Spring is finally here. Budding trees and warmer breezes have us excited to shed our winter coats, get outside and feel the sun on our faces once again. Everything feels fresh and new and the season seems filled with possibility. Longer days always signal outdoor grilling to me, but often, those famous “April showers that bring May flowers” put a damper on my plans. When an alfresco dinner is a washout, I turn to an easy French technique that helps me put the light, bright flavors of spring on my table with little fuss and lots of fun. The technique is called “en papillote” which translates as “rolled or curled paper”. Tuck your ingredients inside a parchment paper packet and bake it in the oven. When it is finished, place the packet on your plate, cut open with a scissors, peel back the paper with a flourish, release the delicious steam and congratulate yourself on an amazing dish!
Assembling your papillote is quite simple.The pictures below illustrate the steps to make SALMON FILET ON SPINACH with PECAN HONEY GLAZE EN PAPILLOTE.
While your papillote steam/bakes in the oven, why not pour yourself a nice glass of wine and start your dinner off with GREEN PEA PESTO and PARMESAN BRUSCHETTA. The first green peas of the season are the sweetest, and they showcase beautifully in this light tasting yet hearty appetizer.
So bring on those April showers! Spring is here in all her glory!
Assembling a Papillote
Fold a sheet of parchment paper (approximately 11x15) in half. Starting at the fold line near the top of the sheet, draw one half of a heart shape---as if you were making a construction paper valentine. Cut out the half-heart just inside the line. (This will eliminate any pencil marks from showing on your papillote.)
Open the parchment paper to reveal your valentine heart! Assemble your ingredients (according to the recipe) on one side of the heart, as close to the fold line as possible.
Fold the other side of the heart over your ingredients and begin to seal the edge. Starting at the top of the heart, put both sides of the parchment together and fold a section over about one quarter inch. Fold the next section over the first fold. Continue the quarter inch folds all the way around the papillote, making sure to fold each section over the last. This will lock the parchment in place and create a good seal. When you come to the end of the folding, at the bottom tip of the heart, tuck the last little bit of parchment under the packet.
Place your papillote on a rimmed sheet pan and bake as directed in the recipe. Voila! You now know how to cook a meal "en papillote"!
SALMON FILET ON SPINACH with PECAN HONEY GLAZE EN PAPILLOTE
4 (4-6 ounce) salmon filets
4 cups fresh baby spinach
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (divided)
¼ cup honey
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
¼ cup chopped pecans
Salt and pepper
4 sheets baking parchment paper (approximately 11 inches x 15 inches)
Preheat oven to 375°.
Combine honey, soy sauce and half of the chopped pecans in a small bowl and transfer to a ziploc bag. Add the salmon filets to the bag and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes and up to 2 hours. After marinating, remove filets and reserve marinade.
To prepare one serving:
Fold the sheet of parchment paper in half. Using a pencil, draw one half of a large heart shape, having the fold of the paper on the left hand side. Using scissors, cut along the line and open out the parchment. You should have a large paper heart.
On the opened parchment, arrange the ingredients on one side of the heart, close to the fold, in the following order:
Thin drizzle of olive oil (approx. 1/2 Tablespoon)
Sprinkle of salt and pepper
1 cup baby spinach
1 salmon filet
1 Tablespoon honey-soy marinade
1/4 Tablespoon remaining chopped pecans
Fold the other side of the parchment over the ingredients. Starting at the top of the heart, begin tightly folding the edge of the paper, new fold over the end of the last fold, all the way to the bottom “tip” of the heart, to form a tight seal. Transfer packet to a rimmed baking sheet, tucking the “tip” underneath the packet to secure. Repeat procedure for remaining servings. Bake at 375° for 25-45 minutes depending on thickness of fish used. To serve: Open packet by cutting across the top with kitchen scissors. Fold back the parchment and serve “en papillote”
or remove contents and arrange on a plate.
GREEN PEA PESTO and PARMESAN BRUSCHETTA
For the Pesto:
1 (10-ounce) package frozen peas, defrosted (if using freshly shelled peas, 1 ½ cups, that have been cooked in boiling salted water until tender, then drained)
1-2 garlic cloves (or to taste)
¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese (divided)
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
3-4 Tablespoons olive oil (amount depends on juiciness of peas)
1-2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
For the Bruschetta:
8 (1/2 inch thick) slices whole-grain baguette or ciabatta bread
8 cherry tomatoes, halved or 1 small tomato, de-seeded and diced
To Make the Pesto: In a food processor, pulse together the peas, garlic, ½ cup of the Parmesan, 1 teaspoon of salt, pepper and lemon juice. With the machine running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil, until a loose but still somewhat thick consistency is achieved, about 1-2 minutes. Transfer pesto to a small bowl and set aside.
For the Bruschetta: Toast bread slices in a toaster, toaster oven or conventional oven. Transfer the bruschetta to a clean surface and spread 1 to 2 Tablespoons of the prepared pesto on each slice. Top with tomato, the remaining ¼ cup Parmesan and serve.