Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Simple Summer Dinner Party

Hey babes! Happy summer to all! Today is an exciting day, it's mid week hump day!
 So that means only 2 more work days left, then it's the weekend!
I don't know about you, but I'm feeling the dinner party vibes. It's warm out during the evening in Los Angeles, the perfect temperature to invite some close companions over to eat, drink, chill, and be merry. Come to think of it I have been doing a lot of this "summer entertaining" with food and drinks and I seriously can't get enough. Nothing is better then been being surrounded by good friends and food to share. Right!? Below I added 3 of my favorite summer time dinner party recipes with no fuss and messy clean up + a simple statement table setting idea. So Invite your friends over this summer and try these, I promise they will think you are a secret world class chef and dinner party connoisseur.

Leaf Centerpiece

A great table setting for a dinner party adds a special touch to your home for your guests. They will be shocked that you took the time to make such a beautiful presentation, when in reality it look less then 15 minutes.  Shhh!

This series of leaves runs the length of a table set for dinner, proving that a centerpiece need not be restricted to what the name implies: a single piece placed in the center of the table. Cuttings from houseplants, leaves from the florist, and trimmings from backyard ferns and shrubs -- each in a little bottle -- form a dramatic table decoration.

5-7 Glass jars, vases, cups (anything glass related in a cup or vase form, any size) * You can recycle that old wine bottle or spaghetti sauce jar, labels removed.

Fresh Leaves- All sizes and shapes (See Photo)

Heavy White Fabric cut in a rectangle for the center of the table

Place 1 leaf in each glass bottle and arrange in the center of the table to your liking. The more bottles the better.


For dinner serve your guests an arrangement of cheeses, small bites, a pasta dish, garlic bread, and of course a tasty cocktail.

Cheese Plate to Share 

So simple, yet so fancy!

Garlicky Party Bread with Herbs and Cheese


1 round (about 1 pound) loaf firm sourdough bread
1/2 cup (4 ounces or 115 grams) salted or unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon coarse or flaky salt, or 1/4 teaspoon table salt (if butter is unsalted)
4 medium cloves garlic, minced
Pinch or two of red pepper flakes or freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup finely grated cheese (I used a mix of 2/3 firm aged cheeses — pecorino and asiago — and 1/3 fontina for meltiness)
1 teaspoon finely minced fresh herbs (I used 1/2 each rosemary and oregano; use more to taste)
1 tablespoon extra fresh herbs (such as chives or parsley) to finish (optional)

This is definitely a flexible recipe; you can use any cheese and herbs you’d like, or seasonings.

Heat oven to 350°F. Being careful not to cut through the bottom crust (i.e., leave slices attached), cut bread loaf into 1-inch slices in one direction, then perpendicular, forming porcupine-like bread fingers. Transfer to baking sheet or roasting pan. In a small saucepan or your microwave, combine butter, salt and garlic until butter is melted and sizzling. Pour over bread, making sure to separate any fingers leaning on each other to ensure the bread is evenly butter-soaked. Scatter with grated cheese, again making sure to get cheese all the way to the bottom crust too (helps finger separation, too) with a spoon. Sprinkle with first teaspoon of herbs. Cover dish with foil and bake loaf for 15 minutes, until warmed through. Remove foil and bake another 15 to 20 minutes, until edges of loaf are toasty and cheese has melted. Scatter with any additional green herbs for garnish and serve warm.

Pasta and Fried Zucchini Salad

Salt and black pepper
2/3 cup sunflower or safflower oil, or any type of oil you like for deep-frying
3 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3/4 cup frozen edamame or peas, fresh or frozen
2 cups basil leaves, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup parsley leaves
1/3 cup olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
9 ounces strozzapreti or penne pasta
Zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 tablespoons capers (or more to taste; my husband votes for 2)
7 ounces buffalo mozzarella, torn into chunks

*Serves 4


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

While you’re waiting, in a medium saucepan or skillet, heat sunflower oil over medium-high heat. Fry zucchini slices in batches for about 3 to 4 minutes, flipping once, until golden on both sides. [Update to add: If your zucchini isn't browning right away, bump up the heat until it does in just a few minutes.] Drain in colander, shaking with a couple pinches of salt, then transfer to a large bowl and pour vinegar on top. Set aside.

In the hot water, cook edamame for 3 minutes, frozen peas for 3 to 4 minutes, or fresh peas for 1 to 2 minutes (to taste). Drain and run cool water over until lukewarm. Set aside to dry. Leave pot boiling, then cook pasta until al dente in it. Drain and rinse under cold water.

Combine half of basil and all of the parsley and olive oil in a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth, then season with salt and pepper.

Transfer pasta back to empty pot. Add fried zucchini and any juices, basil-parsley oil, edamame or peas, lemon zest, capers and mozzarella. Stir gently together, then season generously with salt and pepper. Right before you serve it, stir in remaining basil leaves.

Do ahead: Assembled dish keeps in the fridge for at least a day, or so I hear.

Drinks Drinks Drinks Drinks!  

Blackberry Gin Fizz

*For 2 tall drinks

1/4 cup fresh blackberries
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup (4 liquid ounces or just shy of 3 shots) gin
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (from two juicy limes)
Club soda
2 sprigs sweet basil or 2 thin lime wedges (for garnish)


Purée blackberries and sugar in a blender until as liquefied as possible. Strain purée through a fine-mesh sieve or tea strainer into two tall or collins-style glasses; discard seeds in sieve. Divide gin and lime juice between glasses and stir to combine. Add ice to glasses then top each with soda and a sprig of basil or wedge of lime. (Might need another quick stir to combine.) Share with someone you like.

Karen Galloway

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