Spring Recipes for Mother's Day Brunch
Shilpa Uskokovic caught our eye as a loyal #eqdailypic contributor with striking photos of inventive recipes from her kitchen in Queens. Born and raised in India, Uskokovic came to America to study food and cooking at the Culinary Institute of America, where she graduated with an associate degree in culinary arts. She moved to Astoria and worked–first as a savory cook then switched to pastry–at notable NYC restaurants like Perry St., Maialino, Marea and The NoMad. Now in Sunnyside, she's looking to start her own online project combining food and entertaining with "artisanal and ethically produced home goods," but until its debut, we'll remain loyal fans of her Instagram and beg her for more recipe pitches.
5 days ahead: Shape and freeze biscuits.
3 days ahead: Blanch asparagus. Make ramp butter.
1 day ahead: Make panna cotta.
20 minutes ahead: Bake off biscuits. Macerate berries. Bring ramp butter to room temperature.
Just before eating: Finish the asparagus dish. Cook eggs.
Editor's Note: This Sunday spread serves four. Some of the following measurements are in grams. Uskokovic explained precision is key and "the single best thing you can do to improve your baking." So, heed her suggestion, use a scale (a decent one will cost under $40) and make this your most delicious Mother's Day yet–especially if you've never cooked with ramps.
BLACK PEPPER BISCUITS
The secret to these biscuits is to keep the butter cold and in fairly large chunks. A metal bench scraper is very useful when shaping and transferring the dough. If you don’t have a bench scraper, you could use a large, wide offset spatula or a sturdy pancake turner.
240 grams unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
3 ounces butter, very cold
250 grams buttermilk (or plain, whole milk kefir)
Place the flour, baking powder, baking soda, pepper and salt into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse for a few seconds to combine the ingredients. Cut the butter into rough 1-inch chunks and add to the flour mixture. Pulse in 5-second bursts until the butter is reduced to pieces that are between the size of a green pea and an almond. Tip this mixture into a medium mixing bowl.
Pour the buttermilk over the flour mixture all at once and using a fork, stir gently to bring the mixture together. The dough will be shaggy with some dry patches. Turn the dough out onto a very lightly floured surface and pat into a vaguely rectangular shape with your hands. Fold the dough in half, pat it out and fold in half again. Now shape the dough into an approximately 6x6 square. Use a metal bench scraper to carefully transfer the dough onto a parchment-lined quarter sheet tray or other flat baking sheet.
Chill the dough square in the freezer for about 1 hour. Use the bench scraper or a sharp knife to cut the dough into squares or rectangles, whichever shape maximizes your yield. At this point, you could cover the entire tray with plastic wrap and freeze for up to 2 weeks before baking.
To bake, preheat the oven to 425° and position a rack in the center. Array the cut biscuits about ½ inch apart on the sheet tray, brush the tops with a lick of heavy cream and bake until pale golden brown on top, about 15 minutes. If baking from frozen, there is no need to thaw the biscuits. Simply proceed as above, perhaps adding a few minutes of extra baking time.
Pile the hot biscuits into a basket or on a platter and serve with smoked salmon (or ham) and eggs cooked to your liking.
70 grams ramp leaves
70 grams very soft butter
½ –1 jalapeño, finely minced
Finely grated zest of ½ lime
Salt, to taste
Bring a small pot of water to a raging boil. Have a bowl of iced water close by. Drop the ramp leaves into the water for about 30 seconds, until the color turns bright green. Remove and plunge into the ice cold water to stop any further cooking. When fully cool, wring out as much water as possible from the leaves. Transfer the ramps to a spice grinder (since the quantity is so small, a regular blender may not work here), add the jalapeños and process to get as fine a paste as possible. Remove to a small bowl, and stir in the soft butter and lime zest to make an emerald green paste. Season with salt. This can be made up to 1 week ahead and stored, tightly covered, in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before using.
ASPARAGUS WITH SPRING GREENS
Use whatever fresh, tender greens you can find at your farmers market or in your garden. I used a combination of radish greens from my balcony and some upland cress. Arugula, baby kale, watercress or pea shoots would be just as lovely.
1 bunch thick green asparagus (pencil asparagus tends to be a bit stringy and a pain to peel)
1 pint mixed spring greens
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
½ jalapeño, minced
1 tablespoon butter
Extra-virgin olive oil
Cut the bottom inch off the asparagus stalks. Using a Y-peeler, peel the stalks, starting about ½ inch down from the tips. Bring a large pot of salted water to a fast boil. Have a bowl of iced water at the ready. Drop the asparagus into the boiling water for 1-2 minutes, until the color becomes more vivid and the stems are tender but still crisp. Plunge into the ice bath to stop the cooking. Drain on a towel. The asparagus can be prepared up to three days ahead. Store in a tightly covered container lined with a paper towel.
To serve, melt the butter in a large skillet over low heat and add the asparagus. Cook until it’s barely warmed through. The color should still remain bright green. Remove to a platter. To the same skillet, add the pumpkin and sunflower seeds and toast on a medium heat until the pumpkin seeds start to pop. Season with salt and sprinkle the seeds over the waiting asparagus.
In a small bowl, combine the greens with the minced jalapeño. Zest ½ the lemon rind over the greens, then cut the lemon and squeeze a few drops into the bowl. Add a drizzle of olive oil, season with salt and toss well to coat the leaves. You will not need to add a lot of oil. Quickly pile the dressed greens on the asparagus and serve.
KEFIR PANNA COTTA WITH STRAWBERRIES
It’s important to use whole milk kefir here to obtain the right texture. Nonfat or lowfat doesn’t have the same luxurious taste.
1¼ teaspoon gelatin*
2 tablespoons cold water
200 grams heavy cream
50 grams sugar
¼ teaspoon coarse sea salt
300 grams plain, whole milk kefir
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 pint strawberries, hulled
½–1 tablespoon sugar
Zest and juice of 1 lime
Sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the cold water in a small bowl and set aside for a few minutes to fully hydrate. Combine the heavy cream, sugar and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over a medium-low heat. When the cream just about simmers, whisk in the gelatin. Take off the heat and leave to cool for about 10 minutes before stirring in the kefir and vanilla extract. Adding the kefir when the cream is too hot may cause the mixture to split. Portion the panna cotta into cups or glasses, and chill in the refrigerator overnight.
To serve, halve or quarter the strawberries depending on their size. Toss in a small bowl with the sugar, lime zest and juice. You may need to use more or less sugar depending on how sweet the berries are to begin with. Let the berries macerate for about 15 minutes, then spoon over the cold panna cotta and serve right away.
*Gelatin’s setting power becomes stronger the longer it sits. The amount of gelatin specified in this recipe is perfect for creating a softly jiggling panna cotta when it has rested for about 18 hours. If you are making the panna cotta more than 1 day ahead, reduce the gelatin to 1 teaspoon so you don’t end up with an overly firm or rubbery panna cotta.
Seasonal variation: This panna cotta is also lovely served with roasted rhubarb. For this, you need 200 grams of rhubarb, chopped into 1 inch lengths. Toss with 50 grams of sugar and place in a small ovenproof dish. Pour in a quarter cup of orange juice, red wine or water and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Roast in a 400° oven for about 15 minutes or until the rhubarb is tender but not mushy.