By Sandy Hu
My friend Molly was married in Chicago a week ago Saturday, and by all accounts, she was an exquisitely beautiful, radiant bride who planned a flawless wedding. Molly and John were honeymooning in the Napa Valley so they stopped by to say hello on their way back to SFO, where they would catch a plane home the next day.
I wanted to create a festive get-together for the four of us, with sparkling wine and a few nibbles to celebrate. But since Friday was a work day, it had to be simple.
The easy menu I came up with would be nice for a Valentine’s Day celebration. It could be a starter before going out for a romantic dinner or before cooking a special meal at home. It could be a Valentine’s treat for the family or served as snacks for a Valentine’s Day girlfriend get-together.
I planned out the serving dishes, incorporating some on pedestals to create layers. I sprinkled the table with candy Valentine hearts – the multi-colored kind that have sayings imprinted on them – and used my all-purpose red napkins to set a hearts and flowers theme. Red napkins are great for a number of festive occasions. They set the mood for Christmas, with a spring of holly tucked in the folds; for Valentine’s Day, tied with gauzy white ribbons; and for the Fourth of July, wired with red, white and blue stars.
A few hours before Molly and John arrived, I rolled asparagus in phyllo dough, covered them in plastic wrap and refrigerated them for baking later. I made canapés of smoked salmon on firm white bread spread with lemon butter. To make the butter, mix softened, high-quality imported salted butter (like Irish butter) with lemon juice, grated lemon peel and black pepper. The canapés also went back into the fridge, covered in plastic wrap.
Just before the guests were due, I baked the asparagus and rolled sliced prosciutto around bread sticks. I plated the appetizers and when the doorbell rang, Steve popped the cork on the chilled bubbly and started filling the flutes.
We had a wonderful time with the young newlyweds. We experienced all the joys of their wedding through their stories and photos – and we didn’t have to share the bride and groom with 300 guests.
Crispy California Asparagus Straws
36 spears California fresh asparagus
4 sheets of phyllo dough, thawed
4 oz. Parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 cup butter, melted
Salt and pepper to sprinkle on top
Preheat oven to 425° F. Trim tough ends of asparagus. Bring lightly salted water to boil in a large, deep skillet, add the asparagus and simmer until lightly tender to the bite, about 3 minutes. Drain immediately and submerge in ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain and dry asparagus with paper towels.
Place one sheet of phyllo on a cutting board. Set aside the remaining sheets; cover with plastic wrap. Cut the sheet into nine rectangles, two cuts down from the top, two cuts across. Stack the cut rectangles and cover with plastic wrap.
Using a pastry brush, brush melted butter on one rectangle. Place an asparagus spear at the bottom of the short side of the rectangle with the tip sticking out from the dough by 2 inches. Sprinkle with a teaspoon of cheese. Roll up spear and seal with butter. Repeat with remaining spears and phyllo.
Place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Leave a space between spears. Sprinkle with remaining cheese, salt and pepper. Cover the exposed asparagus tips with foil. Bake until golden brown and crispy 10 to 12 minutes. Serve warm. Makes 36 pieces.
Recipe adapted from the California Asparagus Commission
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