Spring Brunch

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This past weekend was full of surprises. Since Robert was away for my birthday, he decided we should spend a long weekend doing fun things to make up for it. I wasn't allowed to know any details, which was incredibly difficult for me the week leading up to it. 

I kept asking what we were doing for Easter, since the past couple of years we've hosted a spring brunch. He didn't let on to anything, but assured me we'd be cooking. That led to the best surprise of all, having our best friends from home come down to spend a couple of days with us in Philly.  The goal was to eat really good food, and make a fancy spring brunch before they had to get back to Rochester. Since Ross is a chef, and Corinne appreciates good food as much as the rest of us we try to show them as much as we can while they're in town. We didn't have a ton of time, but managed to fit in jazz brunch at Jerry's Bar, drinks outside at Frankford Hall and the tasting menu at Zahav for dinner.

Ross is a chef at Good Luck, where we're having our wedding reception this fall and it was really adorable watching him and Robert working together in our kitchen, preparing this gorgeous meal for us. Ross even cured his own gravlax that he brought down all the way from Rochester, and he was kind enough to share his recipe. If you have enough time to plan ahead, this is definitely one to serve at your next gathering. 

I rounded out all of the fresh greens with baked lemon doughnuts, topped with lavender glaze. For a baked, not fried version, they're pretty on point.

Home Cured Gravlax
1 tbs black pepper
1/4 cup dill
1/4 cup fennel fronds
8 oz brown sugar
3 oz kosher salt
1.5 oz gin (more herbal the better)
2 lbs skin on salmon

Pulse all ingredients in food processor until it forms a loose paste (like pesto). Pat dry salmon with paper towels. Before you begin preparing the salmon, search for any pin bones and pull them out with tweezers. Set a large piece of foil on your work surface and cover with plastic wrap. Place the salmon flesh side up on plastic wrap, and rub the herb paste all over the salmon. Wrap tightly in plastic, followed by the aluminum foil. 

Place the fish in a plastic bag.  Set the bag on a sheet pan, placing another sheet pan on top and place a sheet pan on top. Weigh down the top sheet pan with heavy cans, or a brick. Let sit to cure in the refrigerator for 2 days, turning the bag periodically.

After two days remove from plastic.  Rub off remaining paste and pat dry (do not rinse it, the idea is to dry it out). Chop the reserved dill and fennel and rub it on the cured salmon. To serve, slice thinly at a slight angle. 

The gravlax with stay for 2 weeks in a refrigerator, and three months in the freezer. 

Spring Pea + Dandelion Salad
6oz fresh peas, shelled
6 oz dandelion greens, washed and trimmed
4 oz pea shoots 
1/4 cup fresh parsley, whole leaves
2 tbs fresh dill
2 tbs preserved Meyer lemon vinaigrette
Salt

In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring 1 qt water to a boil. Season generously with salt and return to a boil. Blanche peas for 1-2 minutes and immediately transfer to an ice bath to cool. In a large bowl, combine dandelion greens, pea shoots, parsley and dill. Toss gently to combine. Add cooled peas and dressing, toss thoroughly dress salad. 

Preserved Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette
1/4 cup olive oil 
2 tbs champagne vinegar 
2 tsp preserved Meyer lemons, minced*
1 tsp honey 
1 tsp Dijon mustard 
Salt and pepper

In a small nonreactive bowl, combine vinegar, mustard, honey, and Meyer lemon. Stir to combine and whisk in olive oil slowly to emulsify. Taste and season with salt and pepper. 

* preserved Meyer lemons can be purchased from natural foods stores or made at home

Honey Lemon Asparagus Tart
adapted from Bon Appétit

2 cups ricotta
1 tbs heavy cream
1 package frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
1 egg, beaten
2 tbs butter, divided
1 tbs honey 
1 tbs salt preserved Meyer lemon, minced
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425°. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt 1 tbs butter. When butter is melted, add asparagus and season with salt and pepper. Sauté gently until slightly tender, about 5 minutes. When asparagus is tender, add remaining 1 tbs butter, preserved Meyer lemon, and honey to skillet, spooning mixture over asparagus to coat evenly. Remove from heat and set aside. 

On a floured surface, lightly roll out puff pastry to remove crease. Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet. Using a sharp knife, score a 1" border around all sides. Brush with egg and bake for 10-15 minutes until puffy and golden brown. Meanwhile in a small bowl, whisk together ricotta and heavy cream. Season with salt and pepper, set aside. 

Top puff pastry (inside 1" border) with ricotta mixture, spreading evenly throughout. Top ricotta with asparagus spears, reserving honey lemon sauce, and return to oven to bake for an additional 30-35 minutes. Remove the tart from oven and let cool. To serve, top with reserved honey lemon sauce. 

Baked Lemon Doughnuts
required tools: doughnut pan

3 cups all-purpose flour
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
lemon rind, from half of a lemon
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350°, and prepare doughnut pans with non-stick spray. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and set aside. Using a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in lemon extract and lemon rind. Alternating between the flour mixture and milk, stir slowly until a batter forms and is completely smooth. Scoop the batter into prepared doughnut pans, about 2/3 full. Bake for 15 minutes, until the edges have browned. Let sit for 5 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack before glazing. 

Lavender Glaze
adapted from Martha Stewart

1/3 cup whole milk
3/4 teaspoon dried lavender 
3 cups confectioners sugar

Place confectioners sugar in a large mixing bowl and set aside. In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the milk and dried lavender to a boil. Immediately remove from heat, and let steep for 10 minutes. Strain the lavender from the milk, and add milk to confectioners sugar. Whisk together until a smooth glaze forms. Use immediately. 

To glaze the doughnuts, dip the cooled doughnuts in the glaze, rotating as you go to remove excess glaze.