With the arrival of spring, Mother Nature beckons us outdoors with her sunny disposition and warmth. It’s the perfect time for al fresco entertaining! Dust off the patio furniture, fire up the grill, and invite the neighbors over for a casual backyard shindig.
To celebrate the vernal season, you can easily incorporate the season’s bounty into your dishes. Head to your local farmers market and discover spring’s produce. Fresh herbs, earthy root veggies, and leafy greens are ripe for the cooking. Here are a few recipes that let the fruits of spring shine.
Red Beet Hummus
Red beets not only give this hummus its beautiful fuchsia coloring, but also add a lovely earthy sweetness to the dip.
For an appetizer, you can serve this spread straight-up with toasted bagel chips for dipping. Or, if you are feeling creative, you can make mini smørrebrød (Danish open-faced sandwiches)—crostini topped with beet hummus, hard-boiled egg, dill, sea salt and fresh cracked pepper.
1/2 cup red beets (approx. 1 small beet)
2 15.5-ounce cans chickpeas
1/4 cup tahini
1 lemon, juiced
3 tablespoons of olive oil
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon of salt
Fresh dill, to garnish
Heat the oven to 400 degrees, wrap beets in foil, place them on a baking sheet, and roast for 45 minutes (until soft and can be pricked with a fork). Remove beets from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. While beets are cooling, roughly chop the garlic and juice the lemon. In a food processor, combine the chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and salt, and blend the mixture until smooth. Rub away the beet skins with a paper towel, making sure not to stain clothes. Roughly chop the beets and add to the food processor, blending the hummus until smooth. Serve hummus chilled and garnish with dill.
Grilled White Pizza with Asparagus and Peas
While you are entertaining guests, don’t hide away in the kitchen preparing dinner. By using the grill to whip up this pizza, you will be able to mix and mingle outdoors with family and friends.
Note: To grill pizza, you’ll need a pizza stone, which you can find at your local culinary store. This recipe makes a personal-sized pizza. So, if making a large pizza, double the ingredients.
14 ounces pizza dough
4 ounces ricotta cheese
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
6 stalks asparagus, cut in half and blanched
1/4 cup peas
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Fresh dill, to garnish
Salt and pepper, to taste
Turn on the gas grill to medium-high heat, place pizza stone on grill, close lid, and let the grill heat for 10 minutes. Roll out the pizza dough into a circle with a 12-inch diameter. Spread a thin layer of ricotta cheese on the pizza, and top it with shallots, asparagus and peas, and drizzle with olive oil. Also make sure to brush the crust with a little olive oil as well.
After the grill has heated, place the pizza on the stone, close the grill lid, and bake for 7 to 9 minutes (until cheese is melted and the crust has browned). Remove the pizza, top with fresh dill, and season with salt and pepper.
Recipe adapted from Sweet Paul Magazine
Refreshing Champagne Cucumber Spritzer
Clean cucumbers, bright citrus, fresh herbs, and effervescent Champagne and seltzer make this spritzer a refreshing beverage to serve on warm evenings. Feel free to substitute another dry sparkling white wine for Champagne.
1 bottle of extra-dry Champagne
1 bottle of seltzer water
1 cucumber, sliced into long thin ribbons
1 lime, sliced into wedges
Mint leaves, to garnish
Place a cucumber ribbon in a wine glass, add ice and then fill halfway with extra-dry Champagne. Top the beverage off with a splash of seltzer water and a squeeze of lime, and garnish with mint leaves.
Recipe adapted from The Forest Feast