Northeastern University Dining’s ‘A Spoonful of Spring’ event last week was an example of seasonal eating at its freshest. A sense of place—and a sense of spring—came through in the different menus, set up at four stations, each evoking a different spring scenario. The event is part of the Educate Your Palate series, which is in its 13th year.

More than 1,000 attendees showed up to find Northeastern’s International Village dining hall transformed from a sleek modern space into a rustic gathering place with wheelbarrows, wooden fences, bird cages, mason jars and picnic tables. Paper lanterns projected pastel colors onto the ceiling and a local pianist provided the background music. Local event rental companies provided the decor and lighting. A hashtag was created (#EYP2014)  and like any great modern-day springtime adventure, it was happening live on Twitter and Instagram.

DEVIL MAY CARE. Deliciously Deviled Eggs, at the country farm station, were completely over the top in many delicious ways, including Smoked Salmon & Radish Roasted Red Pepper & Thai Chile, Miso & Sriracha, and Avocado, Anchovy & Caviar(!)

Oysters at a raw bar were served with a bracing white balsamic mignonette, and iced champagne granita (a frozen slushie that’s made in a shallow pan) and lemon wedges—a true taste of the ocean. Scallop Ceviche Shooters and Pickled Shrimp added to the down-by-the- seaside feel. An excellent “Afternoon on a New England Beach,” for sure. Deliciously Deviled Eggs (above) and crostini with horseradish aioli and pickled beets represented “A Trip to the Country Farm.”

The spring flavors took many departures from the East Coast, as well. The menu headed south, first into the southern U.S., with Bacon-Infused Buttermilk Battered Spring Fried Chicken (see recipe, below) and Honey Glazed Biscuits, and then crossing the border into Mexico with Fire Roasted Mexican Corn (slathered with roasted garlic, lime aioli, queso fresco and cayenne).

The classic springtime staple leg of lamb was offered with Tahini Butternut Squash Baba Ghanoush (a gluten-free and vegan choice, by the way). At another station, Kimchi and Tofu Dumplings stuffed with spicy kimchi tofu were pan-fried and served with a sesame dipping sauce. Another great vegan entrée was Eggplant Pastitsio, that amazing Greek lasagna that’s traditionally made with meat. Portuguese Grilled Sardines (see recipe, below) were another departure, and Sam’s Fried Pickles brought it all back to the county fair.

The sweet taste of spring was just as interesting as the savory. Untraditional Eclairs were done three ways: sweet potato, maple vanilla and salted caramel. Strawberry Rhubarb Galette (see recipe) was a hit, served in cute take-home mason jars. A great idea for presentation that doubled as a souvenir from a fun event. Read on to get the recipes:

Portuguese Grilled Sardines

YIELD: 4 pieces

 16 oz. water

sea salt, to taste

4 whole sardines

¾ cup olive oil

¼ cup each red and green bell peppers, diced

¾ cup olive oil

2 Tbsps. lemon juice

pepper, to taste

½ bunch cilantro, stemmed and chopped

1 small yellow onion, peeled and diced

2 Tbsps. white vinegar

  1. Place water in a stainless or plastic container. Add enough salt to the water for it be slightly less salty than sea water, similar to adding salt to a pot of water for pasta. Stir to dissolve salt. Place the sardines in the water and let soak overnight.
  2. In a bowl combine the cilantro, onions, peppers, oil, vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Mix well to combine the ingredients. This may be done either the night before or just before grilling the sardines.
  3. Drain sardines and lightly pat dry. Heat grill to a medium high to high temperature. When grill is at temperature, place sardines onto the grill and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Grill for approx. 2-3 minutes and then flip over to grill the other side.
  4. When cooked thoroughly remove sardines from the grill onto serving platter and lightly spoon the sauce over them.

Photo and recipe: Northeastern University

Sam’s Amazing Fried Pickles

YIELD: 4 pickles

1 whole pickle, quartered

½ cup flour

¼ cup cornmeal

black pepper, to taste

2 cups panko breadcrumbs

1 cup buttermilk

salt, to taste

oil for frying

  1. Drain pickle well and cut into quarters lengthwise.
  2. In a bowl combine the panko, flour, cornmeal, salt and pepper. Mix well to combine ingredients. Place buttermilk in another bowl.
  3. Heat oil in fryer to 350°F or alternatively, place oil in a heavy pot over medium high heat and add enough oil so the pickles will be completely submerged. Heat oil to 350°F as tested with thermometer or a small piece of bread added to the oil bubbles quickly and begins to brown.
  4. Dip the pickles into the buttermilk and coat with panko mixture being sure the pickles are completely covered with the panko mixture.
  5. When the oil is hot enough, carefully place the pickles into the oil and fry until well browned and crispy. Remove onto absorbent towel. Serve immediately.
  6. Pickles may be served plain or served with your favorite dipping sauce.

Photo and

recipe: Northeastern University

Bacon-Infused Buttermilk Fried Chicken

YIELD: 4 pieces

8 pieces chicken rinsed under cold water

1 qt. buttermilk

3 cups flour

1/8 cup salt, plus more to taste

1/8 cup brown sugar

1 Tbsp. garlic, minced fine

½ tsp. crushed red pepper

½ cup bacon, cooked and fat saved

2 Tbsps. cornstarch

oil for frying

pepper, to taste

1 tsp. paprika

1 tsp. onion powder

  1. Place buttermilk into stainless or ceramic container. Add sugar and 1/8 cup salt and garlic to create a brine. Mix well to dissolve salt and sugar. Pour bacon fat into the brine and mix well. Place cooked bacon in food processor and process so bacon is very fine. Mix bacon into the brine. Add chicken to the brine being sure the brine completely covers the chicken. Cover and refrigerate for overnight and up to 1 ½ days.
  2. In a bowl combine the cornstarch, flour, paprika, onion powder, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper. Mix well to combine.
  3. Drain chicken from the brine and discard the brine. Dredge the chicken in the seasoned flour being sure that it is completely coated. Let chicken rest for 20 minutes before frying.
  4. Heat oil in fryer at 350°F or alternatively place oil in heavy pot over medium-high heat and add enough oil so the chicken will be completely submerged. Heat the oil to 350°F as tested with thermometer or with a small piece of bread added to the oil that bubbles quickly and begins to brown.
  5. Carefully add chicken to the oil and continue to cook until well browned and cooked through. Turning the chicken occasionally with tongs may be necessary to ensure even cooking. Remove chicken onto paper towel to drain. Let chicken rest for several minutes before eating.

Photo and recipe: Northeastern University

YIELD: 6 jars

1 pint strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced thickly

1 lb. rhubard, leaves removed, washed and chopped cross wise or frozen

¾ cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1 puff pastry sheet

flour for dusting

1 Tbsp. cornstarch

1 Tbsp. lemon zest

coarse (sanding) sugar, as needed

6 (4 oz.) mason jelly jars

  1. Wash and rinse mason jar. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly dust work surface with flour and place sheet of puff pastry onto work surface. Select appropriate sized cutter so puff pastry will fit into mason jar after baking. Using cutter, cut out circles of puff pastry. Place parchment paper onto baking sheet and arrange puff pastry circles onto parchment. Beat egg and lightly brush egg wash onto pastry. Sprinkle some of the coarse sugar on top. Place oven rack in the middle of the oven and place oven on low fan. Place baking sheet into the oven and bake until pastry is golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
  2. In a bowl combine strawberries, rhubarb, granulated sugar, cornstarch and lemon zest. Mix well. Place medium size sauce pan over medium high heat and add the fruit mixture and cook until fruit is soft and mixture is thick. Remove from heat and taste and adjust seasoning if needed and allow to cool.
  3. Cut or break puff pastry in half so there are 2 circles. Place bottom circle (the one without the sugar on top) in the bottom of the mason jar and add some of the fruit filling leaving room at the top for the remaining half of the pastry circle. Place the remaining half of the puff pastry (the one with the sugar on top) on top of the fruit filling to “sandwich” the filling. You should see a nice layering effect of the pastry and fruit filling through the jar. Adjust top piece of pastry if needed. Place cover and lid on the jar very tightly and refrigerate until ready for use.

Photo and recipe: Northeastern University