Return to Romance

We’re on the precipice of spring and new beginnings — let’s celebrate.

The floral frills in this Invite are a welcome respite from the months past. Branches are in bloom, renewal is in the air — and so is spring romance. Celebrate the month of March with an intimate, swoon-worthy light luncheon. Set out sparkling sips, sweet and savory seasonal salads, a fresh strawberry tower with clotted cream, needlework- like garden focaccia, frothy fruity daiquiris, and a bombe glacée dessert sure to spark conversation. Light some candles, and let’s step into spring.

Monica Hart.

SET THE SCENE FOR RAVISHING ROMANCE

Create a romantic spring look with a dining room in bloom. The floral flourishes start with charming fresh flowering branches drinking from glass jugs, pretty pink posies dotting the table, and spring spilling over from a French-style urn. Soft regency-era flair flickers from a grouping of tall petal pink tapers in crystal candle holders and a showy candelabra. The combo creates a Netflix Bridgerton aura. On the table, mauve napkins glimmer with craft store bracelets, while cane-back chairs and trays add interesting texture.

The folded menu card is handwritten on handmade paper, much like a Regency-era letter. The card is sealed using melted wax, and a custom stamp is used to make my initial.

Springtime Salads

Come March, I’m craving the crunch of delicious and decorative salads that are simple to pull together, colorful, and beautiful. I like combining special ingredients, like Persian cucumbers and sugar snap peas halved and left in the shell. I love the look of thinly sliced watermelon radishes and the smoky meaty goodness of baby eggplant slathered with olive oil, spices, and a hint of liquid smoke and then oven-roasted until they melt in your mouth. Bring on salad season.

TIP: Serve with pink Champagne in decorative flutes, garnished with frozen sliced strawberries and a sprig of fresh mint.

FRESH STRAWBERRY TOWER WITH CLOTTED CREAM AND ORANGE BLOSSOM HONEY

Grab a pretty footed bowl and a couple of pounds of fresh strawberries. Rinse and stack the whole strawberries into a mini tower, and garnish with fresh mint. Serve with individual pots of English clotted cream and orange blossom honey. I adore the bee spoon.

SPRING SALAD NO. 1

Ingredients

  • 8–10 sugar peas, rinsed
  • 2 watermelon radishes, washed and peeled
  • ½ small red onion
  • 5 leaves Little Gem lettuce, washed and torn
  • 1 garlic chive, snipped 4 basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons honey pistachios

Method

Snap offone end of the pea. Pull the string along the length of the pod. Open the pod to reveal the peas. Using a mandolin or sharp knife, thinly slice radishes and red onions into rounds. Arrange the peas, radishes, red onion, lettuce, garlic chives, and basil on a platter. Sprinkle with pistachios, and drizzle with dressing. (See below.)

SPRING SALAD NO. 2

Ingredients

  • 3 baby eggplants, sliced in half
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon each coriander and cumin
  • Fleur de sel
  • Liquid smoke
  • 1 bundle asparagus
  • Lemon
  • 3 Persian cucumbers, peeled and sliced
  • 5 or 6 leaves Little Gem lettuce
  • Fresh mint
  • Crumbled feta

Method

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the baby eggplants cut-side-up on a wire rack atop a baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil, and sprinkle with coriander, cumin, and a dusting of fleur de sel (salt). Add a scant drop of liquid smoke to each eggplant.

Roast for 25 minutes, until the eggplants become soft and begin to caramelize.

Cool to room temperature. Cut the tips off of the asparagus, and place them in a small ovenproof pan. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and a generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and lightly sprinkle with salt. Roast for 10 to 12 minutes, until cooked but still firm. Cool. Arrange the eggplants, asparagus, cucumbers, and lettuce on a platter. Sprinkle with fresh mint and crumbled feta, and drizzle with lemon and honey vinaigrette.

LEMON HONEY VINAIGRETTE

(4 servings)

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Zest of ½ a lemon
  • 2 tablespoons orange blossom honey
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

Method

In a small bowl, whisk together the juice, zest, and honey. Slowly add the olive oil, whisking to combine. Season with the salt, and whisk.

Pickled Beet Brine Eggs

These pickled hard-boiled eggs are naturally pretty in pink, thanks to a dip in beet brine. They are a tangy and yummy snack or addition to any salad.

Ingredients

  • 6 eggs
  • 12-ounce jar pickled beets
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup agave syrup
  • Water
  • Salt
  • Fresh dill
  • Lemon Honey Vinaigrette

Method

Boil eggs on medium-high heat for 10 minutes. Immediately plunge the eggs into a bowl of icy water to cool for 10–15 minutes. Once cooled, peel the eggs and refrigerate. Strain the beet brine into a large lidded jar, reserving the beets for another use. Add cider vinegar and agave syrup to the jar, and whisk. Place the hard-boiled eggs in the jar, and top with just enough water to cover the eggs. Refrigerate for 12–24 hours. The longer the eggs sit in the brine, the darker pink it will become. Remove eggs from the brine, and pat dry with a paper towel. Slice eggs, and top with a sprinkle of salt, a sprig of fresh dill, and drizzle of lemon honey vinaigrette.

Garden Focaccia Art

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Purchase pizza dough, and create a garden of blooms and grass with sliced veggies and onions.

Ingredients

  • Premade pizza dough
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced into rounds
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • Green olives, sliced
  • 3 small sweet peppers, thinly sliced into rounds
  • 3 to 4 garlic chives

Method

Lightly drizzle a baking sheet with olive oil. Spread out the dough on a baking sheet. Using your fingertips, create dimples all over the dough surface. Lightly drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt. Arrange the onions, shallots, olives, and peppers into a floral pattern. Use the garlic chives as blades of grass and flower stems. Bake for 25 minutes, until golden brown.

French Vanilla and Raspberry Ice Cream Bombe

This decadent frozen dessert is so simple to make. Top it with a mini sparkler for a brilliant finish to your romantic spring luncheon.

You will need

  • French vanilla ice cream
  • Raspberry sorbet
  • A bowl
  • Plastic wrap

Instructions

Grab a spherical-shaped bowl or mold. You can use a mixing bowl or a large soup mug, as I did. Line the bowl with plastic wrap, leaving plenty of extra on all sides. Fill the bowl with French vanilla ice cream, working it up the sides with a spoon, creating a shallow well in the center of the bowl for the sorbet. Spoon in the sorbet. Smooth the top, and fold over the extra plastic wrap to cover the bombe. Freeze for 1 hour or overnight. Unmold the bombe by placing the bowl in warm water for a minute or two until the ice cream releases from the edges. Pull back the plastic wrap.

Cover the bowl with a serving plate, flip the bowl and plate, and carefully remove the bowl and peel o the plastic wrap. Pop in a tiny sparkler and light, and now “ooh” and “ah.” Slice and serve.

Strawberry Basil Daiquiri

Makes 2

Ingredients

  • 8 strawberries, washed and sliced
  • 4 shots light rum
  • 1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 ounces agave syrup
  • 4 fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cups ice

Method

Place all of the ingredients into a blender, and pulse until smooth. Pour into a glass, and garnish with fresh basil.

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