Serious Entertaining: Early Spring Dinner

Serious Entertaining

Seasonal menu planning for the perfect dinner party.


[Photographs: Carrie Vasios]

March 20 is the first official day of spring! Fine, so real spring is still a few tantalizing weeks away. But lord, don't we all wish it was here already?

I find myself dreaming of basketfuls of sweet, tiny red strawberries and sheaves of pencil thin asparagus. I'm ready to sauté piles of baby green spinach in a sun-warmed kitchen with bright orange carrots covering the countertops as the air tingles with the menthol smell of mint. Then I open my eyes to find my dog is occupying the only patch of sun in the apartment.

Oh well, until real spring arrives, let's fake it with what is available, including citrus, salmon, and peas.

Spinach Salad with Blood Oranges and Pistachios

In an attempt to avoid scurvy, which seems all too possible to contract during the darkest days of winter, eat lots of citrus: Cara Cara oranges, clementines, tangelos, grapefruit. My favorite are blood oranges, with their sweet-tart taste and pretty ruby hue. This salad uses blood oranges two ways. First they're juiced for the blood orange-honey vinaigrette and second, the segments sit on a bed of spinach and pistachios.

Double Pea Pasta with Salmon


Have hope, friends. Pea shoots are coming! At the farmers' market last Saturday, I expected nothing more than a few sad sacks of potatoes or a dwindling pile of apples. But there, next to an uninviting pile of turnips, was a cooler filled with pea shoots—the first tiny harbingers of spring.

These curly green tendrils have a sweet pea taste, and are great in pasta, doubled up with whole peas. As far as frozen vegetables go, peas are king. If reheated properly, they don't loose their texture or flavor and can make a legitimate off-season substitute for the real thing. This pasta has a fresh sweetness that's boosted by lemon juice and rounded out by shavings of salty Parmesan. Grilled salmon adds protein and makes this main substantial enough for the last weeks of winter.

Lemon Tart


For dessert, nothing says spring like a lemon tart. Airy, creamy lemon filling is nestled in a flaky, buttery crust.

And of course, friends and a good bottle of wine are always in season. With this menu, drink a bottle of Sancerre, a French white wine from the Loire Valley. Sancerre's bright acidity and light mineral notes impart a crisp flavor that will cut against the fattiness of the salmon and highlight the citrus in the salad.