Food, Friendship, Tablescapes

Eating With Friends

If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him.  The people who give you their food give you their heart.

Cesar Chavez

How grateful I am to have friends who enjoy planning, preparing and gathering for a once a month dinner where a lot of heart is given. All of us contribute to the meal, which is always wonderful, and the hostesses do a bang up job of preparing the table.

DSC00331The most recent dinner was a visual treat. The delicately designed dishes are quite old, a memory of the hostess’s mother.

DSC00326Without question, they made a lovely setting when combined with silver and glass.

DSC00327Playing off the pale green in the pattern, the hostess found the perfect linen tablecloth and napkins.  All together the look was quite elegant at the same time warm and friendly.

DSC00334A few days before our gathering a storm blew through that flattened many of the small blooming things.  The hostess was clever enough to see that her damaged flowers perfectly matched the colors in the china, so, voila, a just right centerpiece made in a silver bowl.

DSC00332So there would not be question about where each person sat, there were name tags directing us to our place.  That is always a thoughtful gesture.

DSC00338The first course, a zucchini mold, happened to be my assignment.  It was something with which none of us were familiar, so we all experienced a new taste treat.  Not only was it tasty, it was easy to prepare which makes it worthy of making again as it gives a whole new way of presenting zucchini.

Zucchini Mold

1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil

2 lbs. zucchini, finely diced

1 yellow onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 eggs

1 c. grated Parmesan

1 T. chopped Italian parsley

1 T. unsalted butter  

1/4 c. fine dried bread crumbs

Preheat an oven to 350.  Grease a 9″ ring mold or individual molds with butter and coats the bottom and sides with the bread crumbs.  Warm the oil in a skillet.  Add zucchini, onion and garlic and cook until tender.Add a little water, if needed, to keep the mixture moist.  Remove from heat and let cool.  Transfer the zucchini mix to a bowl and add eggs, cheese and parsley.  Season with salt and pepper. Mix well and spoon into prepared mold(s).  Bake about 20 minutes or until firm.  Invert onto serving dishes and serve immediately.  (6 servings)

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Tablescapes

A Time to Play

Creating a centerpiece is fun, a time to play and let creativity shine.  

tablescapeIt can begin with a kid’s toy

filled with flowersor a collection of sprinkler cans.

southwestern tableWhen the garden is blooming wildly,  gather a handful of blooms and arrange them in a collection of favorite bottles.  This is the simplest way to stage any tabletop.

tablescapeSculptural shapes are fun to use as part of a centerpiece and interesting textiles are great inspiration for color.

Halloween tablescapeSeasonal creations can be full of whimsey

white tablescapeas well as reflect the season’s bounty.

Valentine tableThere’s no time better than holidays for play.

Christmas decorPull out those favorite things and let them star on a table.birdhouse tableHave a collection?  Use pieces from it as part of a playful creation.

tablescapeEven a serious table can be play as it involves bringing beautiful glass and china and silver out of hiding.

IMG_1975What is wonderful about creating a centerpiece is that it can be used again and again as inspiration for tables.  Simple changes can create an entirely different look, so play and see where it leads!

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Joining

Tablescape Thursday

Tablescapes

From Field to Table

IMG_1676Though I walk for exercise, my eyes are always open for what is blooming in fields adjacent to the path.  There’s Queen Ann’s lace, goldenrod, interesting grasses, cattails, lupine pods and things I can’t even name.  Often I come home with a handful that combined become part of lovely arrangements for the table.

IMG_1677My favorite way to arrange flowers is to put them in a variety of vessels.  It is simple and the containers can be placed randomly to create an easy centerpiece.

IMG_1678The cloth that is background for the flowers is folded on the diagonal leaving part of the table bare. When it’s time to eat, a couple of placemats fill and protect the bare space as well as reflect the quiet background of the cloth.

IMG_1681Playing off the cranberry color of the small vases and the flowers in the textile, these dishes are perfect.  They are  long discontinued from the 40’s and 50’s and were a purchase from an antique show some years ago.

IMG_1687Their appeal is not only the color but the unusual shape.

IMG_1682Adding the thumbprint glasses continues the color scheme and finishes the table.

IMG_1683Tonight the family will gather around what we call the big house meaning it’s a step up from the breakfast room.  Having teenage girls get involved in the table preparation is a great way for them to recognize that setting an attractive table can be very uncomplicated.  Sometimes a pretty table is also a gentle reminder to use good table manners!

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Joining

Tablescape Thursday

Tablescapes

The Why of Table Setting

Friends who know I enjoy table setting have asked me why.  There are several answers, but the one that comes to mind first is that it is opportunity to be creative.  It took me a long time to recognize that, and once I did it opened the door to a new way of seeing.  The story of how I began to view setting the table as creative is another story which would take some time to tell.

flowers/tablescapeSo, how does one make table setting a creative process?  For me, it begins with there always being something on the table from which to draw inspiration.  Does that say something about my not liking bare surfaces? Here, it was nothing more than flowers arranged simply on a runner.

Now, I have to confess to being a dishaholic.  The beauty  is that it creates a variety of options when it comes to selecting.  With the colors of the flowers and the runner as influences, I picked these dishes for our evening meal, but the selection could just as easily have been a solid color that works well with a variety of accents.  By the way, places like TJ Maxx, Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, Goodwill are great resources for items that are both inexpensive and add flair to your table.

You will notice that the table is prepared for two, the hubby and me.  Whether it’s the two or us or company coming, the table will add to the experience of eating. That is a gift I give to others as well as myself.  

What is really important about setting tables or anything else for that matter is allowing yourself to acknowledge that you are creative!  From there, how you begin to see and think becomes second nature.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Joining

Tablescape Thursday

SaveSave

SaveSave

Food, Recipes, Tablescapes

Foodie Adventure Revisited

Several of our Maine gourmet group joined us in Cortona for the April Foodie Adventure, so when we met for our first summer meal it seemed right to recreate some of what we made.

IMG_1487Setting the table to inspire memories of Italy was easy.  The centerpiece was a $3 find from the local Goodwill.

IMG_1488Clusters of red grapes repeated the look of the clusters on the candelabra.  Talk about an easy creation!

IMG_1394Dishes, each with a different Italian landscape and wine, bought some years ago at TJ Maxx completed the theme.

IMG_1393It’s hard to imagine a table coming together more quickly than this one.  With the plates having so much color and energy, there was no need for more than a simple background.

Now for the meal.  We prepared so many good dinners that it was hard to pick favorite dishes, but I finally decided on mozzarella with prosciutto and tomato confit for an appetizer and seafood pasta for the main course.  The appetizer was a big hit, and you might want to give it a try at your next Italian themed dinner gathering.

IMG_1400PROSCIUTTO BAKED BUFFALO MOZZARELLAWITH GARLIC & TOMATOES

2 T. olive oil

6 thin slices prosciutto

Tomato & Garlic Confit

6 6 oz. balls mozzarella

2 T. basil, coarsely chopped 

Brush the insides of small ovenproof ramekins with olive oil.  Line them with prosciutto, allowing some of it to extend to the top of the dish so it will crisp when baked.

Add 2 T. of the confit and top will a ball of the mozzarella.  Top with another tablespoon of the confit and drizzle with the remaining olive oil.

Bake at 350 for 15 minutes and allow to cool for 5 minutes.  Tope with basil and serve with crisp crostini.

Tomato & Garlic Confit

10 plum tomatoes

5 T. olive oil

Kosher salt and cracked black pepper

1/2 c. finely chopped yellow onion

4 large garlic cloves, minced

8 oz. tomato sauce

1/2 t. sweet paprika

1/2 t. sugar.

Core and halve the tomatoes lengthwise.  Place them cut side up on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and drizzle them with 2 T. of olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake for 40 minutes at 350.

Heat 3 T. olive oil in a medium pan and sweat the onions for  2 minutes over medium high heat.  Add garlic and cook briefly.  Reduce the heat and add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, paprika and sugar.  Cook for 30-35 minutes or until the mixture becomes very thick.

Place the mixture in a food processor and blend to a fine paste.

Note:  I suggest using only 1/2 mozzarella ball or 3-4 little ones as this is quite filling.  Also, when you bake be sure to put the dishes on a cookie sheet to avoid trashing your oven with grease from the prosciutto.  I wouldn’t let the meat overlap  the sides of the dish.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Joining

Tablescape Thursday

 

at home, Tablescapes

Quick & Easy

When friends suggested we gather one more time for dinner before the hubby and I leave for Maine, I, without thinking, offered to host.  Sometimes I am too spontaneous for my own good!

Luckily, my dining table is rarely undressed which made getting it ready quick and easy.  The new favorite table runner from India, decorative gourds from San Miguel and trivets were in place.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith this beautiful runner, I like to keep the table simple and chose to use clear glass dinnerware on a subtle placemat. 

I had no solid napkins so the next best thing was to use ones with essentially the same colors as the runner.

They are bound with flexible holders that were a gift from a friend who knows how I like setting tables.  That’s the kind of friend to have!

As I was putting wine stems out, my eye was drawn to the orange in the runner, so I put the etched glass ones away and opted for the orange stems that usually come out only at Thanksgiving.

All done but for the flatware.  I know Carson of Downton Abbey wouldn’t approve, but I do like to lay it in different ways to add an unexpected touch.

So, in a matter of minutes, the table is set.  I’ve also thought of simple fixings for dinner: pasta mixed with tomatoes, basil and olive oil 

and one of my favorite go to desserts.  What this goes to show is that entertaining doesn’t have to be stressful or require a lot of preplanning.  The real point is to enjoy time with friends.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Joining

Tablescape Thursday

Tablescapes

Seeing Red

This is one of my favorite table runners made by the hands of a Vietnamese person with disabilities working in a state run workshop. Funny how it has been used dozens of times and I’ve never paid much attention to the red.  Usually, it is the blue and orange tones that dominate my thinking.

Not today!  Red has totally grabbed my eye which was reason enough to pull out the crocheted placemats made by my mother-in-law.  I smile as I think of her trying to teach me how to crochet.  My hands were so awkward with a crochet hook, and I didn’t get much farther than casting on with a chain stitch.  Red is not a color I use much on a table, and I’m not sure why because it is one of my favorites.

Maybe it was the flowers on the runner that drew my eye and made the red seem more important.  Whatever the influence, it made for a very happy table.

There was no need to add more color, so white dishes provided the finishing touch.

Later, when chili was dished up, I had to laugh when even it had traces of red.  On this day, red was meant to be.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind