My mother was not one to slave over the stove or bake a variety of goods when I was growing up. No homemade biscuits or cakes from scratch existed. In most cases she took the easy and economic route of canned and boxed options for meals and baked goods, convenience items created during her generation. However, later in her life when she retired, she took a cake decorating class and eventually became very adept at decorating cookies. My daughter’s baby and wedding showers had the most feminine, delicately iced antique baby carriage and wedding cake cookies that we all beamed over. I suppose it’s fair to say she had more time and patience to commit to honing these skills and spent hours making each exactly perfect and a work of art.
Beautifully presented tea treats excited her greatly and she couldn’t wait to see what the petite finger sandwiches and pastries would look like whenever we attended a tea service. The pleasures of the tea for both of us began with the anticipation of how pretty the presentation might be and what surprising new items we might find. While I want a pretty presentation at my own tea parties, everything must also taste good.
The Spring Soup Course
Each year I’ve started my tea with a small cup of Spring inspired soup. This year I found a recipe in Food & Wine Magazine for a Sweet Corn Coulis created by Commander’s Palace Chef, Meg Bickford. Chef’s version included grilled shrimp that I omitted from mine.
Other substitutions or variations in my version included lime zest and juice (in lieu of lemon juice); white balsamic vinegar (in lieu of champagne vinegar); crème fraîche (in lieu of sour cream) and Greek yogurt (in lieu of buttermilk). Basically use what you have that has similar flavors. The amounts needed are far too little to go out and buy a whole container of buttermilk when you can use yogurt if you have it in the fridge. Lastly I slightly blanched the shaved asparagus ribbons and tips after the peas (that I used frozen in lieu of fresh). Otherwise, I followed the recipe as written. The thinly sliced fresh vegetables gently tossed in a bright vinegar and grape seed oil, and then gently laid upon the sweet corn coulis, provided the perfect green brightness of Spring I was looking for. The link: https://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/grilled-gulf-shrimp-with-sweet-corn-coulis
The Finger Sandwiches
- Heart-beet canapés
- Cucumber mint finger sandwiches
- Smoked pimento cheese finger sandwiches (not pictured)
- Crispy prosciutto egg salad with paprika lace and chive blossom
While I like to have some of the menu items reflect memories of the honored mother, I don’t want it to be overly obvious. I try to consciously make different menu items from year to year, but when there is an expressed favorite, then it should be there for the tradition of the day. Below are goat cheese “heart-beet” canapés as a fun wink to our Nurse Theme.
No cooking necessary for this bright and cheerful canapé. All that is needed is a can of sliced beets and small log of blueberry crusted goat cheese (Walmart) and edible flowers. Using two larger slices of beets, place a sliced disk of room temperature goat cheese between the two beets and line them up evenly. Using a small heart shaped biscuit or cookie cutter centered over the top beet cut through the layers and that’s all there is to it! Garnished with a tiny dab of goat cheese on top and an edible flower like these garden violas, this little ruby jewel is ready for serving.
A fan favorite and sandwich that just always has to be part of a tea is the cucumber sandwich. To create a little update of freshness, I chopped fresh mint, added a little white balsamic vinegar and tossed it into thinly sliced ribbons of Persian cucumbers.
Spread crème fraîche and a little mint thinly sliced mint on one side of two pieces of thin sliced bread (like Pepperidge Farm). Lay the thinly sliced cucumber ribbons over the crème fraîche of one slice and then place the second piece of bread, crème fraîche side down, on top. Place more thin slices of cucumber over the top of the sandwich. With a sharp knife, remove the crust from all sides. Now cut sandwich in half to create two rectangular shaped finger sandwiches. Top with a small mint leaf and chamomile (or other edible) flower for garnish.
Mint Cucumber Sandwiches
Smoked Gouda Pimento Cheese Finger Sandwich
Lydia said her Mother loved pimento cheese and had recently discovered a smoke gouda pimento cheese dip (from Sam’s Club) when visiting a friend that she really enjoyed. So I assigned this finger sandwich to her. I do not have a “test” version of her sandwich for this post, but you’ll be able to see it in “the tea day” post.
Smoky Gouda Pimento Cheese
The great thing about egg salad is that anyone can make it. Boil a few eggs, peel, smash into a crumble, add mayo, a little salt and pepper, some paprika and you’ve got egg salad. What I don’t like, is its lack of texture. So I thought I’d punch it up by crisping some prosciutto in the oven and then placing a little sheet this tasty bacon-like flavor on top of the egg salad for a little extra texture and crunch. To garnish I sifted sweet paprika over the lace edge of a paper doily to create a lacy background before I cut two small slits in the bread and wove in the stem of a chive with a blossom on top. Finally a couple of chive ends were added to create a little leaf for the flower.
Crispy Prosciutto Egg Salad with Sweet Paprika Lace and Chive Blossom
The Scone Course
I asked Lydia to think about what her mother’s favorite flavors, fruits, etc. and wanted to incorporate some of those into the into the menu. Only a few items came to mind, which included figs (recalling images of her mother eating Fig Newtons); cherry came to mind, lemon and pimento cheese. An odd combination, but I knew I could find a way to incorporate the flavors into the menu. The pimento cheese will be used in a finger sandwich.
For the scone, I found this fig and pear recipe in Teatime Magazine (the link to the recipe can be found below). I did not use pears in my version, but instead used chopped dates, and topped with orange marmalade and diced candied orange. I decided to a little larger heart cutter for these.
The Sweet or Pastry Course
I haven’t created samples or test versions of all of the sweet course items, but I typically make something fruity, something with chocolate and something pastry. For now I’ve made a small wink to Lydia’s mother’s “cherry” flavor reference with these chocolate liqueur cups, filled with French black cherry preserves and a Griottines (brandied) French cherry on top.
Simple and quick, but a tasty small bite of chocolate cherry, each cup is filled with about a teaspoon of black cherry preserves (pump with small cherries) and then topped with one Griottine (brandied cherry) and a tiny edible viola flower.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this peek into the preparations of my Mothers Tea menu items. Just two short weeks away! Be sure to come back to see how the party came together and the rest of our menu. So looking forward to our special day of remembering our Mothers and specifically honoring Lydia’s special Mom this year! Here’s to Mothers and Nurses everywhere!