As winter gives way to spring, we naturally want to throw off the darkness and embrace the returning light. Consider bringing armloads of budding branches or just a few twigs indoors to decorate your home. Many shades of spring green color the landscape and are represented in the first farmer’s markets of the year. Crisp radishes, pale green scallions, young salad greens, baby root vegetables all appear at this time. When thinking of a spring menu, include all produce that catches your fancy. Keeping the accent on fruits and vegetables reinforces the lightness of the season. In this spring menu, we return from the market with asparagus, new potatoes, fresh peas and pea shoots, radishes, chives, and spring onions. Rhubarb and strawberries celebrate the first two fruits of the year, in tarts and shortcakes with plenty of fresh cream.
Earl Grey Tea
Individual Asparagus Flans, decorated with Pea Shoots
Egg Salad on Seedy Bread
Cream Cheese-Chive Spread atop Radish Slices and New Potato Halves
and Stuffed in Pea Pods
Spring Onion Brioche Rolls with Whipped Lemon Butter
Strawberry Shortcakes with Crème Fraiche
Elderflower Cordial, a traditional country cordial popular across Europe and Great Britain, is made in springtime with the creamy blossoms of the elderberry bush. The taste is lightly floral and really more of a fragrance. The large elderberry bushes or small trees grow near rivers and along country roads and sport blue or black berries in the fall. Sambucus nigra or s. Mexicana is the correct variety for making cordial; the red elderberry bushes are borderline toxic. Consult your local organic farmer or plant specialist for guidelines.
It’s best to gather perfect flower heads on a dry, sunny day when they are in full bloom. Collect them in a paper bag and make your elderberry syrup that day for best results. If you like the idea of Elderberry Cordial but would rather not make it yourself, Ikea sells elderflower syrup in their food section, and there are several brands available on Amazon. St. Germaine is a French elderflower liqueur which comes in a beautiful bottle, all ready to enliven a glass of champagne or to mix up in our Elderflower Cordial recipe.
Individual Asparagus Flans with Pea Shoots
Delicate spring green custards decorated with asparagus tips, pea tendrils and edible flowers will delight the eye and the palate of tea party guests.
Egg Salad Sandwiches
Egg Salad Sandwiches will be a happy addition to your Spring Tea menu. And they will complement the very elegant Individual Asparagus Flans. You can boil the eggs and prepare the Egg Salad Sandwich Filling the day before your gathering. Shortly before your guests arrive, spread the refrigerated filling on slices of freshly buttered seedy bread, cut off the crusts, and cut each sandwich into two neat pieces. Your guests will love these traditional favorites along with all the other springtime treats on the menu.
Cream Cheese-Chive Spread
This easy recipe showcases spring vegetables as bases for our herbed cheese spread. Unlike topped toasts or crackers, filled veggies can be made ahead, always a help to the hostess. Use our favorite Philly cream cheese here or chose one of the new artisan soft cheeses or a fresh goat cheese. Look for them at the farmer’s market, Trader Joe’s, Costco, or at well-stocked grocery stores.
Spring Onion Brioches
Classic brioche gets a springtime boost from fresh onions sautéed in butter. Pass these petit rolls with whipped lemon butter or serve them filled with Chicken Salad. This buttery dough can also be baked in baguette-shaped loaves for Brioche Toasts or formed into traditional loaves for delicious sliced bread, great for tea sandwiches. Kathleen adapted this recipe for the stand mixer from the Fannie Farmer Cookbook.
The intense almond flavor of these Madeleines comes from the almond paste that is incorporated into the batter. These moist little shell-shaped treats will be a beautiful addition to your springtime tea table. Serve them as soon as possible after they are baked.
Strawberry Short Cakes with Crème Fraiche
Short Cakes can take many forms, from little sponge cakes to pie dough to slightly sweetened biscuits, but they all include fresh strawberries and freshly whipped cream. Our Strawberry Short Cakes are made with home baked biscuits. The charm of these Short Cakes lies in their diminutive size. Use the smallest biscuit cutter in a nesting set, about 1 ¼” in diameter. Pile the cream high and balance the Short Cake “lid” lightly on top. As with all biscuits, use a very light hand when mixing the dough. A regular old dinner fork works best.
The old cottage garden standby, rhubarb, is making a comeback as chefs begins to cook more in tune with the seasons. As one of the very first fruits (botanically a vegetable,) rhubarb often gets paired with strawberries, another early bloomer. But we think rhubarb is so good it deserves to star in its own dessert. Notice we leave out any distracting flavors such as lemon, cinnamon, or even vanilla, to let rhubarb’s subtle flavor really shine. It’s worth seeking out the first slim, ruby-hued stalks of the season to showcase rhubarb’s glorious color in these decadent tarts. If you can only find older, greener rhubarb, it will still taste delicious, but will lack the pretty red peeking through the streusel.
Even before the last white camellias
Fell onto their own dark roots,
The new energy began.
It flowed out of cracks between rocks
And from new green buds
From pea shoots, rushing upward;
Tangled grasses suddenly
Covered with chaos
The earth, once so simple,
Once an uncluttered brown.
And with all this came the power--
Not the mellow trudge of autumn
Or the winter-wise silence
Of endless white.
No. It was the startling kind,
The madness of dark pink plum blooms
Emerging at once, the surge
Of sudden red tulips.
Yes, it is the plum-power,
The power of approach.