Set the Table and Invite Friends for a Fresh and Delectable Lunch

A pink-and-blue color scheme heralds the arrival of spring.

ornate pink and blue place setting
Marty Baldwin

Pink and blue. The colors are a regular reminder of beginnings, youth, and growth. So when interior designer Amanda Reynal was planning a neighborhood luncheon with her client, Marie, Amanda decided to borrow the combination to celebrate a different new arrival—spring.

"These two colors are so embedded in our minds and for such a special reason," Amanda says. "But that doesn't mean they can only be used for baby celebrations. Pink and blue create a beautiful palette that has so many purposes."

For this neighborhood luncheon, the color scheme came from two dinnerware patterns: fine bone china that depicts tendrils of blue ivy, and vintage pink ceramic bowls formed to look like cabbage leaves.

bold patterned table cloth with ornate place settings
Marty Baldwin

As a base for the colorful dishware, Amanda opted against an elegant solid-color tablecloth that would have made the visual experience too formal and fancy. Her affinity for pattern, bold pattern to be exact, drove her to cover the table with an overscale blue-and-khaki linen ikat. The foundation sets a stylish yet carefree tone, topped with textural abaca placemats in an octagon shape bordered in navy blue.

embroidered monogram napkins and wooden rings
Marty Baldwin

The play between fancy and fun continues in the accessories. Fine linen napkins—given a personal touch with Marie's embroidered monogram—are paired with exotic wood-and-bone napkin rings. Bone-color flatware references the napkin rings and tones down the glamorous spirit of the plates and salad bowls.

woman serving tray of food at lunch gathering
Marty Baldwin

The visual eye candy of the table serves as a teaser for the delicious fare to come. Halibut, topped with artichokes, tomatoes, and olives, is the meal's centerpiece. It's accompanied by a fruity cocktail, poppy seed breadsticks served with whipped goat cheese, a salad in the color scheme with pink watermelon radishes, and a tantalizing honey-dripped carrot cake.

The fresh flavors dovetail with the lightness of spring, the season when all things—even color schemes—are new again.

"We oftentimes make the mistake of thinking that one style doesn't 'go with' another," Amanda says. "The bottom line is they go together when you put them together. And on a table, with so many elements that repeat again and again, it just works."

three pastel pink and green glass receptacles
Marty Baldwin

Juliska's "Graham" flute and pink "Vienne" tumbler mingle with the "Olive Twirl" glass from Fête Home.

hydrangeas, ranunculus, and stock in wicker and glass containers
Marty Baldwin

Pink hydrangeas, ranunculus, and stock in wicker and glass containers form a simple yet romantic centerpiece.

dish of brown butter-seared halibut on bold table cloth
Marty Baldwin

Recipes by Chef Mary Payne Moran of Hail Mary, Food of Grace

Menu

  • Watermelon-Mint Cocktail
  • Poppy Seed Breadsticks with Peppered Goat Cheese Whipped Cream
  • Spinach Salad with Eggs and Watermelon Radishes
  • Brown Butter-Seared Halibut with Artichoke-Olive Sauce
  • Three-Layer Carrot Cake with Mascarpone Frosting

Shopping List

We've organized a shopping list to make shopping for this gathering menu easier for you. Package sizes are included, so you have enough for duplicated recipe ingredients.

Note: Unless specified, when we call for "butter," we mean the unsalted variety. When we call for "olive oil," we're suggesting good-quality extra virgin. When we call for "eggs," we're suggesting large eggs. Unless specified, when we call for "milk," we mean whole-fat milk.

Check your pantry for these necessary items before shopping:

  • ¾ cup + 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon + ½ cup canola oil
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 7 sticks unsalted butter
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 5¼ teaspoons + to taste kosher salt
  • Ground black pepper (to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon + to taste cracked black pepper
  • Paprika
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 6¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 ½ cups + ¾ teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 14 eggs

Specialty grocery store

  • 1 jar or container honey with honeycomb

Produce

  • 1 medium seedless watermelon
  • 1 bunch mint
  • 1 bunch chives
  • 1 bunch parsley
  • 1 bunch dill
  • 1 bunch watermelon radishes
  • 8 lemons
  • 2 (10-ounce bags) baby spinach
  • 2 medium tomatoes
  • 8 medium carrots
  • 1 onion
  • 1 head garlic

Grocery store

  • 6 (12-ounce) cans sparkling water
  • 1 package instant yeast
  • 1 (2.4-ounce) jar poppy seeds
  • 1 (11.5-ounce) container mayonnaise
  • 1 (8-ounce) jar Dijon mustard
  • 1 (2-ounce) bottle hot pepper sauce
  • 1 (24-ounce) package polenta-style cornmeal
  • 1 (10-ounce) jar pitted green olives
  • 1 (14-ounce) can quartered artichoke hearts
  • 1 (12-ounce) package bacon

Fish Monger

  • 12 (6- to 7-ounce each) halibut fillets

Dairy

  • 1 half-pint heavy cream
  • 1 (8-ounce) container sour cream
  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese
  • 1 quart buttermilk
  • 1 pint half-and-half

Cheese department

  • 1 (8-ounce) container mascarpone cheese
  • 1 (4-ounce) package goat cheese (chèvre)
  • 2 ounces Parmesan cheese

Alcohol

  • 1 (750-milliliter) bottle vodka
  • 1 (750-milliliter) bottle dry white wine

Watermelon-Mint Cocktails

watermelon-mint cocktails
Marty Baldwin

Hands-On: 15 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 6 cups cubed seedless watermelon
  • ¼ cup fresh mint leaves
  • 1 recipe simple syrup
  • 2¼ cups vodka
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • Ice cubes
  • Sparkling water, chilled
  • Mint sprigs and lemon slices

Directions

In blender or food processor blend watermelon until very smooth. If desired, strain juice through fine-mesh sieve to remove any pulp. In 2-cup liquid measuring cup, muddle mint leaves in Simple Syrup until bruised. Strain mint leaves from syrup and discard leaves. In large pitcher combine watermelon juice, mint-infused simple syrup, vodka, and lemon juice. Pour into ice-filled glasses; top with sparkling water. Garnish servings with mint sprigs and lemon slices.

For Simple Syrup: In small saucepan combine ½ cup each sugar and water. Bring to simmer; stirring to dissolve sugar. Let cool. Chill before using. Makes 1 cup.

Makes 12 cocktails.

Note: To intensify the watermelon in this refreshing cocktail, try it with watermelon-flavor vodka.

Poppy Seed Breadsticks with Peppered Goat Cheese Whipped Cream

Poppy Seed Breadsticks with Peppered Goat Cheese Whipped Cream
Marty Baldwin

Instead of whipping cream until it becomes thick and butterlike, stop short to make a creamy whipped spread that melts into warm breadsticks.

Hands-On: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour 40 minutes

Ingredients

Poppy Seed Breadsticks:

  • 1¼ cups warm water
  • ¾ teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon honey
  • 1 package instant yeast
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 3¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 egg whites, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
  • Kosher salt

Peppered Goat Cheese Whipped Cream:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup finely crumbled goat cheese (chèvre)
  • 1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
  • Kosher salt

Directions

Poppy Seed Breadsticks

In large mixing bowl combine warm water, sugar, and honey. Let stand 2 to 3 minutes or until dissolved. Add instant yeast. Let stand about 10 minutes or until frothy. Stir in melted butter and canola oil.

Sprinkle 1 cup of the flour and the 1½ teaspoons salt into yeast mixture; stir together using wooden spoon. Stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface. Knead in enough of the remaining flour to make moderately stiff dough that is smooth and lightly tacky but not sticky. Oil a large bowl; place dough in bowl, turning to coat, and cover with plastic wrap. Place in warm spot and let rise about 45 minutes or until doubled.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a baking sheet. Divide dough into 24 golf ball-size pieces. On lightly floured surface, roll each piece into an 8-inch-long rope. Place ropes ½ inch apart on the prepared baking sheet. Using pastry brush, lightly coat tops of breadsticks with egg whites. Sprinkle with poppy seeds and kosher salt.

Bake about 20 minutes or until golden brown.

For Peppered Goat Cheese Whipped Cream, place cream in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on medium to high until soft peaks form. Gently fold in goat cheese, 2½ teaspoons of the black pepper, and the salt. Sprinkle the remaining black pepper on top. Serve with breadsticks. Makes 24 breadsticks.

Spinach Salad with Soft-Boiled Eggs and Watermelon Radishes
Marty Baldwin

Spinach Salad with Soft-Boiled Eggs and Watermelon Radishes

Hands On: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Note: Toss this salad with the vinaigrette just before serving so it stays crisp, and serve the ranch dressing on the side. Extra ranch dressing can be used as a vegetable dip.

Ingredients

Chive Ranch Dressing:

  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 dashes hot pepper sauce
  • 1 pinch paprika
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Red Wine Vinaigrette:

  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ½ cup olive oil

Soft-Boiled Eggs:

  • 6 eggs

Spinach Salad:

  • 12 cups baby spinach, stems removed
  • 1 cup chopped bacon, crisp-cooked
  • ½ cup thinly sliced watermelon radishes
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh chives
  • Kosher salt and cracked black pepper

Directions

Chive Ranch Dressing

In medium bowl whisk together mayonnaise, sour cream, buttermilk, chives, lemon juice, parsley, dill, garlic, salt, hot pepper sauce, and paprika. Season to taste with pepper. Cover; chill until ready to use. Store dressing in airtight container in the refrigerator up to 3 days.

Red Wine Vinaigrette

In small bowl whisk together vinegar, lemon juice, and mustard. Add oil in thin stream, whisking until incorporated. Set aside until ready to use. Whisk before using.

Soft-Boiled Eggs

Bring a medium saucepan half full of water to boiling. Using slotted spoon, lower eggs into water. Reduce heat to maintain gentle boil. Boil 6 minutes for soft-boiled or 8 minutes for jammy (not set) yolks. Transfer eggs to bowl of ice water. When cool enough to handle, peel eggs. Halve or quarter eggs.

Spinach Salad

In large mixing bowl combine baby spinach, bacon, radishes, and half of the chives. Drizzle with red wine vinaigrette; toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange salad on a large platter or plates. Top with eggs and remaining chives. Drizzle some of the ranch dressing over salad. Makes 12 servings.

Brown Butter-Seared Halibut with Artichoke-Olive Sauce
Marty Baldwin

Brown Butter-Seared Halibut with Artichoke-Olive Sauce

Hands On: 45 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Have everything prepped before you make this recipe. All the elements are easy to make, and it goes together quickly because you overlap steps.

Ingredients

Polenta:

  • 3 cups water
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 cup polenta-style cornmeal
  • ½ cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup half-and-half

Artichoke-Olive Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 14-ounce can quartered artichoke hearts, drained and patted dry
  • 1 cup pitted green olives, halved or quartered
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped (2 cups)
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • Kosher salt and cracked black pepper

Brown Butter-Seared Halibut:

  • 12 (6- to 7-ounce) halibut fillets
  • Kosher salt
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Good-quality olive oil
  • Lemon wedges

Directions

Polenta

In 4- to 5-quart pot bring the water, butter, and salt to boiling. Gradually sprinkle in cornmeal. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, uncovered, 30 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally. Just before serving, stir in Parmesan and half-and-half. Preheat oven to 400°F.

For Artichoke-Olive Sauce

In very large skillet heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium. Add onion and garlic. Cook 3 to 4 minutes or until softened, stirring occasionally. Stir in artichoke hearts, olives, and ½ teaspoon salt. Cook and stir 3 minutes. Add tomatoes; cook 2 minutes. Add wine. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Boil gently, uncovered, 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in parsley and lemon juice; season to taste with additional salt and pepper.

Brown Butter-Seared Halibut

While sauce is cooking, season halibut with salt. Coat large shallow baking pan with cooking spray. In large nonstick skillet heat 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium-high until browned. Add 4 halibut fillets. Cook about 2 minutes or until one side is browned. Transfer to the prepared baking pan, browned side up. Repeat with remaining butter and halibut. Drizzle any remaining browned butter over fish in pan. Bake about 6 minutes or until fish flakes easily.

To serve, spoon polenta onto serving plates. Top with halibut and Artichoke-Olive Sauce. Drizzle with olive oil and serve with lemon wedges. Makes 12 servings.

Three-Layer Carrot Cake with Mascarpone Frosting
Marty Baldwin

Three-Layer Carrot Cake with Mascarpone Frosting

Hands On: 20 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes

Look for honey with a good chunk of honeycomb in in the jar or container. Use a fork to break up the honeycomb to scatter over the top of this impressive cake.

Ingredients

Carrot Cake:

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1½ cups butter, melted
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 6 eggs
  • 3¾ cups shredded carrots
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • Honey with honeycomb

Mascarpone Frosting:

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup milk

Directions

Carrot Cake

Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat three 9-inch round cake pans with cooking spray. In a bowl stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.

In large mixing bowl combine sugar, butter, and oil; beat with an electric mixer on medium until well combined. Add eggs, carrots, and vanilla; beat until combined. Add flour mixture; stir until well combined.

Divide batter among prepared pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire rack 10 minutes. Remove from pans; let cool 30 minutes.

Mascarpone Frosting

In large mixing bowl beat cream cheese with electric mixer on medium to high until light and airy. Add butter, mascarpone, and vanilla; beat until combined. Add powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, to reach desired consistency.

To assemble, place one cake round on serving plate. Top with 1 cup Mascarpone Frosting. Spread frosting to edges of cake allowing it to spill over sides in places. Repeat for next layer. Top with last cake round. Spread thin coat of frosting on top of cake. Chill 30 minutes.

Spread remaining frosting on top of cake allowing some frosting to spill over sides. Break honeycomb into large chunks over cake. Allow honey to drip from comb over cake. Makes 12 servings.

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