The first holiday appetizer I have for you is my baked asparagus wrapped in Prosciutto that has a smear of a cream cheese, sweet onion and Parmesan spread on the Prosciutto. These Proscuitto wrapped Asparagus are one of my favorite appetizers and can be a topping to a salad or a pretty side vegetable to lunch or dinner. I first had these delicious little bundles at my sister-in-law’s, Anita’s house, twenty years ago. She is an amazing chef who’s always cooking up a storm. They can totally be made a day ahead, placed on a cookie tray and stored in the frig until you need them. The asparagus is blanched and shocked in an ice bath to stop the cooking and to keep that vibrant green color before they are wrapped with Proscuitto. You want to make sure you buy “Proscuitto di Parma” for this holiday appetizer because it’s the best and most delicate in flavor. There are other tasty Prosciutto’s out there but they won’t be as tender as the Parma and may get too salty or waxy after baking.
The second quick and easy, gourmet tidbit i have for you are my holiday crostinis with Gorgonzola, fresh chopped tomato, basil and garlic that bakes for seven minutes. These take the same amount of time as the asparagus-Prosciutto appetizer’s. How convenient is that? You can buy already crumbled Gorgonzola at the market in small plastic containers. A little chopping of cherry or grape tomatoes and basil and voilà! The crostinis are beyond simple to make and you can check out that recipe by the hyper-link.
The last wicked easy and delicious holiday appetizer I have for you is something a little sweet. It’s a dollop of goat cheese, fig jam, fresh chopped pear and a mint leave all in a pre-baked fillo shell. Yes, I said pre-baked!!! Can you believe that one? This one you serve at room temperature so all you need to do is thaw the pre-baked shells which takes all of two minutes. It just can’t get any easier than that.
You can totally be flexible with these perfect little holiday appetizer’s too. If you don’t like Gorgonzola switch it out with some cubed up fresh mozzarella to top the crostinis and tomato-basil mixture. As for the pre-baked phylo cups, you can always swap out the goat cheese for a slice of brie if that’s more your taste.
This curry-yogurt dip is an elegant and refreshing way to have serve your vegetables. I really like this combination of the earthy asparagus and the lemony curry-yogurt dip. This dip was originally made with mayo only but mixing the two, half mayo and half yogurt gives you the best of both worlds. The creaminess from the mayo an the tang from the yogurt makes for a refreshing dip. The stalks on the asparagus are peeled with a potato peelers before you blanch them. This gives a vibrant green color and a nice feel when you bite into the asparagus not to mention putting in that little extra effort makes for a lovely presentation.
Grilled Salmon or pan seared salmon is up there as one of my very favorite fish dishes! In the past I have been spoiled with having very fresh salmon to work with. You may ask how fresh was it…well I’ll tell you, we are talking so fresh it just was caught in the San Francisco Bay minutes before it was in my kitchen. My rule of thumb for fish is if your fish smells and or tastes fishy you shouldn’t cook or eat it. In fact, the marinade I use here is very light and I only soak the fish for a mere 1 hour. I want to taste the luscious meat of the salmon and only want a hint of the Asian flavors which I actually use to help caramelize the edges of the fish.
The Restaurant Depot in Milford, is where I like to buy my salmon. As shown in the photos below, they have a wonderful selection of fish. The local markets like Star Fish Market and Atlantic Seafood have a great selection of salmon. The salmon in this recipe is farm raised from Canada, so not a whole long distance to travel. I have grown to love good farm raised salmon because it is meaty and luscious in flavor and you can’t beat the price. But you need to know that I would only make my gravlax recipe from a wild salmon like a sock eye salmon. Wild Salmon is all flash frozen to -10º for at least 36 hours by regulatory means to assure that if a possibility of parasites exists they will be killed making it safe for such delectable recipes as gravlax. Gravlax is made from raw salmon (flash frozen… unless you are fishing for it yourself!) cured in salt, sugar, dill and eau-di-vie or vodka and is heavily. I have actually had a request for my gravlax recipe so stay tuned for that recipe in the up and coming weeks.
The salmon can be grilled or pan seared the only difference being you finish the salmon off in a 325º oven for 5 minutes instead of a turned off grill. I have given you the mixture for my marinade BUT if you don’t have time you have the convenience of using one of my favorite store bought marinades called Soy Vay “Island Teriyaki” with the yellow and blue label which happens to be incredible on chicken, by the way. You can find Soy Vay products at all the markets on the marinade shelf. I like to serve the grilled Asian salmon with my cold asparagus-ginger salad and if you want something a little hardier you can add in my perfectly mashed potatoes and red onion recipe which would all be delicious together.
Wow…this cold asparagus-ginger salad is such a God send in the busy spring and summer days when you want something refreshing, super flavorful and a total make ahead dish so you can focus on having fun with your family and friends. The longer this sits in the frig the better the flavors get so make this the night before and that will be one less thing to do when you have to grill the Asian salmon, skirts steaks, or sautéed chicken breasts with a roasted garlic & cannellini purée, orperfectly mashed potatoes with red onion. The dressing with the asparagus is really my go to Asian dressing that I use for many dishes and you should add this to your repertoire also. With the toasted sesame seeds you should always toast more then you need and keep them in a jar or Ziploc because for such a simple task it adds a lovely nutty flavor to any dish.
Ingredients: Makes enough for 6 people
2 lbs. fresh asparagus
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp good olive oil
2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar “seasoned” (I get the seasoned)
1 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
1 Tbsp Tamari (a dark brewed soy sauce…you can just use 2 Tbsp of reduced sodium soy if you don’t have this on hand but it’s a delicious item to add to your cabinet)
1 Tbsp fresh grated ginger
1 Tsp sugar
juice from 1/2 lime
Toast sesame seeds on medium heat in a small pan shaking the pan periodically back and forth
This happens quickly once they heat up…it will only take about 3-4 minutes so it’s best not to leave the pan or the stove so they turn golden evenly
Once the sesame seeds are golden remove from the pan, place in a ramekin and set aside
In a large bowl mix together soy, toasted sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, lime juice, olive oil, fresh grated ginger with a microplaner, sugar and 1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds and set dressing aside
Bend asparagus to find the proper “break” point then cut the ends off to even them up
Put asparagus in cold salted water and bring to a simmer
Cook til tender but NOT mushy
Drain and give them ice bath to shock …don’t need to make them cold just want to shock to retain vibrant color
Dry off asparagus on a paper towel and place on a serving platter
Cut dried asparagus into 4 pieces and add to dressing bowl, toss and pop into the frig to marinate the flavors for 1 hour to overnight
Serve with your favorite protein and sprinkle a dusting of toasted sesame seeds on top
OK, you may be saying “why is she using the word yummy in the title”? Well, you may just find yourself wanting to lick the bowl after the asparagus (or salad) is gone with this dressing! Yes, this is my go to dressing because it’s done in a matter of minutes…no fuss and very delicious. I love both big name Dijon’s out there but if I were to have a favorite I would choose Maile because of it’s very delicate flavor. Both Grey Poupon and Maile have a full time residence in my frig. This dressing creation is mine but the inspiration and idea behind grating the egg comes from our good friend Jim who was a saucier chef. You will see too how grating an egg just brings it all together giving this dish a little extra creaminess along with the flavor of the earthy asparagus. It all works so well together! This could be a side dish or you could serve this with hors d’ oeuvres like baked coconut shrimp, zucchini torta, crostinis with fresh mozzarella, pesto and roasted tomato and roasted chick peas.
I first had these delicious little bundles at my sister-in-law Anita’s seventeen years ago. She is an amazing chef is always cooking up a storm. These Proscuitto wrapped Asparagus are one of my favorite appetizers and can be a topping to a salad or a pretty side vegetable to lunch or dinner. What’s great about this appetizer is it can totally be made ahead of time (the day before preferably) placed on a cookie tray and into the frig until you need to put them in the oven. The asparagus is blanched before they are wrapped with Proscuitto and shocked into an ice bath to stop the cooking and to keep that vibrant green color. When buying the prosciutto you want to make sure it’s Proscuitto di Parma because it’s the best and has the most delicate flavor. There are other tasty Proscuitto’s but they are not as tender as the Parma and may get too salty or waxy after baking. The slices of the Proscuitto will vary in size and usually large enough where you can cut a piece right down the middle vertically and get 2 out if it . You can add in other hors d’ oeurves if you are having a party like baked coconut shrimp, zucchini torta, roasted chick peas, or smoked salmon on crostinis with cream cheese-caper spread.
20 large asparagus (the bigger the better)
1/4 lb Proscuitto di Parma sliced thinly
4 oz cream cheese room temp (Philadelphia)
1 Tbsp grated vidalia onion (yellow or white is fine too)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
Pre-heat the oven to 400º.
Hold the asparagus with your fingers in the middle and on the end and bend.
The asparagus will break where it’s supposed to.
Line them up and cut evenly across the bottom so they are all at a consistent length.
Put them into a pan of water with 1 Tsp salt and bring to a simmer approx 5 min only (DO NOT OVER COOK). Drain and put into a ice bath.
Dry the asparagus with paper towels.
At this point you can pop them into a zip lock and into the frig until you are ready for them.
Mix together in a small bowl the room temperature cream cheese, grated onion, Parmesan and lemon juice just til combined
Take a piece of Prosciutto and smear 1 Tbsp of the cream cheese mixture down the length of it.
Place the asparagus on a bit of a diagonal (see photo) and roll up.
Place onto an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 7 minutes.
Use a spatula to remove from pan and be sure to flip them over when you plate them to see the lovely caramelization on the under side.
Drizzle a little olive oil, a fresh squeeze of lemon and some shaves of Parmesan on top for a little extra!
TIPS:Using a micoplane grater or rasp to grate the onion is a wonderful culinary tool which actually started out back in the day as a wood planer for woodworkers!
Tips: Shocking the asparagus or any vegetable for the matter into a ice bath will stop the cooking and keep the vibrant green color.