Springtime Party Ideas

photo 4With Easter almost upon us and the spring weather tantalizingly close to being warm and tempting me back into the garden, I'm offering a menu today that is a perfect brunch, lunch, tea, or snack -- suitable for almost any Springtime frolic, indoors or out, with friends and family. Originally, this menu was developed for the baby shower I catered last weekend, but it could be so easily adapted to your needs.  Baby showers are among my favorite kinds of event to cater.  The food should be light but tasty, creative, beautiful, whimsical. As the women (and more often these days, men too) sit around opening gifts and playing silly games, they can easily pick at tea sandwiches, pastries, vegetables.Sadly, I wasn't able to throw a shower for either of my sisters who both had their first babies last year -fittingly, the shower happened to be on my nephew Gabriel's first birthday. This is one of the enormous negatives about living all the way across the ocean (and then across a continent again for my one sister who lives in Seattle), so as I prepared all of this food, I sort of imagined I was doing it for them. Fingers crossed I'll get over that way to cook all three babies (yes, there are three of them!) lots of parties as they grow older.Anyway, while many of these recipes appear to be a snap, in true Martha Stewart style, the vichyssoise required serious elbow grease to encourage it through a fine sieve so that the texture would be lovely and smooth. I chopped up 8 pounds of onions for the pissaladiere, watched them as they caramelized on the stove for 90 minutes, and in the end I don't think Martha's recipe for the dough is quite right (I found it way too sticky and had to modify as I went).  Meanwhile, Ina Garten's roasted vegetable torte recipe is an absolute winner every time. I once had a client say to me that so often these kinds of veggie dishes are pretty but tasteless. This recipe is packed full of flavor and is a crowd pleaser every time!  The tea sandwiches were made up as I went and I bought the truffles at a beautiful new chocolate import from Rome called Said dal 1923 in SOHO. Here's the entire menu.

Vichyssoise - Cold Potato Leek SoupPissaladiere - Savory Caramelized Onion Tart with Fennel and OlivesRoasted Vegetable TorteRadishes with Chive ButterSmoked Salmon & Herby Goat Cheese SandwichesWatercress & Lemon Butter SandwichesCherry Tomato Cups stuffed with White Bean & Sage PureeQuails Eggs with Nutmeg & Maldon Sea Salt

Lemon MadelinesChocolate TrufflesFresh Fruit with Ginger Cream

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Now, several links to the recipes I used are in the menu above.  One I'm sharing with you is from my San Francisco days, working alongside my friend Jenny. We used this sweet, tangy ginger cream when we catered picnics, BBQs or brunch. Left to my own devices I would sit and eat the entire bowl, but in a rare show of restraint, I manage to eat some of the fruit with it.  Aside from the vegetable torte, it was my most requested recipe on Saturday. The cherry tomato cups are a wonderful reminder of how versatile and delicious beans can be. Why aren't we using them all the time?? I've been known to pipe any leftover puree directly into my mouth from the bag if there are leftovers of this garlicky, sagey treat.  I was incredibly pleased with how my tower of veggies ended up looking. Finally, not really a recipe, just a lovely extra. Get yourself some quails eggs, peel them and cut them in half.  Then sprinkle with some freshly grated nutmeg and Maldon sea salt.  They go down a treat and seem particularly fitting during this Easter season!

Ginger Creamphoto 5serves many

1/2 cup cream cheese, room temperature1/2 cup fresh goat cheese, room temperature1/2 cup sour cream3 teaspoons brown sugar3 teaspoons ground ginger

Combine everything in a large bowl and chill until ready to use.  Is particularly nice served with strawberries, granny smith apples, figs, plums, peaches, apricots, grapes and fresh cherries.

Cherry Tomato Cups stuffed with White Bean & Sage Pureephoto 3makes 4 dozen

1 15 ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed1 clove garlic8 sage leaves, plus more for garnishjuice and zest of one lemon3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more if necessarysalt and pepper to taste48 cherry tomato cups (tops cut off, insides scooped out, small slice out of bottom so it's flat and can sit on platter)

In a food processor mix together everything but the cherry tomatoes until wonderfully smooth. Taste for seasoning. Scoop out and place in a piping bag or a disposable plastic bag that you'll cut a corner off of for service. Cut a chiffonade (thin ribbons) of sage leaves for garnish.  Set out the tomato cups and pipe the bean mixture into each one until just full. Garnish with the sage.