Southern Ladies’ Luncheon Makeover

Serve a small plate lunch your guests will remember

Introduction by Meredith S. Jensen | Recipes by Andrea Lewis | Photos by Zoua Reighter

Not quite a formal luncheon, not quite a snack, informal small plate lunches are a great way to entertain guests without the added pressure of fine china. Small plates are generally easy to assemble, each made with simple ingredients, giving you the chance to entertain instead of spend all of your time in the kitchen.

Serving a lunch “tapas style” is a great time to experiment with classic dishes in new ways. There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel when it comes to winning flavor profiles, but there is reason to mix them up. Gather your friends and serve them a southern-style ladies’ luncheon they’ll be sure to love.

To start, ditch the cucumber sandwiches. Spin it with a refreshing cucumber dill gazpacho to open your meal with the promise of creativity. Follow it up with a microgreen salad with chèvre (goat cheese) and a crispy tarragon crostini.

Next up, elevate the picnic staple, chicken salad, by serving it in on an herbed toast with a pickled deviled egg, on the side. Following that, take a few pages from the French and serve a savory onion pear galette – a delightful dish that is easy to make ahead of time. And for an American spin on the French cheese course, opt for pimento drop biscuits instead of a pimento cheese spread.

Your companions will be RSVPing to your next lunch before they even receive the invite.

 

Cucumber Dill Gazpacho with Curried Shrimp

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1⁄2 lbs English cucumbers, peeled and chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3 Tbsp sweet onions, chopped
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 2 cups plain yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (to taste)
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon white pepper (to taste)
  • 1 Tbsp fresh dill
  • 8 peeled, deveined, cooked shrimp
  • 1 teaspoon madras curry powder
  • 1 Tbsp Olive oil
  • Splash of rice vinegar

 

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Clean and peel cucumbers, chopping them into chunks.
  2. Place garlic, onion, cucumber and 1/2 cup of stock into food processor or blender.
  3. Blend until somewhat smooth with some small chunks of cucumber or blend to consistency desired.
  4. Add yogurt, remaining stock, lemon juice, salt and pepper to combined ingredients in bowl and whisk together until well blended. Season to taste.
  5. Pour soup into a tightly covered container and place in refrigerator to chill overnight. (the chilling time mellows the raw onion and garlic and allows the flavors to mingle).
  6. Serve cold.
  7. In a bowl, put 1 tsp of madras curry powder, 1 tsp olive oil and a splash of rice vinegar. Whisk together.
  8. Toss cocktail shrimp in curry mixture and use as a garnish for the gazpacho

 

Micro Green Salad with Sweet Onion Vinaigrette

INGREDIENTS

FOR THE SALAD:

  • 24 ounces mixed micro greens
  • 6 ounces baby pea greens
  • 8 ounces fresh chevre
  • 1/2 cup sliced toasted almonds
  • 8 sliced radishes
  • 1 sliced English cucumber

 

FOR THE VINAIGRETTE:

  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup Vidalia onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

 

DIRECTIONS:

VINAIGRETTE: Add all the ingredients to a blender. Mix on high speed for 30 seconds making sure that the sugar gets completely dissolved and the onion pieces are smoothly blended. Transfer the dressing to a mason jar or similar container with a tight fitting lid. Shake or stir before using.

TO PLATE: Place a small mound of greens on each plate and garnish with sliced tomatoes, radishes and cucumbers. Shake the dressing well and drizzle a few tablespoons on each serving. Top with crumbled chevre. Serve immediately.

If your luncheon is served buffet style or if the meal will not be eaten immediately, put the dressing in a small pitcher with a whisk so guests can serve themselves.

 

Waldorf Chicken Salad on Tarragon Toast

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cooked chicken breasts – diced
  • 6 Tbsp plain greek yogurt
  • 2 sweet apples, cored and chopped
  • 1 cup red seedless grapes, sliced in half
  • 1 cup celery, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup red onion, diced
  • 1 cup chopped, slightly toasted walnuts
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste

**In a pinch, you can save time by using a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken from the deli

For toast:

  • 1 loaf of ciabatta bread, sliced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh tarragon
  • Pinch of salt

 

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a large bowl mix all ingredients for chicken salad
  2. Refrigerate for two hours
  3. In a small bowl mix olive oil fresh tarragon and a pinch of salt
  4. Slice ciabatta bread into thin slices and place on cookie sheet
  5. With a pastry brush tops of bread with olive oil mixture and bake in a 350 degree oven for 5 minutes (until lightly toasted)
  6. To serve place a heaping spoonful of chicken salad on toast and garnish with sliced apples.

 

Carmelized Onion and Pear Galette

(Serves 8)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 2 large sweet onions (about 2 lb), thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 box refrigerated pie crust, softened as directed on box
  • 2 firm Bosc pears, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup grated asiago cheese
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten

 

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat oven to 425°F.
  2. In a dutch oven, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook 30 to 35 minutes, stirring frequently, until golden brown. Stir in salt and pepper; set aside.
  3. Line cookie sheet with cooking parchment paper. Remove pie crust from pouch; unroll on lightly floured surface. Roll each crust into a 14-inch round and cut into fourths
  4. Transfer to cookie sheet. Spread 1/8 of the caramelized onions over the individual crusts, leaving 2-inch border around edge. In medium bowl, toss pears with flour. Arrange pears over onions; top with Cheese.
  5. Fold 2-inch borders of dough over filling, pressing gently to seal. Brush dough with beaten egg.
  6. Bake 24 to 25 minutes or until golden. Cool on cookie sheet on cooling rack 5 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

Cheese Drop Biscuits

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups Bisquick
  • 2⁄3 cup milk
  • 1⁄2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon garlic powder

 

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat oven to 450
  2. Combine Bisquick with 4 Tablespoons butter using a pastry cutter or a large fork
  3. Add milk, and cheddar cheese.
  4. Stir together.
  5. In a small sauce pan combine 2 Tablespoons butter, garlic powder, Heat until butter is melted
  6. Spoon biscuit mixture onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
  7. Spoon butter mixture over biscuits.
  8. Bake for 12 minutes., until golden brown

Are you a fan of the pimento cheese spread as a luncheon staple, or complement to your tea? Add two tablespoons chopped pimentos and substitute two tablespoons of mayonnaise for two tablespoons of butter to transform these drop biscuits

Deviled Eggs Get Dressed Up

Deviled Eggs are a staple for many family and special occasion get togethers. Becky Clark, owner-butcher of Pork and Pickles, of Athens, Ohio shares her tips on how to spruce up your family recipe to wow your guests:

 

PRESENTATION:

  • Use a sharp knife to cut a sliver off each end of the egg, then cut them in half vertically instead of horizontally. This will allow them to stand up higher, and be a little smaller, which is less messy.
  • Use a piping bag, with a large rosette tip for the filling
  • Consider pickling the whole cooked egg in a beet or turmeric brine for 3 days prior to serving to drastically change the color of the white of the egg.
porknpickles.com

 

FILLING:

  • Cook the eggs only to medium instead of hard boiled, The trick is to stick to 8 minutes in heavy simmering water. This will make a creamier filling.
  • Your base filling should consist of just aioli or mayo, the cooked egg yolks, and the creative addition of your choice.

Consider adding to the filling:

  • capers, caramelized onion, anchovies, dill pickles, curry pickles, bread and butter pickles, or whole grain mustard.

 

GARNISHING:

  • Keep your garnish consistent with what you put in the filling of your egg.
  • Capers in the filling: garnish with crispy capers, lemon zest, chives
  • Caramelized onion in the filling: rendered P&P bacon lardons, smoked sea salt, edible flowers
  • Dill pickles and Whole Grain Mustard in the filling: pickled beets, green onions, Maldon sea salt flakes.