Hot Summer’s day Lunch Party Posted by: | May 17, 2010
 

I decided to have a lunch party for the first time on this weekend. It’s kind of challenging as I wouldn’t have much time to cook and prepare in the morning (I’m incapable of waking up before 10am on weekends). Which means, I would have to get all ingredients by Friday after work. So every other day this week, I went to supermarkets just to scout for the best ingredients to perfect my menu bit by bit (be it during lunch hour, or after gym – pls don’t say I have no life). On Thursday I found some fresh dill finally, so I decided to have a special yogurt sauce topping mixed with lemon and dill, which goes perfectly well with my beautiful salmon that I was going to sear on my griddle pan. This is the first time I’m making fish for guests. To be honest, I am not that confident with Fish dishes, as I’m a chicken lover and it’s just so easy to please the crowd with a good roast chicken. However, Neeti is allergic to chicken, AND eggs, so I had to crack my brains to come up with a menu that would be tasty and just as festive! My final menu finally came together as follows:

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Starter: Home-baked Rustic Artisan loaf dipped with extra-virgin olive oil & balsamic vinegar

Main Course: Pan-seared Salmon with Lemon-Dill yogurt sauce, served on top of Asparagus Pesto Pasta

Dessert: Eggless Apple Cinnamon Cake

Wine: South Australian Chardonnay

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The entire meal turned out really well and everyone ended up stuffing themselves really full (evidence: both me and Sid had to skip dinner on that day). The food was really suitable for a hot day too, as nothing was hot and greasy. So guys, if you felt like you over-ate, at least be rest assured that it was healthy over-eating :P

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So let’s run through the entire course of that morning again, together with the recipes:

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Starter: Rustic Artisan Loaf (see recipe)


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I started making the bread dough from 8pm on the night before, as the bread needs at least 12 hours rising/fermentation in room temperature, followed by another 2 hours of second-rising before being baked in the oven for close to an hour. So I tossed the flour, water, yeast and salt together before dinner on Friday, and by Saturday morning I had a dough that has at least doubled or trippled in size, bubbling and smelling like bread! I should always make bread on weekends, as I love waking up and running straight to the kitchen to check on that beautiful dough! This was the 2nd time I made the Artisan loaf after Jim Lahey’s No Knead Bread recipe, and it turned out even better than last time. The bread rose beautifully in the oven into a round, crusty loaf. It was done just an hour before the lunch, so we all tucked into really fresh bread. It tasted phenomenal. My friends loved it! And nothing pairs better with tasty fresh bread than simple extra-virgin olive oil with a few drops of balsamic vinegar. Slurp. I’m drooling again as I am typing this one day later.

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Main Course: Pan-seared Salmon with Lemon-Dill yogurt sauce, served on top of Asparagus Pesto Pasta

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This dish was a combination of 3 different recipes. I’m glad the very different tastes all complemented one another perfectly! The yogurt and pesto was definitely a hit! Contrary to many people’s beliefs, Pesto is not made of Basil leaves. Pesto merely means “Paste”. I also did not know this until I stumbled upon an article by Mark Bittman on the NY Times about Asparagus Pesto. It is also Asparagus season, and guess what, it goes superb with fish too!. So I dropped the idea of making couscous to have Asparagus Pesto pasta instead, following a great recipe on Simply Recipes. Overall not a difficult dish to make. It took me altogether slightly more than hour. It was actually the last thing I made, after bread and dessert, as Salmon needs to be eaten hot out of the pan.

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INGREDIENTS (serves 5 – 6)

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(For the salmon)

  • 5 – 6 pcs of palm sized salmon fillet
  • A few sprigs of fresh dill for topping
  • a squeeze of lemon juice
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
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(For the Yogurt sauce)

  • about 1 cup of fresh Greek Yogurt
  • 1 clove of garlic (minced or pureed)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • a small pinch of salt to taste
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(for the Asparagus Pesto Pasta – adapted from Simply Recipes)

  • 450g asparagus, trimmed of tough ends and halved crosswise if thick
  • 3 handfuls baby spinach leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
  • 1 cup pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for topping
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
  • 1 pack of Linguini pasta

METHOD:

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1. Put a pot of slightly salted water to boil. While the water is heating up, roast the pine nuts on a pan in a single layer for a few minutes until it is lightly brown on all sides. Set aside. You will use 3/4 for the pesto and 1/4 for final garnishing on the pasta.

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2. Put the asparagus spears into boiling water and cook for only 2 – 3 minutes, until it is just tender and bright green. Remove the asparagus from the pot, keeping the water in the pot, and drain under cool water in a colander to stop the cooking. Cut the asparagus tips off to use as garnishing later on. Using the same asparagus water, bring to boil again to cook the pasta according to package instructions (I figured the slightly flavoured asparagus water would just make more flavourful pasta, and I can also save gas (the still-hot water boils much faster) and water that way – what a green, healthy, eco dish right?).

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3. Add the asparagus, spinach, garlic, Parmesan, and 3/4 cup of the pine nuts to a food processor. Purée and, with the motor running, drizzle in the 1/4 cup of olive oil through the funnel until a paste forms. If too thick, thin it with a bit of the pasta water. Add the lemon juice and salt, taste and adjust seasoning. As this pesto is to be eaten with pasta, it should be fairly well seasoned. But the salty Parmesan cheese helps a lot too, so don’t go overboard with the salt. And that’s your pesto done! In the meantime, drain the pasta and divide among the plates.

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4. Now time to make the yogurt sauce. In a bowl combine the yogurt, dill, lemon zest, garlic, and olive oil. Mix well, season to taste with a small pinch of salt, and set aside. The reason we use lemon zest for this is for the citrus flagrance without having to make the sour yogurt even more sour with lemon juice. And it works so well! Chill the yogurt in the fridge until serving.

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5. Now is the fastest step: Searing the salmon. Sprinkle some salt and pepper over both sides of the salmon before putting into a pan with hot olive oil. Put skin side down first. After about 2 minutes, flip the salmon and cook for another 2 – 3 minutes, until the fish turns light-pink/opaque. Flip again so that skin side is down. Sprinkle some dill leaves on top and drizzle a bit of lemon juice over. Off the heat. Total searing time should not be more than 7 minutes or so. It’s important that you don’t overcook the salmon as it will turn dry and tough very fast.

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6. Divide one big ladle of Asparagus pesto on each pasta plate, followed by the salmon sitting on top, and scoop a tablespoon full of yogurt sauce on each salmon.Garnish the plates with asparagus heads and pine nuts.

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What a beautiful dish! I could eat this all the time :) The salmon was so tender and juicy, and it went perfectly with the lemon and dill flavors in the rich, sour yogurt. And the green, nutty pesto was just so refreshing and soothing. It really harmonizes the strong salmon and dill yogurt.

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Dessert: Eggless Apple Cinnamon Cake (adapted from Eggless.com)

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The most popular dessert cakes to make, without having to use eggs, would be all kinds of Apple Pies and Tarts. I have always wanted to make Apple Cake with lots of Apple in the filling and topping, so this was a natural choice. The dough was quite dense and was almost like a soft bread, due to the lack of eggs, but it is yummy together with the soft apples and raisins inside. Plus, who can resist apple when it’s baked with cinnamon? The apple cinnamon aroma filled my house for quite awhile. What a bliss!

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INGREDIENTS (serves 6 – 8):

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  • 2 1/2 cups white self-raising flour
  • 1/2 cup demerara sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 3 medium apples, chopped into small cubes for filling and 2 medium apples, thinly sliced, for topping
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • icing sugar for garnishing upon serving
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METHOD:

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1. Grease a non-stick springform pan (9″ pan) with melted butter using a brush. Peel, core and chop 3 apples for the filling. Sift the flour, cinnamon and salt into a bowl and stir in the sugar and raisins. Mix in the butter, sour cream, milk and apples and beat until smooth. Turn the mixture into the prepared baking tin.

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2. Thinly slice your remaining apples and line them, slightly overlapping over each other, over the cake batter. Sprinkle some white sugar on top so it can help the apple topping caramelize better, and bake for about 50min – 1 hr. Test with a cake tester or toothpick (it must come out clean) before turning out onto a wire rack to cool. Sprinkle with icing sugar before serving. Check the cake frequently from 40 minutes baking onwards so it doesn’t burn. As for mine, the apple topping would have burnt badly if I baked longer than 45 minutes.

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For real indulgence, we ate the apple cake with a big scoop of Vanilla Icecream on top. mmm… heaven! The dessert totally knocked us out after a satisfying meal.

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And that was another weekend of crazy cooking and awesome company over at my place. And I concluded, I love cooking for people. Despite all the stress and pressure to get everything out on time, and the physical demands of enduring heat, it is all worth it in the end when you see your friends enjoying the food you made. Such a reward! Next weekend is my last big Dinner party for this month. Another dinner for 7. After that, i will be really busy with preparing for a big event at work, and will probably have to hold off all lunch/dinner parties until late June :( Sorry guys!

 

3 Responses to “Hot Summer’s day Lunch Party”

  1. phuong says:

    Looks great. Do you have the recipe for Apple Cake with Eggs? I have no prb with eggs, so…

    Thank you

  2. Sharon says:

    You are simply talented! I think you should start a restaurant of your own! :) Keep it going!

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