Phyllo Baskets, Veggie Matchsticks,
and Glorious Gratins
by Kate Heyhoe
I have only three words to say about preparing a spring vegetable: keep it simple.
The best chefs know that great ingredients need little effort to make a meal shine. And they also know that with many mouths to feed, simpler meals will simply be more successful.
Whether you're serving few guests or many, be kind to your food, especially delicate vegetables— treat them with respect. And because they're so tender and perfect right now, they deserve to be spotlighted in the center of your table. Just don't overcook or overseason them. If you're planning a spring celebration, follow this advice: keep it fresh, keep it simple and keep it manageable.
The centerpiece recipes below rely on a few techniques that make for both successful side dishes and easy entertaining.
Quick blanch vegetable matchsticks in boiling water until just tender, then plunge them into an ice bath. This keeps them crisp and bright without tasting raw or overcooked. You can even prepare them in advance. The recipe for Veggie Matchsticks with a Hint of Mustard Vinaigrette pairs perfectly tender strips of zucchini and carrot with a light taste of mustard and rice vinegar to heighten their flavors; or toss them with a olive oil, hazelnut oil or melted butter, and sprinkle with fresh herbs. You can also toss them into a spinach or green salad, for added texture, flavor and color.
Who doesnąt love the bite of a crisp topping against a soft or creamy center? Gratins are always popular fare, and so easy to make in advance. Potato gratins complement roasts and fish, but so do gratins made with other vegetables. The whole mini-tomatoes used in Bursting Tomato Gratin add a surprise texture when they burst in your mouth. Fresh French-cut string beans nestled in sour cream and topped with melted Swiss cheese and golden toasted breadcrumbs make a rich but elegant Alpine Green Bean Gratin.
Paper-thin sheets of phyllo dough aren't just suitable for pastries. Bake squares of phyllo sheets in muffin tins to make festive containers for holding foods. You can make small ones using mini-muffin tins to hold such appetizers as crumbled bleu cheese and walnuts or smoked salmon with crème fraiche. Larger muffin tins make baskets suitable for greens, sweet peas and carrots, and bay shrimp salad. Sarah McLaughlin serves dessert in a crisp phyllo cup. Be sure to read the Tips for Phyllo before working with this fragile dough.
Kate's Global Kitchen for April, 2000:
4/01/00 Food Jokes and Joke Foods
4/08/00 Easter and Passover Menus: From Nice to Greece
4/15/00 Spring Centerpiece Sides: Phyllo Baskets, Veggie Matchsticks, and Glorious Gratins
4/22/00 Easter Lore & Post-Easter Eggs
4/29/00 Wake-Up: It's Daylight Savings Time! World Power Breakfasts
This page created April 2000
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