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Easter dinner whimsy: edible nests as a side dish or a whole-meal salad.

An edible nest for food adds a whimsical note to spring menus, especially during the holidays. Here are three: a vegetable dish, a pasta course, a main-dish salad.

Each of these dishes has make-ahead steps, and all the nests can be made the day before, then reheated in the oven.

Surrounded a roast with lacy nests of shredded potato or taro root and fill them with buttered tiny onions and green peas. Potato Nests

3/4 pound thin-skinned potatoes or taro root, peeled

Cold water

1/3 cup shredded Swiss cheese

1/3 cup minced onion

1 egg yolk

1/4 teaspoon each pepper, ground nutmeg, and paprika

Hot vegetables (recipe follows)

Coarsely shred potato or taro into water; drain and squeeze out moisture.

In a bowl, mix together shredded vegetable, cheese, onion, egg yolk, pepper, nutmeg, and paprika. Spoon equally into 12 well-buttered muffin cups (2-1/2-in. size, with nonstick finish); press mixture against bottom and sides of cups.

Bake, uncovered in a 350[deg.] oven until sides are brown and center is dry, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool in pans 5 minutes. Run a knife around edges of nests, tip out of pan, and set cupped side up. Serve hot. (To make ahead, return nests to muffin pans to protect shape, cover, and chill up to 1 day. To reheat, remove nest from muffin pans and place on a wire rack set in 10- by 12-in. pan. Bake, uncovered, in a 350[deg.] oven until hot and crisp, about 5 minutes.) Fill potato nests equally with hot vegetables. Serves 6. Hot vegetables. In a 2- to 3-quart pan, bring 3 cups water to boiling. Add 1 pound unpeeled tiny onions (about 3/4-in. diameter) or small onions (about 1-1/2-in. diameter). Simmer until tender when pierced, 8 to 20 minutes, depending on size. Drain; let cool; peel. (If made ahead, cover and chill up to 1 day.)

Melt 2 tablespoons butter or salad oil in a 10- to 12-inch frying pan on medium heat. Add onions, cover, and cook until hot, 5 to 10 minutes. Add 2/3 cup frozen or fresh peas and stir, uncovered, until peas are hot, about 1 minute. Use at once.

Start another dinner with a pasta nest: thin strands of seasoned capelini or vermicilli shaped and baked in a custard cup, resting in a tomato sauce and topped with a hard-cooked or pickled quail egg. Look for quail eggs in well-stocked supermarkets or Oriental markets. Pasta Nests with Eggs

2 ounces thinly sliced Black Forest or Westphalian ham or prosciutto, slivered

2 tablespoons pitted and chopped salty black olivens such as nicoise or calamata

1 tablespoon drained capers 1/4 cup olive oil or melted butter

8 ounces dry thin pasta strands (such as cappelini)


1/3 cup chopped parsley

Salt and pepper

2 eggs, beaten

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Quick tomato sauce (recipe follows)

Quail eggs (directions follow)

In a 10- to 12-inch frying pan on low heat, stir ham, olives, capers, and oil occasionally until hot, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a 4- to 5-quart pan, cook pasta in 3 inches boiling water, uncovered, until tender to bite, about 6 minutes; drain. Stir into ham mixture along with parsley; add salt and pepper to taste. Spoon equally into 8 buttered 6-ounce custard cups. (If made ahead, cover and chill as long as overnight.) Pour eggs equally over pasta; sprinkle with cheese.

Bake, uncovered, in a 500[deg.] oven until pasta is golden on top, about 15 minutes. Pour 4 to 5 tablespoons quick tomato sauce onto each of 8 salad plates. Run a knife around nests to release, then turn nests out onto a flat surface. With a spatula and your hand, set each nest, browned side up, on a plate with sauce; put a quail egg on top. Serves 8.

Quick tomato sauce. In an 8 to 10-inch frying pan on medium-high heat, cook 3 tablespoons minced onion and 1 clove garlic (minced or pressed) in 1 tablespoon olive oil or butter. Stir, uncovered, until limp, about 5 minutes. Stir in 1 large can (15 oz.) tomato sauce, 3/4 cup dry white wine, and 1 teaspoon chopped fresh mint leaves (or 1/2 teaspoon dry mint). Bring to a rolling boil. If made ahead, cover and chill up to 2 days. Reheat to use.

Quail eggs. In a 1-1/2- to 2-quart pan, cover 8 quail eggs with about 1 inch cold water. Bring to boiling on high eat; simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes. Drain; immerse eggs in cold water to cool; shell. Use, or wrap and chill up to 2 days. (If fresh quail eggs are unavailable, use pickled ones.)

For lunch, consider a salmon-and-lettuce salad dressed with nippy green-chili mayonnaise and nested in a crisp tortilla. Crisp Tortilla Nests

1 small can (8-3/4 oz.) whole-kernel corn

Salad oil

6 flour tortillas (8- to 10-in. diameter)

4 cups lightly packed shredded romaine lettuce

2-1/2 to 3 cups cooked salmon, broken into large pieces (about 1-1/2 lb. steaks, bone and skin removed)

Chili mayonnaise (recipe follows)

Drain corn and set aside. Remove label and cut out can ends; wash and dry can.

In a deep 3- to 4-quart pan on medium-high heat, bring 2 inches oil to 375[deg.] on a thermometer. With metal tongs, hold can by one end. Lay a tortilla over pan of oil and quickly but gently push tortilla into oil with can's other end. Fry tortilla until crisp and golden, about 1-1/2 minutes; as tortilla cooks, tip can so oil flows into center of tortilla. Lift can with tortilla from oil, drain briefly, and set on paper towels to cool slightly. Protecting your hands, carefully twist can free.

Repeat to cook remaining tortillas. (If made ahead, wrap airtight and hold at room tempreature up to 1 day.) To reheat shells, place them, cup side up, on a 10- by a15-inch pan. Bake in a 350[deg.] oven until hot and crisp, about 3 minutes.

Mix romaine, salmon, and reserved corn; spoon into tortilla shells. Add chili mayonnaise to taste. Serves 6.

Chili mayonnaise. In a food processor or blender, whirl 1-1/2 cups mayonnaise with 1 can (4 oz.) diced green chilies until smooth. Stir in cayenne to taste. Use, or cover and chill up to 1 day.
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Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:recipes
Date:Apr 1, 1984
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