cream, parsley, lemon juice, Worcestershire, paprika, salt and cayenne. Gently stir in the crabmeat and crumbs. Form 1/2-cup measures of the mixture into 12 (3/4-inch) cakes.
Sprinkle a baking sheet with half the cornmeal and transfer the crab cakes to the sheet as they are formed. Sprinkle cakes with remaining cornmeal and chill them, covered with plastic, for at least 1 hour or overnight.
To cook, heat oven to 200 degrees and place another baking sheet with a rack in the oven. In a large heavy skillet, heat the oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Sauté the crab cakes in batches, turning them once, for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, or until they are golden. Do not crowd the pan. Transfer the browned crab cakes to the baking sheet in the oven to drain and keep warm until all 12 have been sautéed. Serve warm with the sauce and lemon.
TARRAGON TARTAR SAUCE (2 cups)
1-1/2 cups light mayonnaise
3 shallots, minced
4 cornichons (French sour gherkins) minced
18 brine-cured green olives, pitted and chopped
1-1/2 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon leaves
1 tablespoon cider vinegar, or to taste
Hot sauce to taste
In a small bowl whisk together all ingredients until the sauce is well combined. Serve chilled.
WARM BLUEBERRY SAUCE (makes 2 cups)
2 cups fresh or frozen (unthawed) blueberries
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 stick cinnamon
In a saucepan, heat the blueberries, sugar, water, lemon juice and cinnamon. Bring to a boil for 4 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick. Thicken, if necessary, with 1`/2 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in a little cold water.
Serve warm over ice cream.