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Mother's Day Lunch

As handmade cards, floral perfumes, silk scarves, and mimosa filled afternoons are harvested by mothers around the country, I recommend flipping to the “B” side of the annual celebration record. Make plans to skip brunch and serve a delicious lunch instead. Try making this delightful menu composed of a soup, salad and open faced sandwich. It retains a lot of the delicious flavors of the standard holiday meal, just minus the eggs and syrup.


I find that creating the perfect menu for any celebration is really about one thing, time management. The key to making this meal a success is in the order of cooking. Begin by preparing the soup. During the simmer time, prep and arrange the salad, whisk together dressing, cover both and let chill. Next, finish off the soup and let stand off the heat, and complete the meal by preparing the sandwich. I found cooking this way allows me to really focus on what I’m doing (leading to less mistakes and no scorched soup) and provides ample time for cleaning so I have more time to enjoy with my mom. As for the beverage, mimosas are standard fare, and my mom wouldn’t feel right about not having them. But, this is lunch so I opt for a crisp fruity rosé to pair with the menu. I say have the champagne on ice to enjoy later in the day, or in my mother’s case, all afternoon. I mean it is Mother’s Day.

Norm’s Note: In this menu you’ll see that all the recipes use champagne vinegar. This is my subtle hint that it belongs in your pantry for spring and summer. Its slightly sweet and tangy taste pairs well with warm weather produce. Plus, I love to use it in place of fresh lemon in dressings or on its own to perk up my dishes. Do yourself a favor and pick up a bottle this weekend.

Creamy Potato Soup

I created this velvety smooth soup especially for my mother and I’m sure yours will love it as well. It has an almost fluffy mouth-feel thanks to the light whipping of the heavy cream before adding it to the pureed potato base. I prefer to under season this soup with salt since the buttery croutons pack a nice pop of salty flavor when eating. But it’s up to you on how salty you want to go. Also, don’t forget to fish out the bay leaf before processing.

Finely Chopped

Finely chopping the vegetables serves a real purpose in this recipe, it’s not just for show. The smaller pieces cook much quicker helping to extract and intensify their flavor. The fine chop also makes blending the soup to a smooth uniform consistency a bit easier and prevents over processing the potatoes, leading to a gummy mess. If you don’t feel like working on those much needed knife skills, toss the onion, celery and leek into a food processor and let the machine do the chopping for you. Process using 5 second pulses until your chop looks like the picture.

Creamy Potato Soup

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Total Time: 1 hour

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. butter

2 celery ribs, finely chopped

1 large leek, white part only, finely chopped

1/2 large white onion, grated

1 Tbsp all-purpose flour

2 tsp. kosher salt

1/8 tsp. ground red pepper

2 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 tsp. chicken base (such as Better Than Bouillon)

1 medium bay leaf

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 tsp. Champagne or white wine vinegar

Buttery Croutons

1. Melt butter in hot oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add celery and next 2 ingredients and sauté 8 to 10 minutes or until just tender. {No browning should occur.}

2. Stir in flour and next 2 ingredients and cook, stirring often, 2 minutes or until lightly golden. Add potatoes, next 2 ingredients, and 6 cups water. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Remove bay leaf and remove from heat.

3. Process potato mixture with an immersion blender until smooth. {Or process, in batches, in a blender or food processor until smooth. Then return mixture to Dutch oven.}

4. Whisk cream and vinegar together in a small bowl just until very soft peaks form. Gently stir into potato mixture until blended. Season with additional kosher salt, to taste. Serve with Buttery Croutons.

Buttery Croutons: Cut 1 (4-inch) piece French baguette into ¼-inch cubes {yields about 1 cup}. Heat 2 Tbsp. butter in a small skillet over medium heat, stirring often, until foamy. Add bread cubes and cook, stirring often, 4 to 5 minutes or until rich golden brown. Remove from heat and stir in ¼ tsp. kosher salt. Drain on paper towels. Makes about 1 cup. Total Time: 15 minutes.

Asparagus and Kale Salad

I started subbing hearty greens in my salads years ago and my mom has demanded nothing else since. She loves the varied combination of textures and flavors you get when common lettuces are combined with other players from the garden.

Peeling Asparagus

No special tools are needed; just a simple vegetable peeler will yield pretty ribbons of green and white.

Cutting Kale

Since the asparagus is so thin, I like to cut the kale in larger pieces to make the salad a bit more substantial.

Asparagus and Kale Ribbons

Norm’s Note: I don’t care for raw asparagus, so I went through the extra process of lightly cooking it with boiling water to remove a bit of its bitterness and soften up the texture. I admit the technique is a bit fussy, but well worth the effort. You can also assemble this salad a couple of hours ahead of your lunch date. Just don’t dress the salad until your ready to serve.

Asparagus and Kale Salad

Makes 4 servings

Total Time: 30 minutes

1/2 lb. asparagus

1 ½ tsp. kosher salt, divided

2 Tbsp. Champagne or white wine vinegar

1 tsp. whole grain Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp. honey

Pinch crushed red pepper

3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 head baby romaine

1 bunch Lacinato Kale (aka Tuscan Kale), cut into strips

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup fresh Ciliengine mozzarella, sliced (small cherry tomato sized fresh mozzarella balls)

1. Trim asparagus ends with a sharp knife. Cut lengthwise into very thin, ribbon-like strips, with a vegetable peeler. Toss asparagus and 1 tsp. kosher salt together in a large bowl.

2. Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a small saucepan. Pour boiling water over asparagus and let stand 1 minute. Drain. Rinse with cold running water until cool. Drain. Place on paper towels in a single layer and pat dry.

3.Whisk vinegar, next 3 ingredients, and remaining ½ tsp. salt together in a small bowl. Add oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly until smooth.

4. Remove root end from romaine and separate leaves. Arrange romaine leaves, asparagus, kale, basil, and mozzarella on large platter. Drizzle with vinegar mixture. Serve immediately.

Open Sandwich

This dish is a spin on the familiar brunch mainstay, lox and bagels. I think this version is a bit more attractive and just as simple to execute.

Cutting the Baguette

Cutting the bread is the most tricky part of this recipe. But a steady hand and a sharp serrated knife make it into a quick job.

Open-Faced Smoked Salmon Sandwich

Makes 4 Servings

Total Time: 30 minutes

1/2 (12-oz) French baguette

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided

2 green onions

1  cup loosely packed fresh flat leaf parsley

1 tsp. Champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar

3/4 cup ricotta

2 (4-oz.) smoked salmon filets, broken into chunks

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1. Preheat broiler to LOW (about 400 degrees) with oven rack 6 inches from heat. Cut baguette in half crosswise. Split each half lengthwise. Carefully remove top and bottom crusts (cutting lengthwise) to get an even surface. {You may reserve the top and bottom crust pieces and cut into ¼-inch cubes for use in Buttery Croutons}

2. Brush baguette slices with 1 Tbsp. olive oil and place on a foil lined jelly roll pan. Broil, turning often, 2 to 3 minutes or until toasted. Let stand until cool.

3. Spread baguette slices evenly with ricotta. Top with smoked salmon.

4. Remove white parts from green onions and reserve for another use. Cut green parts into thin strips. Toss green onion strips, parsley, vinegar, and remaining 1 Tbsp. olive oil together in a small bowl. Top sandwiches with green onion mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

15 Responses

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Norman KingNorman is a culinary expert and cookbook author. He first harnessed a love of stirring cast iron skillets atop wooden stools at his grandmother’s stove, leading his heart and feet...

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