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Whether it’s the chirp of a spring robin, a tulip bulb shoot peeking through the soil to catch the morning sun, or the first rainbow after a cleansing warm rain, the signs of spring fill the air with signs of new growth and fresh beginnings. Thoughts of heavy clothes and food slowly dissipate as your thoughts turn to planting herbs and vegetables, roaming the produce aisles in search of the newest crop of freshly harvested favorites, and planning meals to include the gifts of the season.
Celebrate spring with a garden party menu that’s just as delicious served inside as you watch spring showers as it is on the deck or at poolside. Choose appetizers and hors d’oeuvres that showcase spring vegetables such as cucumbers, scallions, and new potatoes and include dips and spreads along with crackers and toasted bread rounds for texture and variety. Have pitchers of fruity cocktails on hand to complement the savory flavors of the appetizers and garnish serving glasses with spears of pineapple and skewered fresh fruit.
Light soups are appealing served hot or cold and spring is the perfect time to prepare them with market-fresh fruits and vegetables. Gazpacho and vichyssoise are conventional favorites but other cold soups made with avocado, broccoli, beets, and zucchini are equally tasty and satisfying. If you want a soup that is delightful served either hot or cold, opt for roasted tomato soup. Fruit soup is a unique and enjoyable first course for lunch or dinner.
Lunch and Brunch
Salads big enough for a meal are lovely choices for spring lunch and brunch entrees. Whether you choose classics such as Cobb Salad, Shrimp Louie, or Chef Salad or feature Grilled Steak Salad on your menu, it’s worth a trip to the farmers’ market to get top quality ingredients. Instead of bottled dressings, whip up creamy blue cheese or ranch dressing or balsamic vinaigrette in your kitchen to make your salads sing with flavor.
Satisfy sandwich cravings with creations made with chicken salad or make scrumptious grilled cheese sandwiches with Gouda or Swiss cheese and freshly sliced green apples. Replicate popular veggie sub sandwiches by piling an assortment of thinly sliced garden-crisp vegetables on soft French rolls dressed with lightly spiced oil-and-vinegar dressing.
The precarious weather of spring makes it risky to plan meals around grilled food prepared on the outdoor barbecue but you can still reflect the lightness of the season with meat and poultry cooked in the oven and on the stovetop. Heat a grill pan over high heat to sear lamb chops or steaks and imprint them with grill marks and finish them off in the oven. Fingerling potatoes cook quickly along side the meat in the oven. Add a mixed green salad and you’ve got a satisfying springtime meal. Lighten up pasta entrees by foregoing the heavy sauces and opting for shrimp scampi or linguine with prosciutto and peas.
The first crop of asparagus is usually tender and bursting with flavor and is a great spring side dish, especially roasted and topped with freshly grated Parmesan. Snap some fresh green beans into bite size pieces and stir-fry them with some olive oil and garlic. Steam cauliflower florets and drizzle a light cheese sauce on top. Instead of traditional potato salad, make homemade pesto and toss with fork-tender baby red potatoes. Pennette, baby penne pasta, mixed with fresh snow peas, blanched broccoli florets, or baby spinach leaves pairs well with most meat, fish, and poultry entrees.
Spring typically includes increased social activities as the weather entices you to take moonlit walks and linger under the stars with loved ones pondering upcoming summer adventures. Lighter desserts like fruit compotes, chiffon pies, and gelatin based sweets won’t weigh you down and provide perfect endings to spring meals.
Tips and Hints
Because spring is such an enchanting time of year, it’s tempting to try and rush it into fruition. Exercising patience will give you a greater appreciation of the summer months just around the corner.
- Only buy fruits and vegetables that are at their peak. Signage declaring produce is the first crop of the season doesn’t necessarily mean it is the best crop. Wait a month or so for the next harvest rather than purchasing dully-colored produce that doesn’t have the bright aroma and flavor it has when it’s dead ripe.
- It’s a good idea to clean the barbecue grill and replenish fuel sources like charcoal, wood chips, and propane but wait until the chance of rain has substantially dwindled before planning a full-fledged outdoor barbecue meal. Cooking in the rain is possible but not very enjoyable.
- Gather new recipes and food preparation ideas during the spring months to use during the summer. Waiting until the ingredients are at their peak and readily available will produce better results.