As someone who notices patterns and is always connecting-the-dots, I was recently inspired by the farm-to-table feel and food at Chicago neighborhood cafe, Blue Door Farm Stand, where I also perused the gorgeous cookbook, Bountiful, and Chicago’s prized Green City Market seasonal outdoor opening this past weekend. I had the most delicious arugula farro beet salad at Blue Door that was refreshing and wholesome all at the same time. So, when the spring temps finally brightened up The Windy City this past weekend, and our extended cooking club got together, I decided to host Spring Supper – all nut-free, vegetarian, and served at room temperature (great for a drink on the roof before eating and not re-heating!) and highlighting colorful, flavorful produce and herbs. I researched recipes and added a personal flare, but contrary to the typical at-least-one-dish-could-never-appear-again-without-being-missed scenario, the full menu was simple and a success and I’m still enjoying the fruits of my labor!
I also recently discovered a never-used Cooking.com gift certificate that resulted in this chalkboard slate cheese board beauty and my guests brought the cheesy delights pictured and enjoyed below.
For Spring Supper, in addition to the arugula, roasted beet, strawberry, sunflower seed salad with tahini dressing (first photo above), I made a nut-free pesto from my favorite, The Food Network. The pesto was more like an herbaceous chimichurri that was tossed into cooked farro – a barley-like, substantial grain I was introduced to at a cooking class with my parents a couple of years ago!
I added parsley, basil, garlic, olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper to the food processor and topped it all off with shaved parmesan. It had a memorable tongue-pleasing tang!
The main course was Spaghetti Squash with tomato chutney (more like a roasted tomato, garlic, onion and basil stew) that was light, yet satisfying. My generously complimentary guests commented that it absorbed great flavor, which isn’t always the case for flavor-neutral spaghetti squash. I roasted 2 whole spaghetti squash per the recipe instructions with olive oil and salt/pepper. The hardest part was cutting them! (Poke and them in the microwave for at least 5 minutes to soften them up first.) I forgot to take a picture of the ready-to-serve dish, but I’m still enjoying it for lunch all week! Turns out 2 large squash render meals for days!
For dessert, nothing says spring like carrots (and flowers, and sunshine), so I went for MyRecipes’ light carrot-cake cupcakes with cream cheese frosting made with less oil, sugar, and butter than usual. While almost all ingredients in my Spring Supper menu were fresh, the canned crushed pineapple was key for the moisture-rich batter, and the sweetness of the carrots really shined through!
And, last, but not least, this Ruby Red Grapefruit Rosemary & Honey cocktail made with just 5 ingredients and could be made with vodka or gin, was the perfect vibrant and light complement to the nature-inspired spread.
Such a lovely evening with friends who trust me in the kitchen and who I am so lucky to have winter, spring, summer, and fall…spring has sprung, ya’ll, so get cookin’!