In California, we typically go from winter to summer in the blink of an eye. Last week, I was miserable. It was cold and rainy and I couldn’t find anything warm enough to wear and this week it’s in the mid 80’s and I’m digging out my summer clothes. I’m relatively sure I just packed them away. While I’m hoping we get a few more rain storms to fill our lakes up, I’m looking forward to throwing an afternoon cocktail party with our friends and family, maybe remove the cover from the pool and pretend summer is already here.
To throw a fabulous spring time cocktail party, consider light fare menu items of in-season produce: strawberries, artichokes, beets, asparagus, melon, arugula, rhubarb and carrots among many, many other things. Delicate cuts of meat, such as prosciutto is a fall-back favorite of mine.
For semi-casual cocktail parties, put away the dinner plates and reach for the salad and appetizer plates. If you are asking everyone to bring a dish, simply ask them for a salad, appetizer or dessert—forget about serving a main dish. Keep things simple for everyone who has been tasked with bringing a dish to share. If you’re making a leafy green salad (spinach or arugula for example), our advice is to use conventionally grown produce as organic may contain harmful contaminates, such as bird poo, that are unable to be washed away. (Having family in the agriculture business has made us jaded when it comes to all things organic!)
Small Plates & Appetizers For Spring Entertaining
Satisfying Spring Treats
We have a few friends who aren’t lemon connoisseurs, so luckily I have another fall-back recipe, using fresh strawberries that’s not only perfect for spring, but easy to prepare as well. If you’re anything like I am, you’ll have most of these ingredients in your house already.
Traditionally, a Millefeuille consists of three layers of puff pastry and pastry cream alternating topped off with a light dusting of confectioners’ sugar. This recipe however skips the pastry cream and instead consists of puff pastry, fresh strawberries and whipped cream. The best part is, if you’re in charge of taking a dessert to a party, you can prepare everything ahead of time and simply assemble it just prior to serving.
- 1 sheet puff pastry (1/2 package), thawed according to package instructions and unfolded
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced strawberries
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar or 1/4 teaspoon stevia
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
- Preheat an oven to 375°F.
- On a lightly floured board, roll out the pastry sheet to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut in half lengthwise. Transfer the 2 rectangles to a rimmed baking sheet. Prick them evenly all over with a fork and brush with the beaten egg. Bake until the pastry is puffed and golden, about 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a bowl, stir together the strawberries, lemon juice and sugar (or stevia) and set aside in the refrigerator.
- In another bowl, using a whisk, whip the cream until soft peaks form.
- Using a serrated knife, slice 1 rectangle horizontally to create 2 layers. Use the uncut rectangle as the base. Top with half of the whipped cream and one-third of the strawberries. Repeat with the remaining ingredients to create 2 more layers, finishing with just strawberries. Dust with confectioners’ sugar just before serving.
Thirst Quenching Sangria
In past years, rather than opening bottles of wine (though Viognier, Moscato and Pinot Noir are all great options if you know sangria won't be well received by your guests), I prefer to make up two batches of sangria and call it a day.
When I think of spring, I tend to find myself reaching for strawberries, raspberries, peaches and nectarines. Moscato or even a Pinot Gris make a food foundation with any of these fruits if you're the adventurous type and want to build your own sangria.
A general rule of making cocktails or cooking with wine: if you wouldn’t drink it, don’t use it. That’s not to say you should only cook with or make sangria with $50 bottles of wine, but it’s important to select wines that will be able to highlight the fruits you choose to use, otherwise every mouth full will resemble a palm full of mixed Skittles. It’s not so appetizing as an adult, is it?