SOUTHERNISM OF THE WEEK
Pokey: (1) An adjective in Southern slang, referring to being slow and lagging behind. The way we all feel after Spring-ing forward into Daylight Savings Time. Or as an adjective variant, a behind-the-times locale such as a pokey little ol’ one-horse town. (2) A noun used with humor when referring to the local jail. (Think Otis and The Andy Griffith Show.) (3 and 4) Gumby’s orange horse sidekick, or an enemy to overcome in Super Mario…
Ah, Spring. AT LAST. Glowing from that additional hour of (daylight savings time) sunlight, the Old Bride is now craving dishes featuring fresh green veggies and berries. Plus, it’s April, when one has to complete calendar deadlines such as taxes, prep for Spring Exams, Spring training, and fiscal-year annual reports. Amidst the Spring chaos, I’m all in favor of easy-to-assemble dishes such as salads and the Fernando Lamas School of quick desserts (looking good, Darling).This week we shall, therefore, focus on poppy seed dressings and “assemblage” salads and dessert.
POPPY SEED DRESSINGS
Mid-Southerners have a long-standing love affair with poppy seeds and poppy seed paste, due to cultural influences from our region’s German, Jewish, Middle Eastern, and Indian immigrant populations. Poppy seeds are the tiny seeds from the opium flower, used whole or ground in foods as a spice, thickener, or garnish, or crushed to form a paste for use in pastries. Poppy seeds also can be pressed to make poppy seed oil for use as a cooking oil with little odor and pleasant taste, or for use in oil paints, varnish, or as lamp oil, or even for pharmaceutical uses.
The use of poppy seeds and poppy seed oil dates back to ancient times. The Sumerians grew them. The Egyptians loved them. The Minoans craved them in everything from snacks to fertility aids. Poppy seeds for culinary usage came to the Americas through immigrants from eastern European countries, including Germany, Austria, the former Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Russia, Poland, Lithuania and the Ukraine, and from the Middle Eastern region’s Indian, Pakistani, Turkish, and Iranian traditions.
Poppy seeds are less allergenic than other nuts and seeds, and are highly nutritious. Although low in opiates, poppy seeds carry the opium alkaloids of morphine and codeine. They do, indeed, create a false positive on drug tests, so one should never consume poppy seed muffins or poppyseed paste-filled strudel before taking a drug test or passing through airport security.
Whether the white variety or black, poppy seeds are expensive. It takes 3,300 poppy seeds to make up a gram of weight. To visualize the size, consider that a teaspoon equates to almost 5 grams, sort of…
LEMON POPPYSEED DRESSING
In our poppy seed dressings, the Old Bride has used a significant amount of white sugar, but Splenda or stevia may be substituted. Just be careful to adjust measurements to taste.
2/3 c extra light olive oil
1/2 c white granulated sugar or Splenda
1/3 c fresh lemon juice
2 tsp white onion, minced
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp poppy seeds
Combine all ingredients in a pint jar or other container big enough to hold 2 cups of liquid. Shake well until sugar has dissolved. Serve at room temperature. Refrigerate unused dressing up to 4 days.
RASPBERRY POPPYSEED DRESSING
The raspberry sauce component of this dressing makes up about 2 cups. Freeze leftover raspberry sauce, or use with dessert.
3/4 to 1 c white granulated sugar or Splenda
1-1/2 T poppy seeds
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp salt
1/3 c cider vinegar
1-1/2 tsp onion juice or 2 tsp grated onion
1 c extra light olive oil
2 to 4 pkgs fresh raspberries
1/2 c white granulated sugar or adjusted amount of sugar substitute
1 tsp corn starch
Blend first sugar, poppy seeds, mustard and salt with a mixer at low speed. Add vinegar and onion; beat at medium speed for 3 minutes. Add oil in a steady stream until mixture is thick. Puree raspberries in blender, and strain through small-mesh sieve to remove seeds. You might have to do this several times to remove all seeds. Mix deseeded puree with second sugar and cornstarch, and bring to boil in medium saucepan. Boil, stirring continuously, about 4 minutes, until clear and thickened. Remove from heat and chill. Whisk half to a whole cup of raspberry sauce into poppy seed dressing 30 minutes before serving, and shake vigorously. Dressing will keep in the fridge up to a week.
6 oz fresh Snow Peas
8 oz fresh sugar snap peas
12-oz pkg frozen green peas
1/2 lb fresh green beans, ends snipped, broken twice
6 green onions, chopped fine, divided
16-oz box of Bow Ties (Farfalle) pasta, cooked and drained
3 large red radishes, sliced thin and slices cut in half
2/3 c fresh grated Parmesan cheese
2/3 c grated Cheddar cheese
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 to 4 tsp crumbled bacon (two to four slices), to taste*
1 c lemon poppy seed dressing Prepare pasta and set aside.
Fill water half way up a large saucepan, and bring to a boil. Drop the peas and beans into boiling water and bring back up to a boil for 2 minutes. Drain immediately and plunge blanched peas and beans into a large bowl of ice water to cool. Allow to sit 5 to 7 minutes, and drain in colander. Use salad spinner to spin away excess water, and place peas and beans into large bowl. Add 1 cup of lemon poppyseed dressing and turn gently to coat. Add pasta and turn to coat again. Fold in the radishes, cheeses, salt and pepper., and the bacon last.
*Omit the bacon if going vegetarian; the Old Bride thinks bacon adds needed oomph… after all, everything tastes better with bacon.
STRAWBERRY ORANGE SPINACH SALAD
The salad ingredients may be tossed together, and tossed again with dressing if being served immediately. It tastes best when layered, topped with crumbled feta cheese, and the dressing added to individual servings. For a heartier, whole-meal variation, add grilled chicken strips to individual servings before topping with dressing.
3 heads of romaine lettuce, rinsed, dried, torn into bite size pieces
12-oz pkg (about 4 c) of baby spinach leaves, gently rinsed, spun dry
6 green onions, chopped
5 Clementine oranges, segmented
10 to 20 strawberries, halved or sliced (reserve enough to garnish plate)
1 c roasted, salted pecans, walnuts or almonds
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste Feta Cheese, crumbled, for garnish (herb-seasoned feta is okay)
Toss romaine and spinach with chopped green onion. Toss again with oranges, strawberries and nuts. Place in large bowl or serving platter. Garnish platter or edge of bowl with reserved strawberry slices. Top with crumbled feta. Serve raspberry poppy seed dressing on the side and drizzle dressing over individual servings. Refrigerate leftover dressing. YIELD: 12 servings.
LEMON TART BITES
Thanks go to Sallye Wilcox for passing along this great “assemblage” dessert treat last month. It is perfect for gatherings. Use all of one type of fruit, or a combination of choice. The ready-made lemon pie filling or lemon curd is available in the aisle with other specialty preserves and pie fillings.
The Old Bride gives you permission to make up your own scratch lemon pie filling and whipped cream.
Frozen Athens brand mini fillo (phyllo) shells (15 per pkg)
Jar of Lemon fruit filling (or lemon curd)
Fresh blueberries (one per shell)
Fresh raspberries (one per shell), OR raspberry sauce
Fresh kiwi fruit, peeled, sliced, and slices cut into quarters (one kiwi per 15 shells)
Whipped cream or whipped topping
Ladle a demitasse-sized spoonful of lemon filling or lemon curd into each frozen phyllo shell. NOTE: a 23-oz jar of the lemon filling will fill 60 of the mini phyllo shells (4 packages). Drop a small dollop of whipped cream on top. Peel and slice kiwi fruit. Keep the slices thin but not too thin to retain their shape when quartered into wedges.
Position a kiwi wedge into each filled tart, and add one each blueberry and raspberry. Feel free to drizzle raspberry sauce on the tart before adding a blueberry. Serve immediately. Refrigerate leftovers.