Food

Easy Entertaining: A Light, Bright Wintertime Supper

BY Victoria de la Maza TIMEJanuary 26, 2022 PRINT

This year, my friends and I are planning a much-needed trip to sunnier climes. In order to get ready, a few “light” meals are on my horizon—not that I like to restrain myself, but a couple of weeks of lighter fare will help me shed some pesky winter pounds.

I’m inviting my traveling companions for a pre-vacation dinner party to kick off our holiday, and planning a menu that will help keep our waistlines in check, while still being celebratory and delicious enough to please both the carnivorous husbands and my gourmand friends.

Even if traveling isn’t in your near future, this menu is perfect for right now. It’s warming comfort food, most welcome on a cold winter’s night, but also on the lighter side, for those trying to keep up healthier eating habits. Fresh fruits and vegetables pack in nutrients while keeping winter blues away, and a few exotic spices help us dream of faraway lands.

The main course is my favorite lighter take on moussaka, the hearty Greek casserole, made with layers of ground lamb and sliced eggplant. I swap the usual rich béchamel sauce topping for a simpler layer of melted cheese, and bake the eggplant instead of the usual frying. I’m not claiming authenticity here, just inspiration for flavors and textures. The dish gets a boost of warmth from nutmeg and cinnamon, combining the sweet and savory notes so typical of Mediterranean cuisine.

I like to serve the moussaka with two vegetarian side dishes, adding complementary color, texture, and nutritional value. I make whatever is readily available and seasonal, such as simply cooked spinach with crispy garlic, sautéed mushrooms, roasted broccoli, or grilled cauliflower.

For the salad course, I’m highlighting different types of seasonal citrus, combined with baby romaine lettuce, pomegranate seeds, and crumbled blue cheese. I love the mixture of the crisp-tender leaves, sweet, soft oranges, and sharp, juicy pomegranate seeds. A simple white wine vinegar and lemon vinaigrette ties it all together.

Finally, for dessert, a light lemon sorbet will clean the palate and end the meal on a bright note. I serve the sorbet in hollowed-out lemon halves for a prettier presentation. And because I can’t resist, I’ll add a few almond cookies on the side.

Passports in hand, we are ready to roll!

Setting the Table

Setting a blue-and-white table will brighten up a gloomy, wintry day and match the Mediterranean island vibes of the menu. Lemons, used as decor, are like a bowl of sunshine. Mixed with classic linens and ceramic pieces, they evoke memories of sunny lunches and balmy evening dinners. Small bunches of white camellias and hellebores add height and dimension to the table, while giving a nod to the season. Just make sure you add lots of candles to glow with the dim evening light.

RECIPE: Lighter Moussaka

RECIPE: Orange and Pomegranate Salad

RECIPE: Lemon Sorbet

Victoria de la Maza is an award-winning cookbook author, columnist, and international TV host. Passionate about great food, she combines American traditions with her European heritage to create classic-with-a-twist recipes and ideas for stylish entertaining at home. Subscribe to her weekly newsletter, "Diary of a Serial Hostess,” at VictoriaDeLaMaza.substack.com
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