Your Guide to Hosting a Fresh Spring Lunch Gathering

dining area outside by trees
Photo: Victoria Pearson

Designer Mark D. Sikes brings a new spin on blue and white to a table set for a delicious Mediterranean menu.

01 of 11

American Style

los angeles designer Mark D. Sikes
Victoria Pearson

Mark D. Sikes creates sophisticated interiors, furniture, and lighting—and colorful striped fashions for his clothing line—with one purpose: to tell the broader story of classic American style. For the Los Angeles designer's latest project, he partnered with dinner-ware maker Blue Pheasant to bring a new interpretation of blue and white to the table.

"This collection hits the popular color duo from different angles," Mark says. "There is an East Coast versus West Coast dichotomy. Then that of American and European, English Spode and Portuguese pottery. Preppy and bohemian. This brings together the best of many places and styles."

02 of 11

Effortlessly Chic

oval wicker placemats with turquoise glassware
Victoria Pearson

For a gathering in the Southern California garden of Blue Pheasant founders Chris DeWitt and Oscar Yague, Mark fashioned an effortlessly chic table. A windowpane-plaid cloth drapes the table with striking linear structure, juxtaposing the mix of patterns and materials that sit atop it. Oval wicker placemats ground dinner and salad plates in blue-and-white swirl and spatter motifs. Turquoise glassware punctuates the scheme. The table's center doesn't have a strict plan or contrived layout. Instead, it surprises with a selection of potted herbs and plants, plus pink and red dahlias casually arranged in pitchers that pop against textural glass-and-wicker lanterns, also part of the Sikes collection.

03 of 11

Mediterranean Menu

blue dishes mediterranean menu
Victoria Pearson

The cuisine takes a "little of this, little of that" approach, too. The Mediterranean menu stars grilled chicken thighs with four sauces and dips for flavor variety. Israeli couscous spiked with fresh lemon accompanies the entrée, and a mélange of grilled vegetables interjects bright colors. Pepper-wrapped lamb sausage and tomato-and- carrot soup heighten the bright palette. And to finish the meal with refreshment, dessert is a rosé gelato with pomegranate seeds.

  • Campari Sunrise
  • Seared Lamb Sausage and Red Pepper Skewers + Mint-Cucumber Sauce
  • Tomato-and-Carrot Soup
  • Grilled Marinated Chicken Thighs + Mediterranean Toppings
  • Grilled Vegetables with Olive Oil, Parsley, and Lemon Juice
  • Israeli Couscous + Sliced Almonds
  • Cheese Course with Grilled Pita
  • Rosé-Pomegranate Gelato + Shortbread Cookies
04 of 11

Gathering Your Supplies

dining area outside by trees
Victoria Pearson

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.

Check your pantry for these necessary items before shopping:

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

Amounts for cocktail recipes have been increased to make eight cocktails.

  • Olive oil (need 1 cup + 2 tablespoons)
  • Butter (need 2 sticks)
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • Kosher salt (need 1 teaspoon + to taste)
  • Ground black pepper (to taste)
  • All-purpose flour (need 2¼ cups)
  • Granulated sugar (need about 1 cup)
  • Powdered sugar (need 2 cups)
  • Vanilla extract (need 2 teaspoons)
  • Milk (1½ cups)

Specialty grocery store

  • 1 (14.1-ounce) jar Luxardo maraschino cherries
  • Za'atar (need 1½ teaspoons)
  • 5 lamb Merguez sausages (need 8 1/2 ounces)
  • Labneh (need 4 ounces)
  • 4 ounces caprino stagionato (aged goat cheese)


  • 1 bunch Italian parsley
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 1 bunch mint
  • 1 bunch basil
  • 1 bunch lemon grass
  • 1 gingerroot
  • 1 pomegranate
  • 1 (16-ounce) container fresh strawberries
  • 3 cups berries (strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and/or raspberries)
  • 5 lemons
  • 2 limes
  • 19 oranges
  • 8 cherry tomatoes
  • 8 cremini mushrooms
  • 8 broccolini tops
  • 3 medium red sweet peppers
  • 1 medium orange sweet pepper
  • 1 jalapeño chile pepper
  • 1 bunch carrots
  • 1 Persian cucumber
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 2 medium eggplants
  • 1 small eggplant
  • 6 tomatillos
  • 1 (8-ounce) bag fresh spinach
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 large shallots
  • 1 bulb garlic


  • 1 (8-ounce) can organic tomato sauce
  • 1 (8-ounce) bottle pomegranate juice
  • 1 (16-ounce) package Israeli (large pearl) couscous
  • Greek pita flatbreads (need 8)

Baking aisle

  • 1 (6-ounce) package sliced almonds


  • 16 boneless, skinless chicken thighs


  • 1 (1/2-pint) container heavy cream
  • 1 (8-ounce) container sour cream
  • 3 (6-ounce) containers plain Greek yogurt

Cheese department

  • 1 (4-ounce) container crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 (10-ounce) container hummus


  • 1 (750-milliliter) bottle Campari
  • 1 (750-milliliter) bottle grenadine syrup
  • 1 (750-milliliter) bottle rosé wine
  • 1 (750-milliliter) bottle dry white wine
05 of 11

Campari Sunrise

campari sunrise cocktail
Victoria Pearson

This two-tone cocktail is a twist on the Tequila Sunrise. Chill your rocks glasses and serve immediately so the drinks are at their coldest and most refreshing.

Start to Finish: 5 minutes

  • Ice
  • 4 ounces (1/2 cup) fresh orange juice
  • 1½ ounces (3 tablespoons) Campari
  • ½ ounce (1 tablespoon) simple syrup
  • 1/4 ounce (1½ teaspoons) grenadine syrup
  • 1 Luxardo maraschino cherry for garnish
  • 1/4 orange slice for garnish

Add ice to chilled rocks glass. Pour orange juice, Campari, and simple syrup into glass. Add grenadine, which will sink to bottom. Do not stir. Garnish with cherry and orange slice. Makes 1 serving.

For Simple Syrup, in screw-top jar combine 1/3 cup sugar and 1/3 cup water. Cover; shake until sugar dissolves.

06 of 11

Seared Lamb Sausage and Red Pepper Skewers + Mint-Cucumber Sauce

seared lamb sausage and red pepper skewers
Victoria Pearson

You can save a little time preparing these zesty bites by using jarred roasted red peppers. Look for jars with larger pieces, then drain them and pat dry before cutting into strips.

Hands On: 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

  • 3 medium red sweet peppers
  • 5 lamb Merguez sausages (8 1/2 ounces) or other spiced lamb sausages
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 recipe Mint-Cucumber Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley

For Seared Lamb Sausage, preheat oven to 425°F. Line baking sheet with foil; set aside. Cut sweet peppers in half lengthwise; remove stems, seeds, and membranes. Place pepper halves, cut sides down, on prepared baking sheet.

Roast 20 to 25 minutes or until peppers are charred and very tender. Bring foil up around peppers; fold edges together to enclose. Let stand 15 minutes or until cool enough to handle. Using sharp knife, loosen edges of skins; gently pull off skins in strips; discard. Set peppers aside.

Meanwhile, season sausages with salt and pepper. In large skillet add olive oil and sausages. (Starting with cold skillet will keep sausage skin from shrinking and popping.) Heat skillet over medium-high. Cook sausages 10 minutes or until seared on all sides and fully cooked (165°F). Remove from pan; let cool slightly.

Cut each sausage into five pieces. Cut peppers into strips roughly the width of sausage. Wrap each sausage piece with a pepper strip. Secure with toothpick. Serve with Mint-Cucumber Sauce. Sprinkle with parsley. Makes 8 servings.

For Mint-Cucumber Sauce, in small bowl combine 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt, 1/4 cup sour cream, 2 tablespoons finely grated Persian cucumber, 1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley, 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest, 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, and 2 teaspoons chopped fresh mint. Stir to combine. Refrigerate until needed. Makes 2/3 cup.

Tip: Use a rasp-style grater to grate cucumber to an almost pulpy consistency.

Tomato-and-Carrot Soup

This savory soup can be made well in advance to save on last-minute prep. It's delicious served chilled, or you can reheat it for those who prefer hot soup.

Hands On: 10 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons shallots, chopped
  • 3 cups chopped carrots
  • 1½ tablespoons minced fresh lemon grass
  • 2¼ teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 1 (8-ounce) can organic tomato sauce
  • 3 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Kosher salt
  • Lemon zest

In large saucepan heat oil over medium heat. Add shallots. Cook until soft and aromatic. Add carrots, lemon grass, and ginger to pot. Stir to combine. Add tomato sauce and 2 cups water. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cover; simmer 45 minutes or until carrots are soft.

Cool slightly. Place soup in blender or food processor. Cover and blend until smooth. Add remaining 1 cup water to thin soup.

Return soup to pot. Stir in lemon juice. Season to taste with salt. Serve warm or cover and chill at least 4 hours. Garnish with lemon zest before serving. Makes 8 servings.

07 of 11

Grilled Marinated Chicken Thighs + Mediterranean Toppings

blue dishes mediterranean menu
Victoria Pearson

This recipe is easier than it looks. You can serve all four toppings for lots of options or pick just one or two. Best of all, most can be made ahead.

Hands On: 50 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour including marinating time

Chicken Thighs:

  • 16 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • 1½ cups dry white wine
  • ½ cup fresh orange juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 onion, cut into 8 wedges
  • Kosher salt
  • Ground black pepper

For Chicken Thighs, divide chicken between two food-safe resealable plastic bags. In medium bowl combine white wine and orange juice. Divide marinade between bags. To each bag add 1 garlic clove and 4 onion wedges. Seal bag. Refrigerate 30 minutes.

Remove chicken from marinade; discard marinade. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Place chicken, smooth side down, on greased grill rack directly over medium-high heat. Cover; grill 8 to 10 minutes or until internal temperature is 165°F. Transfer chicken to platter; let rest 10 minutes. Serve with Mediterranean Toppings. Makes 8 servings.

Mediterranean Toppings

For Chickpea and Feta, place 1 cup plain hummus in bowl; top with 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle with 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped Italian parsley. Can make ahead and chill, covered, up to 3 days. Makes 1 cup.

For Salsa Verde, in bowl of food processor or blender combine 6 peeled and coarsely chopped tomatillos, 1/4 cup fresh lime juice, 1/4 cup packed cilantro, 2 tablespoons chopped shallots, and 1 tablespoon seeded and sliced jalapeño pepper. Process until chunky. Season to taste with kosher salt. Can make ahead and chill, covered, up to 3 days. Makes 1 2/3 cups.

For Yogurt and Spinach Sauce, in bowl combine 1 cup plain Greek yogurt; 1/2 cup chopped, steamed, well-drained spinach; 1/4 cup heavy cream; and 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice. Mix well; season with kosher salt to taste. (Can use 5-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well-drained, in place of fresh spinach.) Make sauce just before serving. Makes 1¾ cups.

For Eggplant Caviar, preheat oven to 450°F. Line 15x10x1-inch baking pan with foil. Slice two medium eggplants in half lengthwise; place in pan, cut sides down. Wrap 3 large garlic cloves in foil. Place in pan with eggplant. Bake 20 minutes. Remove garlic; set aside. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until eggplant is very soft and skin is slightly charred; cool. Discard any large seeds from eggplant. Scoop eggplant pulp into food processor; discard skin. Add the garlic, 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, 1 1/2 teaspoons za'atar, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt to food processor. Pulse 2 to 3 times until mixture is smooth. Garnish with small fresh basil leaves. Can make ahead and chill, covered, up to 3 days. Makes 1 1/2 cups.

08 of 11

Grilled Vegetables with Olive Oil, Parsley, and Lemon Juice

grilled vegetables with olive oil, parsley and lemon juice
Victoria Pearson

These vegetables will fill the grill. Grill them ahead of the chicken or in stages if your grill is on the small side. It's not necessary to serve them piping hot.

Hands On: 20 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes

  • 8 cremini mushrooms (about 8 ounces)
  • 8 cherry tomatoes
  • 8 broccolini tops, stems trimmed
  • 1 medium orange sweet pepper, quartered
  • 1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise
  • 1 small eggplant, sliced into 1-inch-thick rounds
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Kosher salt
  • Ground black pepper

Thread mushrooms, tomatoes, and broccolini tops onto skewers, keeping like vegetables together. Coat all vegetables with nonstick spray until lightly coated but not dripping.

Place broccolini skewer, pepper quarters, and zucchini halves on grill rack directly over medium heat. Cover; grill 7 minutes. Turn broccolini skewers, peppers, and zucchini; add eggplant rounds and mushroom skewer to grill rack. Cover; grill 4 minutes. Turn eggplant and mushroom skewer; add tomato skewer to grill rack. Cover; grill 3 to 4 minutes more or until vegetables are tender and lightly charred.

Remove vegetables from grill; cool slightly. Remove from skewers and coarsely chop broccolini, sweet pepper, zucchini, and eggplant. Add to large bowl. Remove mushrooms and tomatoes from skewers, adding them to bowl. Gently toss vegetables with olive oil, parsley, and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes 8 servings.

Tip: You'll need four 12-inch skewers. If using bamboo skewers, soak them in water at least 30 minutes before grilling.

09 of 11

Israeli Couscous + Sliced Almonds

israeli couscous with sliced almonds
Victoria Pearson

Cooking the dried couscous in olive oil gives it a rich, toasted flavor. Be sure to serve it with lemon wedges. A squeeze of juice at the table brightens it up.

Hands On: 10 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

  • 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 3 cups Israeli (large pearl) couscous (16 ounces)
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 5¼ cups water
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • Ground black pepper
  • Lemon wedges

In large saucepan heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add couscous to saucepan. Cook and stir 2 minutes or until lightly toasted. Stir in almonds and ½ teaspoon salt.

Add water to saucepan. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cover; simmer 7 to 10 minutes or until couscous is tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Let stand 10 minutes. Transfer to serving bowl. Stir in remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil and lemon juice. Season with additional salt and pepper. Serve with lemon wedges. Makes 8 servings.

10 of 11

Cheese Course with Grilled Pita

cheese course with grilled pita
Victoria Pearson

A small taste of these Mediterranean cheeses is all you need to nibble on while dessert is being prepared. Labneh is a soft cream cheese made from strained yogurt, and caprino stagionato is a salty and tangy cheese with a thin rind.

Hands On: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

  • 8 Greek pita flatbreads
  • 4 ounces labneh
  • 4 ounces caprino stagionato or aged goat cheese
  • 2 to 3 cups fresh summer berries (strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and/or raspberries)

Place pitas on rack of covered grill directly over medium-high heat 2 to 3 minutes or until warm and grill marks appear. Flip pitas. Continue grilling 1 to 2 minutes more or until marks appear on second side.

Remove pitas from grill. Cut each into 6 wedges. Serve with cheese and berries. Makes 8 servings.

11 of 11

Rosé and Pomegranate Gelato + Shortbread Cookies

rose and pomegranate gelato and shortbread cookies
Victoria Pearson

For strawberry puree, blend fresh strawberries until smooth. If you like, strain puree through a fine-mesh sieve to remove the seeds.

Hands On: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes


  • 2/3 cup pomegranate juice
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup strawberry puree
  • 1½ cups milk
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons rosé wine
  • Pomegranate seeds for garnish

Pomegranate Shortbread Cookies:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 recipe Pomegranate Glaze

For Gelato, in large bowl, combine pomegranate juice, granulated sugar, and strawberry puree. Let stand 10 minutes until sugar dissolves. Add milk, cream, and rosé wine to pomegranate mixture; mix well. Transfer strawberry mixture to ice cream maker. Churn according to manufacturer's instructions. Transfer gelato to 9x5-inch loaf pan, cover, and freeze 4 hours or until firm. Garnish with pomegranate seeds. Serve with Pomegranate Shortbread Cookies.

For Pomegranate Shortbread Cookies, preheat oven to 325°F. In large bowl beat butter with mixer on medium to high speed 30 seconds. Add powdered sugar and salt. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla. Beat in flour on low speed until mixture starts to cling together (may appear crumbly but will come together with continued beating). Roll dough to ½-inch thickness. Cut circles with 2-inch round cookie cutter. Place circles 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until edges just start to brown. Cool on wire racks. Dip cookies into Pomegranate Glaze. Dry on a wire rack set over parchment or wax paper. Serve with gelato. Makes 8 servings.

For Pomegranate Glaze, in small bowl whisk together 3/4 to 1 cup powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons pomegranate juice.

Storage: Store unglazed cookies in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days or freeze up to 1 month.

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