Here in the north it’s been a long winter, lots of cold and lots of snow, so the equinox, even if you’re up to your butt in snow, signals the return of spring. This year we celebrated the turning of the seasons with a quiet dinner and some reflective thought about how to balance our lives and focus on the new plans and hopes for 2013.
The menu reflects the return to longer days and all those ancient symbols of spring. To celebrate the returning sun, we began with a new dish (for me): Saffron Rice. I’ve been hoarding my little stash of saffron since last fall and this was the perfect time to let it be the star on the table. It wasn’t nearly as intimidating as I thought. I used brown basmati rice because, well, that’s the kind of rice I eat, and contrary to some opinions it’s delicious with saffron.
Of course, there’s fresh steamed asparagus with a citrus vinaigrette, a crunchy chickpea and pomegranate salad, and as a special tribute to spring, gently boiled eggs covered in dill sauce. Dessert is a special favorite Honey Cake. Here’s to spring and the hope of summer to come!
Saffron Brown Basmati Rice
- 1/2 tsp. crushed saffron threads
- 3 tbsp. water
- 1 tbsp. Butter Buds or butter
- 1/3 cup golden raisins
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 3 cups vegetable (or chicken) stock
- Lg. pinch of cinnamon
- 1 1/2 cups long grain brown or brown basmati rice
Dissolve the saffron in water in 3 tablespoons water and let it steep for about 10 minutes. In the meantime, in a large saucepan or non-stick skillet, melt the Butter Buds in a small amount of water or stock. Add the raisins, pinenuts, and rice. Stir over low heat for several minutes, then add the rest of the stock stock or water and dissolved saffron. Stir once to blend, raise the heat, and bring to a boil, then lower heat, cover, and simmer for 35 minutes or until the rice has absorbed all the liquid. Fluff with a fork and serve. Serves 6 to 8.
Asparagus with Citrus Vinagrette
Directions:Whisk together 3 tablespoons orange juice, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 2 teaspoons sugar or honey, 1/3 cup olive or grapeseed oil, and salt and pepper to taste. I pour it into a small jar and shake. Next trim the ends from the asparagus and place in the steamer for about 8 minutes. Arrange in a dish and drizzle with citrus vinagrette.
Chickpea & Pomegranate Salad
- 1 15 oz. can of chickpeas (garbanzos), drained and rinsed
- 1 cup of pomegranate seeds (most supermarkets sell containers of seeds – less messy)
- 2 oranges, peeled and segmented
- 1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh mint, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Mix all ingredients in a medium sized bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight.
Boiled Eggs with Dill Sauce
1 egg per person, hard boiled or soft depending on your preference
Mix together 1/2 cup sour cream, 2 teaspoons finely chopped dill, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, 2 teaspoons honey, salt and pepper. Pour the sauce over the eggs and chill.
- 1 cup honey
- 1 cup applesauce
- 3 eggs
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon cardamon
- 2 cups flour (I use 1/2 whole wheat and 1/2 unbleached white)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 cup strong brewed coffee (you could use instant).
Directions:Whisk together the honey, applesauce and eggs in a large bowl. In a separate bowl combine the flour, spices, baking power and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, alternating with the coffee. Mix well. Pour into a greased 9 x 13 pan or a taller springform pan. Bake in a 325 degree oven for 60 to 90 minutes. Test for doneness after 1 hour. Cake should be spongy and golden brown. Use your favorite icing or dust with powerded sugar. This is rich, delicious cake that we all look forward to on holidays. ε