My winter weary taste buds are ready for the first flavors of the season.
Spring holidays are a treat for us. St Patrick’s day is a great time to showcase Irish dairy products. The lush pastures of Ireland produce some of the richest milk anywhere. Kerrygold butter is a perennial favorite, its rich yellow color and clean dairy flavor make every pat a treat.We also have Cashel blue, a terrific Irish cheddar, and a nutty, sweet Swiss. All of these Irish cheeses benefit from that wonderful rich milk.
Next up is Easter. In our family, each of us hosts a big holiday. Mine is Easter and it is my favorite holiday of the year. Without the duty to produce a perfect turkey or the pressure of trying to plan dinner around gift-giving, I am free to create the perfect Spring menu! Even though my husband and I are around food all day, I love to cook and we love to entertain. We host an open house, which can mean anywhere from 35-60 people. Between my husband’s Irish-Italian family and my Lebanese-Syrian family we have tons of people to invite and feed and the menu reflects this delicious melting pot.
Some years we serve brunch and other years it’s dinner, but the menu is always full of springtime dishes and lighter flavors. It is also packed with Lebanese twists and unique seasonings. Because my house isn’t that large, I always make the menu mostly bite-size and easy to eat while standing or sitting holding the dish. I love when people can mingle and socialize while they eat. Some years we get lucky and can take advantage of the fire pit in the yard to extend the seating area. Then we can do s’mores, which is a favorite activity for the kids (and the kid-at-heart!).
Last year we prepared brunch and it was one of our most successful menus. We like to have bowls of different types of nuts scattered around the house for people to snack on when they arrive, along with coffee, fresh juices, Mimosas and a Bloody Mary bar. It keeps the conversation flowing while I put the finishing touches on the main meal.
I made hard-boiled eggs, peeled and dyed with natural food dyes in beautiful colors like pink, yellow and blue. I made a couple frittatas with spring vegetables, fresh cream cheese with diced vegetables, a beautiful basmati rice pilaf with pomegranate/olive relish, a cold seafood platter with my favorite spring lemongrass dipping Sambal from Auria, grilled herb chicken breast, sautéed swiss chard with pine nuts, a fresh Caesar salad, and an enormous Applewood smoked whole ham as the centerpiece. We complemented all of this with a bagel tower with spreads and a smoked salmon/trout platter with capers and red onion. On the side, we stacked another tower full of baked goods! After a long leisurely meal, we wanted guests to linger over coffee and dessert with fresh and dried fruit.
This signals the end of a long winter for me. In just a few weeks I will be able to put my plants in the ground and see the first signs of a new beginning.