Dish & Design offers tips all about swinging into spring

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News

Want to infuse some spring into your home, decor or even your meals? Try micro-greens.

Micro-greens, nutrient dense baby greens such as pea shoots or basil, can easily be grown at home and they're a lot less expensive than what you'd pay at a high-end grocery store, said Nancy Szerlag, one of several speakers at Wednesday's spring-themed Dish and Design event, a reader engagement event presented by Homestyle.

Nancy Szerlag, a master composter and a garden writer presents her tips on gardening.

"Micro-greens are really hot right now," said Szerlag, Homestyle's longtime gardening columnist, showing off a tray of pea shoots that she'd grown from seed for roughly two weeks.

Szerlag was one of five experts who doled out an array of tips Wednesday, the first day of spring, at the Great Lakes Culinary Institute in Southfield for the "Swing into Spring" event. From spring cocktails and meals to spring cleaning and decorating, the evening was all about shaking off winter and embracing fresh flavors, colors and ideas.

Max Hardy, executive chef, The River Bistro, makes a ravioli pasta dish at the Dish and Design event March 21, 2009.

Max Hardy, executive chef of the River Bistro and Coop in Detroit, said micro-greens  also can be a filling or topping for ravioli. Hardy, who infuses his Caribbean background into his cooking, demonstrated how to make ricotta-stuffed ravioli with a coconut-curry butter.

Hardy, who was born and raised in Detroit but has cooked for celebrities and athletes all over the world before making his way back to the Motor City, said micro-greens first made the scene in New York about 10 years ago.

Hardy likes to use something a lot less healthy when it comes to giving his ravioli a nice gleam: lard and butter.

"It gives you the sheen and the color you want," he said.

Kneading his ravioli dough by hand, Hardy said it only needs to sit about 10-15 minutes before it can be fed through a pasta machine to get the right thickness. He suggested adding about a tablespoon of filling to each ravioli.

"Everyone thinks that (ravioli) is hardcore Italian but I wanted to mix it up," he said.

And who says curry can just be used in Indian or Asian cooking? Hardy said he loves cooking with curry, jerk, mango and guava. And what did he top his ravioli with Wednesday? Micro-greens.

Micro-greens can also be used as a cocktail garnish, said Kay Mohamed of Kocktails & Glam, a Detroit-based bartending service.

Mohamed whipped up a Ron Con Baya Cocktail with strawberry-infused rum, a ginger-flavored liqueur, lime juice and passion fruit syrup.

To infuse the glass with even more flavor, she misted it with an aromatic spray and lit it briefly on fire. She then garnished the cocktail with mint and dehydrated rose petals. 

"When I think of spring, I think of all the herbs," said Mohamed.

When it comes to updating your home for spring, one easy way to make a transition is paint, said designer Gayle McNally with Gayle McNally Interior Design in Pittsfield Township. 

"There's a reason you pick certain colors for certain walls," said McNally. "You want them to recede or advance."

McNally said there are three phases to interior design.The first is ceilings, walls, windows and floors. The second phase is how you place that furniture. And the final phase is accessories.

"Accessories create the mood of the room," said McNally.

When it comes to getting organized, Shelly Shallcross of We Heart Organizing in Royal Oak offered her tips for a tackling a common problem area: the pantry. She said getting your space in order can save money on food and streamline costs in general because you'll know what you have.

"A lot of organizing is about building momentum," she said.

To get your pantry in order, Shallcross said start by clearing and cleaning the space. From there, assess and sort what you have. Remove what doesn't belong and start organizing. Keep certain dinner staples together, such as chicken broth or rice.

The final step is putting what you have in containers. Shallcross says she used to be opposed to using clear containers — they can be pricey — but now she's a fan. It gives you a better sense of what you have. Above all, stick with it.

"All organizing takes momentum," she said.

And as far as micro-greens, Szerlag suggested trying a seed sprouter. It has trays that allow you to grow three different seeds at a time. 

Before you know it, "you'll become the seed queen," said Szerlag.