The Front Burner

Green beans with potato and herb. (Jung K Oh / March 7, 2012)

Although winter in these parts hasn't been a terrible hardship this year, it's still pleasant to anticipate more moderate temperatures when you can put away the winter Crocs and start looking for your sandals. And who can blame you if you jump the proverbial gun and invite friends in for a petite soiree with a springtime theme.

To celebrate the onset of a purportedly milder season, we present this simple —emphasis on simple —seasonal dinner for eight. Begin with goat cheese triangles used as a "garnish" on a salad of spring greens.

Next up —even those of our guests who aren't spring chickens will enjoy a transitional main dish of chicken and artichoke fricassee. With a side that combines new potatoes, tomatoes and green beans.

And even though it's a way to go before local berries are in season, we create a simple —there's that word again —dessert of berry squares.

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Get out the flowered tablecloth and matching napkins. Buy a few bunches of daffodils and tulips, and begin.

Spring salad

This concoction has a "Greek-ish" theme. The triangles provide a colorful, textural contrast to the greens. You can make the phyllo triangles ahead, cool thoroughly and freeze in a single layer in an airtight container. Thaw at room temperature, then reheat at 350 degrees, under foil, until just warmed through.

P.S. The triangle recipe allows you to make 20 phyllo pillows; you only need 16 (two per person), so just eat the rest yourself.

A chilled rose or dry white wine makes an equally good first impression for this evening's activities, one you can carry through all the way to dessert. If you want a bit of bubbly then, try some Asti Spumante.

12 (17x12-inch) phyllo sheets, thawed if frozen

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, clarified (spoon off the milky part and just use the clear part)

1 cup rinsed, drained, roasted red peppers, finely chopped, patted dry

8 ounces soft, mild goat cheese, e.g. Montrachet

About 1/2 cup olive oil


2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

2 teaspoons country-style (coarse) Dijon mustard

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup olive oil