As the weather improves and days get warmer and longer, we think of inviting friends to enjoy our gardens. What better way than to dine outside on the patio, deck, or porch?
Whether we host a large garden party or gather a few close friends for a simple meal, our most carefully decorated interior room can never surpass the glory of a well-tended garden. The flowers and shrubbery offer a splendid backdrop -- and the gentle sounds of the evening a soothing soundtrack.
A Casual Dinner Party
One of the greatest pleasures of outdoor entertaining is that nearly anything goes. If you don't have enough chairs, pull up a picnic bench. Set the table with bright colored napkins and mix-and-match plates. A hand-picked bouquet of seasonal flowers in a crockery pitcher is a lovely centerpiece.
Plan to serve simple food that you can make ahead of time or that requires very little last-minute attention. This will save you time during the party and let's face it: You don't want to spend time in the kitchen while your guests laugh and joke on the other side of the window.
The menu for this warm-weather supper takes advantage of the best offerings of the season. Salmon is a traditional spring dish and never tastes so fresh and good as when it's simply steamed with fresh watercress.
The lemony lentil salad complements the salmon -- and the recipe makes enough so that you can enjoy this the next day when you don't feel at all like cooking! A brilliant way to save time later, not to mention money.
We suggest making a loaf of French bread for the meal. Homemade bread is a delightful way to make your guests feel appreciated and if you plan your time, is not difficult. You can bake it in the morning and have it ready for dinner. Otherwise, buy the best loaf you can find (and really save some time!).
We end the meal with a rich, egg-yolk custard spooned over sweet, juicy strawberries. The zabaglione can be served warm, made just before serving, or you can make it ahead of time and refrigerate it for an hour or two.
Plan a simple supper in the garden. If the weather isn't right for an entire evening, begin the meal outside with glasses of wine and happy expectations. As twilight comes, head inside with the memory of the garden still in everyone's mind.