Freshen Up Your Next Lunch Gathering with the Colors and Flavors of Spring
A lush and lavish setting for a light lunch affirms that the freshest of the seasons has arrived.
Natural Green Is In
This spring, design aims for a different kind of greenhouse effect. Statement textiles explode with motifs featuring large-scale ferns, fronds, and grasses that make interiors not only an extension of nature, but a virtual science lab of visual chlorophyll, too.
In this sun-drenched dining room, a casual lunch gathering lauds nature's ubiquitous green. The tablescape marries wares as delicate as young budding trees with vibrant outdoor decoration. A white ash table wearing a contrasting khaki stain supports a field of green on top.
Chartreuse linen runners set a bright foundation for layers of darker greens: tropical shades on embroidered placemats and napkins and additional foliage-inspired hues on salad and dinner plates. Tortoiseshell glassware glows in a mottled brown.
Succulents, topiaries, and ferns sprout in the table's center and around the room's perimeter. A console table holds matching green lamps (in a glaze that looks like it earned its patina over many years) and displays yellow tulips that interrupt the monochromatic theme with sunny spirit.
Complementing the vibrant green table decor, the menu showcases spring's garden-fresh ingredients and flavors: asparagus, butterhead lettuce, lemon, mint, and avocado in the early courses, halibut and a creamy, cheesy cacio e pepe pasta in the mains. Dessert? What's springier than an angel food take on strawberry shortcakes? Fluttering across the menu are lacings of edible flowers, microgreens, mint, and sensuous rose petals. Spring most definitely has arrived.
What You'll Need
Our menu reflects the "out like a lamb" portion of the famous maxim regarding spring. Freshly grown produce, absent during the winter months, makes a welcome reappearance at the table, accented by tiny edible flowers and baby greens. Recipes were created by Chef Mary Payne Moran of Hail Mary, Food of Grace.
- Lemon-Mint Frappé
- Asparagus and Goat Cheese Mousse Mini Galettes
- Butterhead and Fennel Salad; Avocado Green Goddess Dressing
- Pan-Seared Halibut with Oven-Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Cacio e Pepe
- Angel Food Cakes with Strawberries
- Guide to Edible Flowers and Microgreens
We've organized a shopping list to make shopping for this party 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. Ingredients for the cocktail recipe make eight cocktails.
- Olive oil (need about 2 cups)
- Butter (need about 1-1/2 sticks)
- Kosher salt (need 5-3/4 teaspoons + to taste [plus 1/4 teaspoon if making fresh pasta])
- Freshly ground black pepper (need 3/4 teaspoon + to taste)
- All-purpose flour (need about 2-1/3 cups + 3/4 cup if making fresh pasta)
- Granulated sugar (need 1-1/3 cups)
- Powdered sugar (need 1/4 cup)
- Milk (need 1/3 cup)
- 9 eggs (plus 3 additional if making fresh pasta)
- White wine vinegar (need 1/3 cup)
- Mayonnaise (need 1/4 cup)
Specialty grocery store
- Flaky sea salt
- Edible flowers (may need to be ordered online). Look for a selection that might include marigold, dianthus, button petals, and/or rose petals.
- 1 small package microgreens
- 1 (24-ounce) package semolina pasta flour (if making fresh pasta)
- Vanilla bean paste (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
- 1 bunch mint leaves
- 1 bunch thyme
- 1 bunch oregano
- 4 bunches basil
- 1 bunch Italian parsley
- 1 bunch green onions
- 6 lemons
- 3 medium oranges
- 2 pints strawberries
- 1 avocado
- 24 vine-on Cabernet cherry tomatoes or other cherry tomatoes
- 2 medium onions
- 2 shallots
- 1 medium fennel bulb
- 2 bunches asparagus (need 24 spears)
- 2 heads butterhead lettuce
- 1 (16-ounce) bottle sparkling water
- 1 (6-ounce) package dry-roasted pistachio nuts
- 1 (12-ounce) package pappardelle (if not making fresh pasta)
- Olive oil cooking spray
- 1 (1.75-ounce) bottle pine nuts
- Cream of tartar (see tip in recipe if you have some in your cabinet)
- 8 (5-ounce) portions halibut
Frozen food aisle
- 1 (32-ounce) container lemon sorbet
- 1 (1-liter) container heavy cream
- 1 (5- to 6-ounce) container sour cream
- 1 (4-ounce) log goat cheese (chèvre)
- 1 medium wedge Parmesan cheese
- 1 (750-milliliter) bottle vodka
- 1 (750-milliliter) bottle buttery chardonnay
What could be more refreshing than starting a leisurely spring luncheon with something cool and boozy? This riff on a crème de menthe frappé does the trick.
Start to Finish: 5 minutes
- 1 scoop lemon sorbet (1/2 cup)
- 2 ounces vodka
- 1-1/2 ounces sparkling water
- 4 ice cubes
- 2 mint leaves
- Mint sprig and lemon peel strips, for garnish
In blender combine sorbet, vodka, 1 ounce sparkling water, ice cubes, and mint leaves. Blend until smooth.
Pour into chilled glass. Top with remaining 1/2 ounce sparkling water. Garnish with mint sprig and lemon peel strips. Makes 1 cocktail.
Asparagus and Goat Cheese Mousse Mini Galettes
You are probably familiar with the fruit-filled free-form tart called a galette. This savory miniature gives the classic a modern perspective.
Hands On: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes, including chilling time
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1-1/2 cups chopped onion
- 2 shallots, finely chopped (1/2 cup)
- 1 lemon, zested
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup milk
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese (chèvre)
- 1/2 cup fresh asparagus tips, blanched (about 24 tips)*
- Flaky sea salt, for garnish
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
For filling, in 10-inch skillet heat olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter over medium-high heat. Add onion and shallots. Cook, stirring, 4 to 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in lemon zest, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Transfer onion mixture to small bowl.
For crust, in medium bowl combine flour and 1-1/2 teaspoons salt. Use pastry blender to cut 1/4 cup butter into flour mixture until pea-size pieces form. In small bowl whisk together milk and 1 egg. Add to flour mixture; stir with a fork until moistened. Gather into ball, kneading gently. On lightly floured surface, roll dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut twelve 3-inch circles. Do not reroll scraps.
In small bowl whisk together remaining egg and 1 tablespoon water. Brush dough circles with egg mixture. Place spoonful of onion mixture in center of each dough circle. Pinch edges of pastry to crimp, forming galette shells. Place on prepared baking sheet. Chill 30 to 40 minutes. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until golden.
For mousse, in small bowl beat heavy cream with mixer or whisk until soft peaks form. Fold in goat cheese. Top each tart with mousse and asparagus tips; sprinkle with flaky sea salt. Makes 12 galettes.
*Tip: To blanch asparagus tips, bring a small saucepan filled with about 1/2 inch lightly salted water to a boil. Add asparagus tips. Cover; cook until asparagus turns bright green and is crisp-tender. Drain; run under cold water to cool. Transfer to food-safe plastic bag; refrigerate until needed.
Butterhead and Fennel Salad; Avocado Green Goddess Dressing
Clean, crisp butterhead lettuce shares the plate with fennel, orange, and salty pistachios. The Avocado Green Goddess dressing is sure to join your repertoire—it's a perfect dip for crudités as well.
Start to Finish: 20 minutes
- 2 cups fresh basil, coarsely chopped
- 1-1/4 cups fresh Italian parsley, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 medium avocado, chopped
- 4 green onions, chopped
- 1/3 cup white wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 heads butterhead lettuce, leaves separated
- 3 medium oranges, cut into supremes*
- 1 medium fennel bulb, leafy green top removed, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup dry-roasted pistachio nuts
- Edible flowers (marigold, dianthus, and/or button petals)
For Avocado Green Goddess Dressing, in small food processor or blender combine basil, parsley, avocado, green onions, vinegar, mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon juice, oregano, salt, and pepper. Process until smooth.
Drizzle dressing on serving plate. Top with lettuce leaves, orange supremes, fennel slices, and pistachios. Season with additional salt and pepper. Garnish with edible flowers and microgreens. Makes 8 servings.
*Tip: To cut supremes, cut thin slice from both ends of oranges. Cut off peel and white pith from top to bottom. Working over bowl to catch juice, remove sections by cutting toward center between section and membrane. Cut along other side of section to free it.
Pan-Seared Halibut with Oven-Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
The simplicity of this light main course belies its deliciousness. The flavorful fish is enhanced by classic not-too-garlicky pesto, and the roasted tomatoes add the right burst of acidity. Cacio e pepe provides a rich, silky side dish.
Hands On: 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 50 minutes, including marinating time
- 1 cup buttery chardonnay
- 1 cup olive oil
- 4 leaves fresh basil
- 8 (5-ounce) portions halibut
- 2 to 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper
- 24 vine-on Cabernet cherry tomatoes or other cherry tomatoes, roasted (recipe below)
- Olive oil cooking spray
- Basil Pesto (recipe below)
- 1 recipe Cacio e Pepe (recipe follows)
- Fresh basil leaves for garnish
In food-safe plastic bag set in shallow dish, add wine, olive oil, and 4 basil leaves. Add halibut, seal bag; refrigerate 1 to 2 hours. Remove fish from marinade; discard marinade. Pat fish dry with paper towel.
For Oven-Roasted Cherry Tomatoes, preheat oven to 350°F. Line shallow baking pan with parchment paper; place tomatoes on pan. Coat with olive oil cooking spray; sprinkle with salt. Roast 35 minutes or until softened and skins begin to burst.
For halibut, while tomatoes roast, heat half the butter over medium-high heat in large nonstick skillet. Place four fish pieces in skillet flesh-side down 2 to 3 minutes or until lightly browned. Flip fish; continue cooking 2 to 3 minutes or until lightly browned. Place seared fish on lightly greased baking sheet. Repeat with remaining butter and fish.
Season fish with salt and pepper. Transfer tomatoes to lower rack. Bake fish during last 5 to 8 minutes of baking time or until fish flakes when tested with fork.
Place one fish fillet on each plate. Top with some pesto and 3 oven-roasted tomatoes. Serve with Cacio e Pepe. Garnish with fresh basil leaves. Makes 8 servings.
For Basil Pesto, in food processor or blender combine 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves, 3/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, 1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Blend until nearly smooth. Serve immediately or store pesto in refrigerator up to 3 days, or label and freeze up to 3 months.
Cacio e Pepe
Cacio e Pepe is a traditional Roman dish—easy to whip up for lunch, a quick dinner, or a side dish. It couldn't be simpler to prepare: The sauce is a combination of Parmesan cheese and the pasta’s starchy cooking liquid. We added a little butter to the sauce for extra richness. This is your new mac 'n' cheese. If you're feeling ambitious, make your own pasta (recipe included).
Hands On: 20 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
- 10 to 12 ounces pappardelle (purchased or fresh, recipe below)
- Kosher salt
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
In large pot of boiling water salted with 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt add pasta. Cook according to package directions (or 2 to 3 minutes if using fresh) or until pasta is al dente (pasta will finish cooking when combined with sauce).
Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup pasta water. Add reserved water to pot. Return pot to stove over medium-low heat. Add Parmesan and butter to pasta water. Continue cooking 5 to 10 minutes, stirring constantly until Parmesan turns to creamy sauce. Add pasta to sauce; toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Makes 8 servings.
- 1-1/2 cups semolina pasta flour
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 eggs
- 1/3 cup water
In medium bowl combine semolina and all-purpose flours. Add salt to flour mixture. Create well in center of mixture. Add eggs to well. Mix with your hands. Once mixed completely, add water. Continue to mix until dough forms ball. Turn out onto well-floured surface; knead dough until elastic.
Separate dough into four portions. Let rest 15 minutes. Using pasta attachment for stand mixer or pasta machine, roll out dough until it stretches without tearing. On well-floured surface, roll out dough into large oval approximately 1/16 inch thick, or until you can see your hand through it. Cut dough into 1/2-inch-wide ribbons. Sprinkle pasta with more flour. Form pasta into 8 nests, set aside until ready to cook. Pasta can be made ahead and frozen in bundles.
Angel Food Cakes with Strawberries
Light, ethereal angel food cake stands in for a biscuit in this version of strawberry shortcake. We made the baking simple and clever: Bake individual angel food cakes in muffin tins, then turn the muffins over and split the cake in half. Fresh strawberries and light-as-air strawberry whipped cream complete the dessert. A scattering of edible rose petals makes everything picture-perfect.
Hands On: 20 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
- 1 cup egg whites (from 7 eggs), room temperature
- 1 teaspoon cream of tartar*
- 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1-1/3 cups granulated sugar, divided
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
- 3 cups fresh strawberries, hulled
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- Edible rose petals, mint leaves for garnish
Preheat oven to 350°F. In large mixing bowl combine egg whites and cream of tartar. Sift flour and 2/3 cup granulated sugar into small bowl.
Beat egg whites with mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form. Continue beating on high speed, gradually adding remaining 2/3 cup granulated sugar, until stiff peaks form. Beat in vanilla bean paste. Beat in flour mixture on low speed, gradually, until combined, scraping sides of bowl.
Spoon batter into 12 ungreased 2-1/2-inch muffin cups. Bake 25 minutes or until golden and puffed. Cool 5 minutes on wire rack. Run paring knife around sides to remove from cups. Cool completely on wire rack.
In blender or food processor, puree 1 cup strawberries. Strain through fine sieve to remove seeds. In large bowl, beat cream and powdered sugar with mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form. Slowly add strawberry puree, beating until combined. Slice remaining 2 cups strawberries.
To serve, use serrated knife to split cakes in half horizontally. Place each cake top, upside-down, on a plate. Top cake halves with half of strawberry whipped cream and half of sliced strawberries. Top with cake bottom, inverted, and remaining strawberry whipped cream and sliced strawberries. Garnish with rose petals and mint leaves. Makes 12 servings.
*Tip: Cream of tartar should last almost indefinitely if stored in a dry, dark cabinet. The cream of tartar should appear dry and powdery. If you see clumps, it may have taken on some moisture and might not be effective.
Guide to Edible Flowers and Microgreens
Store edible flowers and microgreens in the refrigerator and use within one or two days of purchase. Be sure to remove any coarse, yellow, or wilted stems or flowers.
Microgreens top to bottom:
- Sunflower: A nutty flavor and crunchy texture. The leaves and stems are edible.
- Pea: Similar in taste to watercress, and of course, fresh spring peas. Both stems and tendrils are edible. A great addition to stir-fries and spring pasta dishes.
- Mustard: A delicate but nicely spiced microgreen with a mild horseradish taste. Packs a little bit of a punch.
- Radish: You may find these sold as daikon radish microgreens. As you can imagine, the leaves and stems have a peppery flavor similar to radish. In addition to adding spicy sweetness when used raw, radish microgreens contribute spice to pickling compounds and add crunch to coleslaw.
Edible flowers top to bottom:
- Carnation: Carnation petals are sweet with an aromatic clove flavor. However, trim off the bitter white base of the flower.
- Chrysanthemum: Tiny chrysanthemums range in flavor, running the gamut from sweet to peppery to tangy. Experiment to find your favorite variety.
- Marigold: Can also be sold as calendula. The flavor ranges from spicy to bitter to tangy, but the most interesting will add subtle saffron notes to your salad.
- Bachelor's button: Bachelor's buttons have the subtle flavor of raw greens and green beans. They add a different vegetal note to salads.
- Dianthus: Dianthus are also sold as carnations, but the flower has flatter, frillier petals in more vibrant, saturated colors. The flavors are similar.
- Roses: Scatter the petals for a dramatic, aromatic effect or trim the bottoms and decorate with small whole roses for a subtle fruity taste.