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A Seasonal Feast of Spring Bounty

by Lou Seibert Pappas

This easy make-ahead menu suits a daytime luncheon or an evening dinner. The versatile menu is delightful served either warm, at room temperature, or chilled. It showcases the arrival of spring with fresh salmon, asparagus spears, and strawberries. Apropos wine choices include a Gloria Ferrer Chardonnay Carneros 1993, a Sanford Chardonnay 1993, a Franciscan Chardonnay 1993, or a Penfolds Cabernet-Shiraz 1992 or Rosemount Shiraz 1994 from South Australia.

Spinach and Pine Nut Salad Balsamic
makes 6 servings

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 large bunch spinach, trimmed and leaves torn
1 cup cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

Mix together in a bowl the mustard and vinegar and stir in the oil, salt, and pepper. When ready to serve, toss with the spinach and top with the tomatoes and nuts.

Orzo with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Leeks
makes 6 servings

1 leek, chopped (white part only)
3 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces (1-1/3 cups) orzo (tear-shaped-pasta)
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 shallot or green onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried dill
2 teaspoons fresh oregano or 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
1/2 cup snipped sun-dried tomatoes, oil-packed
1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
Arugula or oak leaf lettuce

In a skillet over medium heat, saut» the leeks in one teaspoon oil until soft. In a large pot of abundant boiling salted water, cook the orzo until al dente, about 12 to 15 minutes; drain, letting some liquid cling to the pasta. Let cool a few minutes. In a bowl, stir together the remaining oil, lemon juice, shallot, dill, oregano, and salt and pepper. Add the pasta and toss to coat. Stir in the leeks, parsley, tomatoes, and feta. Serve at room temperature or chill. When ready to serve, tuck arugula or lettuce around the edge of the bowl.

Roast Salmon with Cucumber Dill Sauce
makes 8 servings

Whole salmon, about 2-1/2 to 3 pounds
Arugula, basil or parsley for garnish

Preheat the oven to 450ÉF. Place the salmon on a heavy sheet of foil on a roasting pan. Measure the height, and bake in the oven for 10 minutes per inch of height, or until it flakes and the center is no longer opaque. Let cool 2 minutes and peel off the skin on both sides. If desired, cover and chill. Accompany with sauce and garnish the platter with arugula, basil, or parsley.

Cucumber Dill Sauce
makes about 2 1/2 cups

1 small cucumber
salt to taste
1/2 cup light-style sour cream
1/3 cup low-fat yogurt
1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill or 1/4 teaspoon dried dill weed
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley

Peel, halve, seed, and dice cucumber and place in a strainer. Sprinkle with salt, toss, and let stand 20 minutes for the moisture to exude. Mix together sour cream, yogurt, dill, parsley, and salt to taste. Stir in and the cucumbers. Cover and chill.

Asparagus with Cilantro Vinaigrette
makes 6 servings

1 1/2 pounds fresh asparagus spears
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 green onion, chopped (white part only)
Dash salt and pepper

Trim the ends from the asparagus and cook in a large pot of boiling salted water for two minutes, or until crisp tender; drain and chill. Combine the lemon juice, oil, vinegar, cilantro, onion, salt, and pepper and spoon over the asparagus. Chill.

Lemon Ice in Shells with Berries
makes 6 servings
This wonderfully refreshing ice is excellent tucked inside hollow lemon shells, cut zig-zag style, or serve it with assorted small scoopfuls of raspberry sherbet and vanilla frozen yogurt.

3 lemons
2/3 cup plus 1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 cup water
1 tablespoons grated lemon zest
1/2 cup lemon juice
Strawberries, preferably long-stemmed, for accompaniment

Cut the lemons in half, zig-zag style, and squeeze out the juice to make the 1/2 cup juice needed. Combine the 2/3 cup sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Cook until the syrup is clear. Mash the lemon zest with the 1/2 teaspoon sugar to bring out its oils. Remove the syrup from the heat and stir in the lemon zest and juice. Let cool and chill thoroughly. Pour into a shallow pan, cover and freeze until solid. Scoop into the container of a food processor and process until light and fluffy. Pile into the scooped out lemon shells, cover, and freeze until firm. Serve with a few long-stemmed strawberries alongside.

Lou Seibert Pappas is a former food editor of the Palo Alto Times Tribune and a home economist with Sunset Magazine. She currently writes food, home, and travel-related articles for national magazines and newspapers and is the author of more than 30 books.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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