Food & Drink

Derby, graduation and Mother's Day in one weekend? Here's help

Hold on tight, Central Kentuckians: It's going to be a party-filled weekend.

Granted, the first Saturday in May traditionally is celebratory, what with all the merry making surrounding the Kentucky Derby, but this year, the weekend includes Mother's Day and the University of Kentucky's commencement ceremonies.

And what is it that really makes those occasions so enjoyable? Food. Delicious, "it's a special occasion so let's eat really well" food.

If your weekend includes this trifecta of parties, you'll need some help.

We came up with some menu ideas that are a sure bet for sailing through the weekend without missing out on a minute of fun, because they can be prepared in advance.

Our menu calls for using asparagus, strawberries, country ham and mint in various ways to cut down on the number of items you'll need to buy.


Mint julep

Handful of mint leaves

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

11/2 to 2 ounces of bourbon

Crushed ice

Confectioners' sugar

Bruise a "whole handful" of mint leaves and combine with 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water. Boil five minutes and strain. Pour 2 tablespoons mint syrup in sterling silver cup. Add bourbon. Mix. Fill cup with crushed ice. Rub fresh mint around rim of cup. For garnish, dip fresh mint sprig in powdered sugar and insert in ice.

Asparagus bruschetta

1 pound asparagus, ends trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces

8 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated

6 ounces country ham, finely chopped or ground in food processor

3 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half

1 10-ounce French baguette, cut into 1/2-inch slices, grilled or toasted

Extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat broiler. Bring a large sauté pan of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add asparagus and cook until tender crisp, about 2 minutes. Transfer asparagus to a colander, refresh under cold running water to stop the cooking, and drain well. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine cheese and ham; toss to mix. Set aside.

Using your fingers to hold the garlic, rub cloves against one side of the toasted bread to flavor the entire surface. Drizzle or brush with a bit of olive oil.

Arrange blanched asparagus on toast, then divide cheese and ham topping evenly over asparagus. Season with salt and pepper. Place bruschetta on a baking sheet and broil just until cheese melts and begins to brown, about 1 to 2 minutes. Keep a careful watch so as not to burn. Serve immediately.

Makes 12 servings.

From California Asparagus Commission

Ale-8 One slow cooker pork barbecue

1 large onion, thinly sliced

1 (4- to 4½ -pound) pork shoulder or Boston butt pork roast

1 can (12 ounce) Ale-8 One

2 tablespoons basic barbecue dry rub (recipe below)

2 cups barbecue sauce of your choice

Place half the onion slices in the bottom of a slow cooker. Lay pork shoulder on top of onion. Pour Ale-8 over pork and sprinkle with dry rub and remaining onion. Cover and cook on low for 11 hours. At that point, the meat should be fork-tender, which happens when the internal temperature reaches about 200 degrees. If it's not fork-tender, turn the meat over, cover, and cook 1 to 2 hours more. When pork is done, place it on a platter, and shred and chop the meat. Keep meat warm, and serve the barbecue sauce warm on the side. Alternatively, discard juice from slow cooker and place the meat back in the cooker. Mix in the barbecue sauce, and warm before serving.

Makes about 12 servings.

Basic barbecue dry rub

2 tablespoons sweet or smoked paprika

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 teaspoons garlic powder

1½ teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon chili powder

1⁄8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Mix all ingredients together and store in airtight jar or container.

Makes about ¼ cup.

From The Kentucky Fresh Cookbook by Maggie Green

Crunchy coleslaw

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup sour cream

1/2 teaspoon sugar

2 tablespoons vinegar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

4 cups coleslaw mix (2⁄3 of a 14-ounce package)

In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, sour cream, sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper to make dressing. Place coleslaw mix in a large bowl, and stir in enough dressing to make desired consistency.

Strawberry-buttermilk gelato

2 cups sugar

2 cups water

5 cups quartered strawberries (about 4 pints)

2 cups low-fat buttermilk

Combine sugar and water in large saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Pour into large bowl; cool completely.

Place strawberries in blender and process until smooth. Add strawberry purée and buttermilk to sugar syrup; stir to combine. Pour strawberry mixture into the freezer can of an ice-cream freezer, and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions.

from Cooking Light


Asparagus and mint frittata

14 spears asparagus

Crushed sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

6 free-range eggs

½ cup Parmesan, grated

Small bunch fresh mint leaves, picked from stems and torn

1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove woody ends of asparagus by bending them and snapping where they break naturally. Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil. Add asparagus, return to a boil, and cook 3 to 5 minutes, until just tender. Drain and season with crushed sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Set aside.

Break eggs into a bowl and beat lightly. Add all but 2 tablespoons of Parmesan and the torn mint; season with crushed sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat oil in 8-inch ovenproof frying pan. Add egg mixture and cook over low heat, loosening egg from the sides until it is just starting to set (it should be quite runny).

Arrange asparagus on top, sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan, and bake for 1 minute only. Loosen frittata from pan with a spatula and transfer to a warm plate. Cut into wedges to serve.

Makes 4 servings.

From Take 5 Ingredients by James Tanner

Strawberry-spinach salad

1 pound fresh baby spinach, rinsed thoroughly and patted dry

2 pints fresh strawberries, hulled and halved


½ cup vegetable or canola oil

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

1⁄3 cup sugar

1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted

1½ teaspoons minced onion

½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place spinach in a bowl and then add strawberries, but resist the urge to mix them together. Put all the dressing ingredients in a blender or food processor, and pulse until mixed and thickened. Just before serving, wash your hands thoroughly and then gently hand-toss the salad with only enough dressing to coat the spinach and berries. Be careful not to bruise the spinach or berries as you mix them together. Serve immediately.

Makes 6 servings.

From Seasonal Recipes from the Garden by P. Allen Smith


Foil-wrapped baked salmon

Juice of 6 oranges, plus zest of 2

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 red chilies (bird's eye), finely chopped

6 scallions, trimmed and sliced

4 organic salmon fillets, skin on

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Olive oil for brushing

Pour orange juice into a bowl with zest and the soy sauce. Add chilies and scallions, and stir together. Lay four double-layer 12-inch squares of foil over four shallow bowls, and push down into bowls. Season salmon fillets with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place one salmon fillet in the middle of each square of indented foil. Pour orange mixture over each piece of salmon. Gather up corners of each foil square and crimp together to form a rough pyramid shape.

Heat two large non-stick frying pans over high heat for 1 minute (if you don't have two frying pans, use a deep baking sheet). Brush the base of the foil pyramids with oil. Place foil pyramids into the two pans (or baking sheet) and cook 6 minutes, until pyramids are puffed up and you can hear the contents simmering.

Carefully remove from pan. To serve, tear open the foil pyramids at the table.

Makes 4 servings.

From Take 5 Ingredients by James Tanner

Baked asparagus with goat cheese and bread crumbs

11/2 pounds jumbo or extra-large asparagus, trimmed

21/4 tablespoons butter, melted, divided


2 ounces fresh white goat cheese, crumbled into bits (about 1/2 cup)

1/2 cup fresh, white bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat asparagus spears with 11/2 tablespoons melted butter, then salt lightly. Arrange in an oven-to- table shallow baking dish large enough to hold asparagus in 1 layer. Evenly distribute cheese bits over asparagus, then sprinkle with bread crumbs. Drizzle remaining 1 tablespoon melted butter over bread crumbs. Bake until asparagus is tender-crisp and bread crumbs lightly browned, about 10 minutes.

Makes 6 servings.

From California Asparagus Commission

Rustic strawberry tart

1 tablespoon butter or enough non-stick cooking spray to grease skillet

1/2 (15-ounce) package refrigerated pie crust dough

3 cups strawberries, washed, caps removed, allowed to dry and sliced into quarters, lengthwise

1⁄3 cup sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon ice water

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1/2 pint whipping cream (see note)

3 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Fresh mint, for garnish

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare bottom and sides of a 10-inch cast-iron skillet with butter or non-stick cooking spray. Arrange one of the uncooked crusts in the skillet, more or less evenly. It's not even necessary to roll out the dough. It will fit nicely. (Most refrigerated pie dough brands have enough product in each package to give you a second opportunity to make a delicious pie or tart another day.)

Place cut strawberries in a medium bowl; add sugar and cornstarch, and toss gently. Set aside for about 20 minutes. Pour strawberry mixture into center of skillet and fold edges of dough toward the center, leaving a 2-inch border so the berries are visible in the center of the skillet. The dough will only partially cover the strawberry mixture. Brush edge of dough with 1 teaspoon ice water, and sprinkle evenly with 1 teaspoon granulated sugar. Bake about 35 minutes, or until golden brown. Set aside to cool slightly.

Whip cream until soft peaks form. Gradually add confectioners' sugar, and continue beating for about 20 seconds. Stir in vanilla.

When tart has cooled slightly, spoon into individual serving dishes. Pass the whipped cream. Garnish with fresh mint.

Makes four servings.

Note: Chill cream bowl and beaters before whipping. Don't overwhip. Stop when peaks are soft. Add sugar and vanilla at end of whipping. Dollops of cream may be frozen on waxed paper.

From Florida Strawberry Growers Association