from Jude’s Kitchen: lighter spring fare

With the first day of spring, our thoughts turn to lighter food we can take outside to enjoy the sunshine and warmer air.

smoked salmon spread

smoked salmon spread

Spring’s official arrival this week means we can officially turn our attention to lighter food, since there’s no longer a primitive need to pack on the lard to guard against the cold of deep winter.

Well, you know what I mean.

There is an urge to enjoy lighter food as spring sunshine, longer days and warmer temperatures pull us outside to enjoy the fresh air.

Days and nights of equal hours with the spring equinox on  March 20 will now turn to lengthening days and shorter nights in the run to the start of summer and the longest day of the year June 21, the summer solstice.

With the longer days and warmer weather, we will begin enjoying more meals outside, even if it’s necessary to wear a sweater to do so.

Lunch or an afternoon snack on the patio or deck could include some summery flavours with local B.C. greenhouse-grown tomatoes and herbs and B.C. salmon. You can just feel the heat of summer as you bite into a tasty bruschetta or salmon spread on toasty baguette slices or melba toast.

Obviously there will actually be even more flavour in these bites as summer ripens the herbs and vegetables in our own gardens and tomatoes can be plucked warm from the vine, chopped up and combined with fresh herbs to top our bread, so don’t toss out these recipes. Try them again deep in summer.

Outdoor food should be simple and easy to eat with your fingers, so bite-sized toast rounds topped with a multitude of bright flavours is perfect patio food, whether it’s spring outside, or summer.

Pair them with some of our excellent local VQA wines, like the fruity Okanagan pinot gris and riesling or buttery chardonnays; or try the salmon with one of our spicy pinot noirs.

Flavours and appetites are heightened by eating outdoors, so don’t be stingy.

For lots more ideas for food to be eaten outdoors, in the fist, pick up a copy of my book, Jude’s Kitchen, which includes informative wine pairing tips from one of Canada’s top wine writers, John Schreiner.

It’s available at bookstores, online or at many local wine shops and boutiques.


Variations on Bruschetta

This perennial Italian favourite can be re-created with many small changes, to make quite different appetizers that are both healthful and low in fat, as well as tasting fresh and being full of flavour.

In addition to the following variations, you could add minced garlic and olive oil to the topping as well as flavouring the bread with it; and/or you could add balsamic vinegar or fresh lemon juice to the tomato topping mixture or different fresh herbs.


olive oil

garlic cloves

Option one/classic:

meaty plum tomatoes

green onions

fresh basil

sea salt and black pepper

shredded mozzarella (optional)

Option two:

meaty plum tomatoes

sweet onions

fresh basil

sea salt and black pepper

shredded fresh parmesan

Slice a small baguette and rub with a cut clove of garlic, then drizzle or brush with a little good quality olive oil. Roast at 350 F for about 15 minutes or so.

Prepare the topping of your choice by finely chopping the meatiest parts of the tomatoes, minced onion and  fresh herbs such as basil. Season with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper and top with shredded cheese, if using.

You could choose to run it under the broiler for a moment to melt the cheese.

Serve immediately so the toast doesn’t get soggy.


Smoked Salmon Spread

This makes a light and tasty spread for melba toast or toasted slices of a small baguette. Serve it in a shallow dish, topped with the coarsely-minced vegetables. If you have leftover poached fresh, wild B.C. salmon, combine some smoked and some of the fresh salmon for a different flavour. This is reminiscent of the French rilletttes, traditionally made with shredded meat combined with fat, but which is also made with salmon poached in white wine and shallots.

8 oz. (227 g) smoked salmon

4 green onions

2 tbsp. (30 ml) mayonnaise

1 tbsp. (15 ml) lemon juice

1 tbsp. (15 ml) dry white wine

fresh-ground mixed peppercorns


1/4 c. (60 ml) sweet red onion

1/4 c. (60 ml) plum tomato

2 tbsp. (30 ml) capers

Flake the lightly-smoked salmon; finely mince the green onions and combine lightly with the salmon, mayonnaise, lemon juice and dry white wine. Avoid over-mixing or it will become a paste. Season to taste with fresh-ground mixed peppercorns. You might also like a pinch of fresh herbs such as tarragon, if available.

Coarsely mince the onion and tomato, avoiding the juice from the tomato.

Combine with the capers and top the serving dish of salmon with the vegetable mixture.

Serves 4 or so.



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