8 Must-Cook Foods for Spring Entertaining Slideshow
May 2, 2011
1. Fresh Berries
"I get super excited for berry season, in late spring. I love to make all kinds of fresh smoothies!" — Valaer Murray
Berries are great to add to smoothies for added flavor and color. When they’re fresh-picked and still warm from the sun, they also make for an easy and special dessert for any kind of occasion. If it’s just you and the family, top a scoop of vanilla ice cream with fresh berries. For an adults-only dinner party, spike crème anglaise with a bit of Grand Marnier then layer with berries for a (slightly-boozy) fruit parfait. For a special weekend brunch, heat up fresh berries with maple syrup for a fruity topping for pancakes.
2. Grilled Meat
"Spring doesn’t get me in the kitchen cooking — it gets me outdoors. Nothing makes me more excited for good weather than a medium-rare steak on the grill. Toss on some fresh marinated vegetables — red and yellow peppers, onion, and asparagus. Voila." — Alexis Anderson
When it’s too hot to cook inside, making dinner using your outdoor grill is the just the solution. From starters like grilled shrimp or grilled salads (yes!), to main courses like grilled fish or grilled pizzas, the options are limitless. Unlike being in the kitchen, your dinner guests or kids will gladly give you hand and/or keep you company while tending the coals. Plus, you can grill dessert, too — grilled pound cake with grilled peaches, please?
"I used to go out all the time for grilled artichokes with all kinds of flavored/herbed mayonnaises and sauces — sitting outside with a cocktail and a whole grilled artichoke? Yum! At home, I make steamed artichokes and serve them with melted butter and a Parmesan risotto, and serve it along with a bottle of white wine." — Nicole Campoy-Lefler
Artichokes are one of our favorite spring foods. Try them in a creamy spinach and artichoke dip at your next party, baked with breadcrumbs for a dinner party side, or do as Nicole does and serve them simply steamed with a side of risotto for a dinner for two.
4. Fresh Herbs
"For me, I start craving pesto spaghetti the way my mom makes it, with crispy rosemary new potatoes, green beans, and toasted pine nuts." — Maryse Chevriere
Whether it’s fresh basil pesto on crostini for a cocktail party appetizer, the addition of a fine chiffonade of mint and dill to a palate-cleansing green salad course, or a sprinkling of chopped cilantro over tacos or in guacamole, adding a little bit of herbs to your dinner party dishes will take them from everyday-plain to something summery and special.
"Ramps, calçots… I could do a whole Calçotada menu." — Arthur Bovino
From ramps with pasta, to roast chicken with ramps — even ramps with eggs at breakfast, these special onions with a pungent garlic odor make a brief appearance in early spring. Their brief presence is cause for celebration, with people making whole meals starring this one vegetable (when shopping, just be sure to choose your ramps wisely).
Love spring onions? Host a Calçotada, a large event/meal where massive amounts of calçots, a Spanish spring onion similar to ramps with a milder flavor and less bulbous base, are cooked and consumed.
6. Soft-Shell Crabs
"The second I see the first one in the market, I switch out my winter wardrobe for spring even if it's still cold out. Nothing complicated here, a quick dredge 'n fry, squeeze of lemon, and dip into ponzu, spicy mayo or tartar sauce and I'm all set. They're the easiest things in the world to make, but they always impress company and I can usually take credit for introducing someone to their new favorite thing." — Jess Kapadia
For lunch, or as a starter at dinner, fresh soft-shell crabs are a delicious treat to serve at your next casual gathering, with basil cocktails in hand.
"Walking in the farmers’ market in the spring, I usually smell the deep, earthy, slightly musky aroma of morels before I spot them. My mouth immediately begins to water as dishes like sautéed asparagus ribbons with leeks and morels for a dinner party side, a tender quiche studded with Fontina and morels at brunch, or handmade pappardelle with cream, Parmigiano, and morels for a dinner for two dance through my head." — Allison Beck
At their peak, the tender texture and slightly buttery-rich flavor of these beloved and elusive spring mushrooms makes them the perfect match for many a cream-based, custard-base, or light meat dinner party dish.
8. Fresh Greens and Tomatoes
"I love spicy, spring arugula to eat in salads — and knowing that tomato season isn't too far away…" — Yasmin Fahr
The tender, baby salad greens that are so abundant in spring are perfect for making meals out of salads of all kinds. From a hearty salad nicoise for lunch with friends or a flavorful arugula with coppa and Pecorino as a starter for an Italian-inspired dinner menu, to a simple mesclun salad for dinner with the family, a salad can be a part of a complete meal if you round it out with soup or a tart. And, once those tomatoes do arrive, simply slice and dress a couple with olive oil and salt for the most special summer dinner party side dish.