Round the Table: Springing into Spring Holidays

As always, spring has returned to us complete with a kaleidoscope of flowers, chilly nights and warm days. Not to mention rivers of pollen. Spring is such a brief and busy season. The fruit trees rush to bloom and bees zoom around in a flurry to pollenate. Winter, refusing to be ignored, keeps a tight grip with cold nights, while summer teases us with warm days. Spring has a feeling of awakening, of re-birth and of newness. It’s fresh, and clean and has an atmosphere of possibility.

Meanwhile, throughout the beauty and newness of spring, runs a feeling of urgency. We must…we must…we must…

We must get the garden tilled and planted. We must get the spring-cleaning done.  We must file the taxes. We must shop for Easter clothes; we must hurry, hustle and get things done before the sweltering of summer arrives to slow us down.

In the midst of all this hustle and bustle falls the second most holiday friendly season of the year. We start with the rowdy Saint Patrick’s day celebrations, move on to Good Friday and Easter, Passover, Earth Day, Mother’s Day, and the list goes on.

A season of holidays, means at least one or two special meals; whether a formal meal for a religious celebration or an impromptu picnic while flying kites, Spring Meals should simple, fast and delicious.

There are a few tricks for Parmesan Bowl success. First, go slow. Don’t try to make more than one at a time. Like crepes, the first one is usually a mess; save the pieces for a snack.  If the Parmesan bowl eludes you and you are left with a pile of crispy, Parmesan shards, do not despair. Toss them with a salad and your guests will enjoy the crispy bits of Parmesan with every bite.

Serve shrimp salad in Parmesan bowls for an elegant and tasty presentation.

Shrimp Salad in Parmesan Bowls

Yield: 8 servings

  • 3 pounds large shrimp, cooked, peeled and deveined
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper diced
  • 3-4 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped fine
  • Lemony Vinaigrette
  • 8 Parmesan Baskets (optional)
  • 8 cups salad greens

Place the shrimp, onions, peppers and basil in a large mixing bowl. Toss with Lemony Vinaigrette to coat. Divide the salad greens among the Parmesan baskets and top with the shrimp salad. Serve immediately.

Lemony Vinaigrette

Yield:  approx. ½ cup

  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 clove of garlic, put through the garlic press
  • ¼ teaspoon of salt
  • Freshly Ground Pepper
  • ½ cup olive oil

Place all the ingredients in a mason jar with a tight-fitting lid. Put the lid on the jar and shake vigorously to combine the dressing.

Parmesan Baskets

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Wrap the outside of a cereal bowl with aluminum foil and spray with non-stick spray. Set aside.

Place a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet.  Spread ½ to ¾ cup of shredded Parmesan cheese on the parchment paper. Be sure to use shredded and not grated. Grated cheese will not work for this recipe.

Bake for 5 to 7 minutes or until the edges are beginning to brown and the cheese is beginning to melt. Don’t overcook. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool for 10 seconds. Then carefully and quickly invert the Parmesan circle over the prepared cereal bowl. I had the best luck picking the parchment paper up and inverting the cheese onto the bowl rather than trying to lift the cheese with a spatula.  Re-use the parchment paper for the next bowl.  Press gently into shape and let cool complete (about 5 minutes) before removing from the bowl.

Because the cheese loses its flexibility very quickly, it is best to make one basket at a time.

Lemon Mint Tea is a refreshing version of classic Southern Iced Tea.

Lemon Mint Iced Tea:

Yield 2 quarts

  • 2 cups firmly packed mint leaves
  • 1 family sized tea bag
  • 1 can (12 oz) frozen lemonade concentrate

In a large saucepan, heat 1 quart of water to a gentle boil. Turn off the heat and add the tea bag and the mint leaves. Cover and let steep for 5 to 7 minutes.

Place the lemonade concentrate in a 2 quart pitcher. Strain the tea mixture through a wire mesh strainer into the pitcher. Stir to combine and melt the lemonade. Stir in 1 quart of cold water and stir. Serve over ice.

It’s banana pudding, need we say more?

Old Fashioned Banana Pudding

Yield: Not quite enough!

  • 1 (12 oz) box of vanilla wafers
  • 5 ripe bananas, peeled and sliced
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • ½ cup of sugar
  • 1/3 cup of all purpose flour
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/8 teaspoon of cream of tartar
  • 3 Tablespoons of sugar

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Arrange 1/3 of the vanilla wafers in the bottom of a 2 quart oven safe casserole; arrange 1/3 of the sliced bananas on top. Repeat the layers, twice with remaining vanilla wafers and bananas.

Place the milk, sugar, flour and egg yolks in a heavy saucepan.  Whisk to combine and place over medium low heat.  Stirring constantly, cook the mixture for about 10 minutes or until the pudding thickens. Don’t walk away, stir constantly.

Remove the pudding from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Pour the pudding over the vanilla wafers and bananas.

Prepare the meringue by beating the egg whites and cream of tartar at medium speed with an electric mixer until foamy.  Gradually add the sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Spread the meringue over the pudding, sealing to the edge of the bowl.

Bake for about 8 minutes or until the meringue is golden. Let cool completely.

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