Verdant Green

The color of freshness, renewal, and springtime.

Lush garlands and fresh lime-green glassware set the tone for our April Invite.

Green is the color of spring and the symbol of renewal, and after a long winter, all of this green is making me giddy and hungry.

On the menu, a scrumptious riff on a rustic Italian Easter pizza, layered with roasted veggies and a hint of hot capocollo. I’m also whipping up a sweet and savory crudités tray with swirls of orange blossom honey, and then I’m shaking up a refreshing cucumber cocktail that tastes like, well, a sip of springtime. Go ahead and frolic and twirl your way into April.

SET THE SCENE

Blur the lines between indoors and out with a layered mix of fresh greenery. Create a lush table runner vibe with a variety of leafy branches and lacy blooms, all in shades of green. Tuck in (takeaway) terra-cotta pots of herbs at each place setting. Add glass candle holders in milky shades of white and soft green. Create more interest with twine-tied napkins embellished with soft green hellebore blooms. Bring in earthy texture with woven coasters and acacia wood charger plates showcased on simple cloth placemats.

MINTY CUCUMBER COCKTAIL

Create a coveted April cocktail hour. Place cucumber-infused vodka on ice, in a cool glass bucket, heaped with oversized ice cubes and decorated with an organic green border of sliced fresh cukes, lime, and lime leaves. Serve the sip over a single large ice cube, in a lime green glass tumbler, garnished with drunken a cucumber stir sticks and fresh lime slices.


Cool Cucumber Cocktail

Makes 2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes, plus 1 cucumber, peeled and cut into sticks
  • 4 to 6 fresh mint leaves
  • 1½ ounces simple syrup
  • 4 ounces cucumber vodka
  • 1½ ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
  • Ice for the shaker, plus two large ice cubes for the serving glasses
  • Lime slices

Method

Place 2 tablespoons of cubed cucumber into a shaker, along with torn mint leaves and simple syrup. Muddle. Add vodka, lime juice, and a small handful of ice to the shaker. Cover and shake for 30 seconds until the cocktail shaker is frosty. Strain and pour into glasses over the large cubes. Garnish with fresh cucumber stir sticks and slices of lime.

Whipped Honey and Lemon Feta Dip with Spring Crudités

This little dip number has it all. It’s a sweet and salty combo with a bit of heat from the cracked white pepper, a lemony zip, and a lovely velvety texture, thanks to the cream cheese. I like to spoon the mixture onto a platter, creating a well in the center for generous pools of orange blossom honey. Surround the dip with an artful arrangement of favorite spring veggies, and get dipping.

DIP

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces cream cheese (at room temperature)
  • 8 ounces feta, block
  • Zest and juice of ½ a small lemon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon white cracked pepper
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Orange blossom honey

Method

Cut the cream cheese and feta into quarters, and place in the bowl of a food processor. Add the zest, lemon juice, and spices. Pulse the mixture a few times. Add enough of the olive oil to form a smooth texture. Mound the dip onto a platter, create a well in the middle, and drizzle in plenty of honey.

CRUDITÉS

  • Peel, then slice, rainbow carrots into halves, lengthwise.
  • Peel, then slice, cucumbers into sticks and rounds.
  • Wash and trim radishes.
  • Add a handful of fresh blackberries.

DRESSING THE PLATTER

Top the platter with roasted pistachios, fresh oregano, mint, snipped chives, and additional lemon zest.

Pizza Rustica ‘Easter Pie’

Makes 6 to 8 servings

This is a light version of the traditional Italian Easter pie. I’ve replaced most of the meat with yummy layers of roasted and sautéed veggies and swapped out the mozzarella for provolone. Plus, I added a pretty layer of pesto. The bottom of the pie is shingled with thinly sliced hot capocollo for a little spring heat — the result is scrumptious. As always, I went with my go-to pie crust recipe, a delicious buttery pâte brisée that is perfect for the lighter filling.

PÂTE BRISÉE

Ingredients

  • 2½ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ cup vanilla sugar
  • Zest of ½ a small lemon
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
  • ¼ to ½ cup ice water

Method

Place all of the ingredients, minus the water, into a food processor.

Pulse until just combined. With the machine running, add a little water at a time until the dough forms a ball. Divide the dough ball into two disks. Make the bottom disk larger than the top, as it will need to run up the sides of the springform pan.

Wrap each in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

When ready to assemble your pizza, roll the bottom dough on a lightly floured surface to about 14 inches in diameter, and gently transfer the dough into a lightly buttered springform pan, running it up the sides. Then start layering in the filling.

THE FILLING

  • Sliced green onions
  • Roasted peppers: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place six bell peppers (yellow, orange, and red) on their sides on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and roast for 20 to 25 minutes, turning often so all sides char a bit and cook evenly. Remove the sheet from the oven. Using tongs, place the peppers in a large brown paper bag, rolling down the top and allowing the peppers to cool for 15 to 20 minutes. Peel the charred pepper skins and discard. Remove the seeds. Slice into quarters. Set aside.
  • Sautéed yellow onion: Peel and chop one large yellow onion. Sauté in a stovetop pan with a drizzle of olive oil until tender. Set aside.
  • Quick Basil Parsley Pesto: Place 1 cup fresh basil leaves and 1 cup fresh parsley leaves in a food processor. Add ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, 1 teaspoon lemon zest, and 2 small cloves of garlic into the bowl. Add enough olive oil to the mixture until you can form a paste.
  • Ricotta and Egg filling
    • 1 15-ounce container whole milk ricotta cheese 1 teaspoon cracked pepper
    • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
    • 4 eggs
    • 8 ounces provolone cheese, cubed
  • Whisk together the ricotta, cracked pepper, nutmeg, and 4 eggs. Stir in the cheese. Set aside.

ASSEMBLY

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-inch springform pan with one disk of dough. Shingle 3 ounces of thinly sliced hot capocollo in the bottom of the dough-lined pan. Spread a layer of ricotta mixture over the dry-cured meat. Top with some of the sautéed yellow onion. Shingle several of the roasted pepper pieces over the onion. Dot with the pesto, and sprinkle with sliced green onion. Starting with the ricotta mixture, repeat the layering process.

Monica Hart.

TIP:

You might not use all of the roasted pepper. Use extras in scrambled eggs at another time.

Roll out the remaining disk of dough into a 10-inch circle. Place it over the filling. Pinch the top and bottom crusts together, trimming if necessary.

Lightly beat the last egg, and brush it over the pie lid. Using a small knife, create vents in the top of the pie. Place the pie on a parchment-lined, rimmed baking sheet.

Bake for approximately 1½ hours, checking it often and covering with aluminum foil after about an hour if it appears to be getting overly golden brown.

Cool on a wire rack and allow the pie to sit for two hours before removing the sides of the pan and serving.

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