By Jean Redstone
Despite what your mother told you, sometimes it’s OK to play with your food. Not in any way where the food might end up on the floor or the person of someone nearby, mind you, but for the creative whimsy of just having fun.
Which, I’ve come to believe, is one of the reasons for that happy, end-of-winter celebration, St. Patrick’s Day. Tall tales, elves, faerie folk and shamrock luck, the holiday is all wrapped up in imagination and beribboned with early spring’s favorite color, green.
Everyone’s familiar with green beer and other festive alcohol concoctions. But green is also for food, and food does not need food coloring to be green for the occasion.
Grab family and friends and throw a lunch, cocktail hour, or light supper with a jaunty focus on Irish good cheer. The sushi rolls could be appetizers or lunch. The soup will pair with a salad as a supper or brunch, while the Guinness cake will enhance the pleasure of any green drink, from lime-aid to beer to crème de menthe.
The luck o’ the Irish to ye.
GREEN SUSHI ROLLS
Spicy, tasty and green for St. Pat’s
2 medium zucchini
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 tsp. sriracha or other hot sauce
1 tsp. lime juice
1 C lump crab meat
1/2 carrot, peeled, cut into thin matchsticks
1/2 avocado, diced
1/2 cucumber, cut into thin matchsticks
1 tsp. toasted sesame seeds or almond slivers
Use a vegetable peeler to slice each zucchini into thin flat strips. Place zucchini on paper towel-lined plate while you prep the rest of your ingredients. In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese, sriracha, and lime juice. On a cutting board, lay zucchini slices down horizontally (so that the long side is facing you). Spread a thin layer of cream cheese on top, then top the left side with a pinch or so each of crab, carrots, avocado, and cucumbers. Starting from the left side, tightly roll each zucchini slice. Sprinkle with sesame seeds or almond slivers before serving. Recipe makes two sushi rolls.
Tip: You can substitute a stalk of celery for the cucumber.
LEPRECHAUN GREEN PEA SOUP
Adapted from Relish.com, the corn in the soup is the elven gold pieces
1/2 doz slices thick-cut bacon
3 Tbls butter
3 Tbls unsalted butter
1 (10-oz) package frozen green peas, thawed
1 medium head Boston lettuce, chopped
4 green onions, chopped (green and white parts)
5 C lower-sodium chicken broth
1 (15-oz) can corn kernels, drained
1/4 tsp salt
Coarsely ground black pepper
Cook bacon to desired doneness. Set aside on paper towels to cool and drain. Melt butter in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add peas, lettuce and green onions. Cook until onions are translucent, stirring frequently. Add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring once or twice, until peas are tender, about 8 minutes.
Working in 1-cup batches, puree mixture in a blender. Return pureed mixture to the pan. Add corn and cook over medium-high heat 2 to 3 minutes, until thoroughly heated, again, stirring once or twice. Season with salt and pepper. Serve in individual serving bowls each topped with bacon pieces and a tablespoon of sour cream. Makes 5 servings.
Note: The bacon is optional but makes the dish an entree if the soup serves as the main course.
GUINNESS AND CREAM CAKE
Dark Irish Stout meets dark chocolate and makes delicious dessert
1C plus 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
3/4 C Dutch process cocoa, sifted
2 1/4 C all-purpose flour, sifted
2 tsp. baking soda
2 C sugar
2 medium eggs
2/3 C sour cream
1 tbsp. real vanilla extract
11/3 C cream cheese
11/2 C powdered sugar, sifted
2/3 C cream, whipped
Preheat oven to 350F. Add butter, cocoa and Guinness to a saucepan. Warm over a medium heat and stir until melted, stirring now and then to mix. Set aside for 5 to 10 minutes to cool slightly.
Meanwhile, add flour, baking soda and sugar to a large mixing bowl and mix well. Pour in the Guinness, cocoa, butter mix and lightly combine, then add the vanilla, eggs and sour cream and beat everything together until well combined. The batter should be thick and the color of dark chocolate.
Grease and line (bottom) with parchment paper a 10-inch angel food pan or another straight-sided tube pan and cook in the oven for 1 to 1 hour 15 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean from the middle of the cake. Cake is very moist inside, so use your judgment with the skewer test. Some moisture is expected; do not bake until the cake has totally dried out — cook long enough so there is no uncooked cake on the skewer but there may be a few moist crumbs sticking to it after an hour of cooking. Note: If you make this in a regular angel food cake pan, start checking for doneness at least 15 minutes early. Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes before removing from the cake pan and placing it on a wire rack to cool completely.
Place cream cheese into the bowl of a mixer and beat on a low-medium speed using a whisk attachment Whisk until the cheese is smooth and there are no big lumps remaining. Don’t over-mix.
Using a large spoon, slowly add the sifted powdered sugar and beat gently to combine. After 2 to 3 minutes, scrape any excess frosting from the sides of the bowl and beat on medium speed until lump free. Remove bowl from mixer and gently fold in the whipped cream, until fully combine.
Put the cooled cake on a cake stand and frost, spreading just out to the edge without going over the side. The idea is to have the cake suggest a pint of creamy dark Guinness with white frothy head!