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In Association with

Cooking to Impress without Stress


by Annabel Langbei

PREP TIME: 5 minutes
COOK TIME: 3 minutes

MAKE AHEAD: Make dressing up to a week ahead; cook asparagus up to 2 hours ahead: cook scallops up to a half hour ahead

Make the most of tender asparagus during its short spring season. A big platter piled with freshly cooked spears drizzled with lemon-infused olive oil makes a speedy first course, but for a special treat check out this stunning asparagus and scallop salad. It's just the trick for a romantic dinner a duex, or double the recipe for a special dinner occasion with friends. Even the freshest asparagus has tough stems - to remove simply snap the asparagus and discard the tough ends. Take care not to overcook - it only takes three minutes.

8-10 spears fresh asparagus, tough ends snapped off and discarded 10-16 fresh scallops (as extravagance allows)
Finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon or lime
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch sugar
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup Citrus Chili Dressing - see below

TO SERVE: Handful of fresh basil leaves (or mint or coriander/cilantro when basil is not available), flesh of just one ripe avocado cut into chunks, a little extra virgin olive oil to drizzle

DROP trimmed asparagus into a pot of lightly salted boiling water and boil 3 minutes. Refresh under cold water and drain thoroughly. Set aside.

MIX scallops with lemon (or lime) zest and season with salt and pepper and sugar. Heat oil in a heavy pan until very hot and cook scallops about 1 minute each side - they should be browned but still soft. Do not overcook.
DRIZZLE warm scallops with a little dressing toss with asparagus. Gently combine with basil and avocado. Arrange on 2 plates and spoon over remaining dressing. Drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil around the plate.

Citrus Chili Dressing: Make this dressing in bulk for a zingy fat-free flavor boost for salads, seafood and noodles. It will keep in the fridge for up to a week.

1/3 cup fresh lemon or lime juice
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 small red chili, seed removed and flesh finely sliced
1 tbsp sugar

Mix all ingredients together and chill until ready to serve. Makes one small cup.

PREP TIME: 5 minutes
COOK TIME: 10 minutes
MAKE AHEAD: This is last minute assembly

1 lb. fettuccini or pappardelle noodles
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp capers
7 oz. baby rocket (arugla) leaves, washed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. hot smoked salmon. bones removed and flesh coarsely flaked
Finley grated zest of 1 lemon
2-3 tbsp lemon juice

COOK pasta in plenty of boiling, salted water according to packet instructions. While pasta cooks, heat oil and fry capers until crunchy. Transfer to a plate. Add rocket to pan, season with salt and pepper and cook just until wilted.

DRAIN pasta and toss with fried capers, salmon, lemon zest and juice. Season with salt and pepper. Divide between serving plates and top with a little rocket.

SERVES: 10-12
PREP TIME: 10 minutes
COOK TIME: about one hour plus standing time
MAKE AHEAD: on the morning of serving
Glenys Cennamo, who works with me in our test kitchen, came up with this utterly divine version of the classic French dessert. If you can access thickened cream (which contains a little gelatin) do use it as it does help to give the tart its impeccable texture. Make this the day you plan to serve it - it tends to crack after a day or so. Take particular care to check that the oven temperature is not too hot. It needs to set the custard and no more.

2 sheets sweet pastry
a little beaten egg


2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
7 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 14/ cups thickened or whipping cream

HEAT oven to 350 F. Roll out pastry thinly and fit into a 12 inch flan dish, covering base and sides. Cover with a sheet of baking parchment, spread pie weights on top and bake 15 minutes

REDUCE heat to 325F. Carefully remove paper and weights, brush pastry with beaten egg and return to oven for further 15 minutes or until golden and dry.
TO MAKE FILLING combine all ingredients in a saucepan and warm gently over low heat until just luke warm or 120F. Pour through a strainer into cooked pastry case and bake at 275F for 25-30 minutes or until just set (it should be just a little wobbly right in the center when you take it from the oven). Stand at least 1 hour before serving.

GARNISH if desired with blackberries and a drizzle of Lemon Dessert Syrup.

LIME TART - Use 2/3 cup of lime juice in place of the lemon juice

PASSION FRUIT TART - Use 2/3 cup of strained fresh passion fruit pulp in place of the lemon juice

LEMON DESSERT SYRUP- Place in pot 1 1/2 cups of sugar, 1 cup of water, 1/2 cup lemon juice and the peel of 2 lemons (no pith). Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves. Boil 5 minutes. Cool and store in a sealed jar in the refrigerator. Makes 1 1/2 cups.

Excerpted from Cooking to Impress Without Stress by Annabel Langbein. Copyright © 2003 by Annabel Langbei. Excerpted by arrangement with Graphic Arts Books. All rights reserved. $18.95. Available in local bookstores or call 800.452.3032 or click here.

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