Welcome home! Two heartwarming words that reflect joy, pride and hospitality. At this time of year, it's likely to be the return of a student from college, a class reunion, a Father's Day get-together or a long-awaited visit from a close friend. No matter what, the homecoming meal is an opportunity to be together and catch up after long absences.
No need to impress with fine china. Keep it casual. If the weather is comfortable, plan to eat outdoors. As for centerpieces, check your cupboards for little containers like pitchers or mugs. Fill a grouping with wild flowers or greenery, and stuff wicker baskets with a selection of crudités (picked up pre-cut at the market) as edible centerpieces. Use colorful woven placemats, checkered napkins tucked into stemmed glasses, and mix-and-match dishes. Now the stage is set.
The menu should include some favorite foods. If it's a young crowd, set out bowls of spiced popcorn, and blue corn chips with salsa and sour cream. For a more sophisticated group, try appetizers like grated hard goat cheeses or a bruschetta mix spooned on to toasted French bread, then drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil or truffle oil. This will go over well with little effort on your part.
Have a plentiful supply of wine spritzers and sangria on hand - and let the good times roll!
A composed salad is just the fancy name for a selection of ingredients arranged on individual plates in an attractive manner rather than tossed together. To reduce sodium, substitute cooked, flaked salmon.
2 bunches arugula (about 8 oz. each)
1/4 cup vinaigrette dressing
2 Tbsps. orange juice
1 large smoked trout, skin and bones removed
2 pink grapefruits, sectioned or 18 canned sections
2 ripe avocados, peeled, pitted and cut into 24 wedges
2 Tbsps. shredded fresh mint leaves
Wash arugula in cold water. Spin in a salad spinner to dry.
Divide equally to line six salad plates.
In a small bowl, whisk dressing and orange juice. Set aside.
With a fork, separate the trout into flakes. Divide into six portions.
Place a portion of smoked trout in the center of each arugula-lined plate.
Alternate the grapefruit sections and avocado wedges around the trout.
Drizzle with the dressing and garnish with mint. Serve chilled.
Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 219; protein, 12 g; carbohydrates, 12 g; fat, 15 g; cholesterol, 30 mg; sodium, 846 mg.
Barbecued Flank Steak With Fresh Herb Sauce
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup good olive oil
1/2 cup dry, kosher red wine
2 Tbsps. lite soy sauce
2 Tbsps. minced garlic
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme or 1 tsp. dried
2 tsps. freshly ground pepper
2 flank steaks (1 lb. each)
In a medium bowl, whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, red wine, soy sauce, garlic, thyme and pepper.
Arrange steaks in one layer in a large shallow glass dish. Prick each one several times all over with a fork.
Pour the marinade over top, turning steaks to coat thoroughly. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight, turning several times.
Remove steaks from refrigerator. Pour off marinade and discard. (Do not reuse).
Heat grill to medium-hot.
Arrange steaks on grill. Cook 5 to 6 minutes on each side for rare. Cook a few minutes longer for medium or well-done. If steak is very thick, cooking times may be longer.
Transfer to a cutting board.
Let rest 5 to 10 minutes. Slice one-quarter-inch thick on the diagonal, cutting across the grain.
Arrange nicely on a platter and spoon some sauce over. Pass remaining sauce in a gravy boat.
Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 329; protein, 31 g; carbohydrates, 1 g; fat, 20 g; cholesterol, 75 mg; sodium, 296 mg.
Fresh Herb Sauce
4 cups parsley, loosely packed
2 green onions, trimmed and sliced
2 hard-cooked eggs, quartered
2 Tbsps. Dijon-style mustard
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
11/2 tsps. lemon-pepper seasoning or to taste
In a food processor or blender, place parsley, green onions, eggs, mustard, lemon juice and olive oil.
Process to a smooth mixture. Season to taste with lemon pepper seasoning. Refrigerate.
Remove from refrigerator for 30 minutes before serving.
Makes about 1 cup.
Asparagus and Wild Mushrooms
The chanterelle mushrooms available commercially are usually cultivated, although they are found growing in parts of the Pacific Northwest. They are trumpet-shaped, with a nutty flavor and chewy texture. Add at the end of cooking time.
2 Tbsps. margarine
2 Tbsps. olive oil
2 lbs. asparagus, trimmed and cut in diagonal 2-inch lengths
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
8 oz. chanterelle or brown mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
2 Tbsps. snipped fresh cilantro, divided
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Heat margarine and oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add asparagus and onion.
Sauté 4 minutes, or until asparagus is crisp-tender.
Stir in the mushrooms and 1 tablespoon cilantro.
Heat through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Transfer to serving dish and sprinkle with remaining cilantro.
Note: Vegetables may be prepared and refrigerated until ready to cook.
Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 82; protein, 1 g; carbohydrates, 2 g; fat, 8 g; cholesterol, 0 mg; sodium, 46 mg.
Papaya Raspberry Tart
The pastry shell and lemon curd may be prepared ahead. Assemble two to three hours before serving. Refrigerate.
1 stick (4 oz.) margarine, melted
1 Tbsp. white vinegar
2 Tbsps. sugar
11/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup pareve lemon curd (see below)
2 medium ripe papayas, peeled, seeded and thinly sliced
11/2 cups raspberries
1/3 cup apple jelly, melted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium bowl, mix the margarine and vinegar.
Stir in sugar and flour, mixing well to blend.
Press into the bottom and sides of a 9- or 10-inch pie plate. Prick all over with a fork.
Bake for 25 minutes or until golden-brown. Cool completely.
Spread the lemon curd over the bottom of pastry shell.
Top with papaya slices arranged attractively. Scatter the raspberries over top.
Brush the melted jelly over the papaya and raspberries.
Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 387; protein, 5 g; carbohydrates, 51 g; fat, 19 g; cholesterol, 66 mg; sodium, 228 mg.
Leftover lemon curd may be refrigerated up to two weeks. It's delicious spread on English muffins, toast or to top a fruit salad. Or, if you prefer, make half of the recipe using three eggs instead of five.
3 large lemons
11/4 cups sugar
1 stick (4 oz.) margarine, melted
Grate the lemon zest (colored part of the rind) into a blender jar. Cut lemons in half.
Squeeze the juice, removing any seeds. Add to the zest along with the eggs and sugar.
Cover. Blend at high speed for 10 seconds. With blender at low speed, gradually pour in the melted margarine in a steady stream.
Transfer to a heavy-bottomed saucepan.
Cook over medium heat, stirring briskly and constantly until beginning to thicken, 4 to 5 minutes. Mixture should coat the back of a spoon.
Remove from heat, continuing to stir for 2 minutes. Do not boil or mixture will curdle. Pour into jelly jars.
Cool completely. Store in refrigerator up to two weeks.
Makes about 13/4 cups.
Approximate nutrients per tablespoon: calories, 79; protein, 1 g; carbohydrates, 10 g; fat, 4 g; cholesterol, 38 mg; sodium, 50 mg.
Ethel G. Hofman is a cookbook author and a past president of the International Association of Culinary Professionals. Reach her at: www.kosherfoodconsultants.com .