Saturday, May 4, 2013

Outdoor Tables

Ladies' Lunch for Four in the Gazebo

We are having unusually cool weather for April in Texas so I'm taking advantage by eating outdoors often.  I have a gazebo in my vegetable garden, built by my husband all out of reclaimed goods.  Old picket fencing, pine flooring, rusty tin roofing, and antique porch columns at each corner.  It's a lovely place for coffee in the morning, an iced tea break after weeding or harvesting, and for lunch with friends.

The garden entrance, gazebo to the right.

Just follow the yellow brick road!

For our ladies' lunch I chose a pastel green Johnson Bros. pattern called Greendawn.  It also comes as Rosedawn (pink), Greydawn (blue), and Yellowdawn.   For our Spring Veggie Soup, I used oversized bowls, marked on the reverse as "Solian Ware, Simpson's Potters, Cobridge, England." Vintage cloths, light green damask as base and yellow with pink flowers on top, coordinate with the green plates and yellow bowls.

When your table is too small for a centerpiece, use flowers in small, individual containers.  To coordinate the location and colors, I used yellow roses and tiny cream iris with a sprig of asparagus tops and a piece of rosemary, both from the garden.

I used new hem-stitched pale green napkins with vintage 1940's Italian metal rings.  Pale yellow etched Depression-era glasses were used for iced tea.

If I had been serving wine, these green-footed yellow glasses from the same era would have been perfect.

The green flatware has Lucite handles with a little metal trim. 

The individual salt and peppers on the left may be Bakelite, but feel more like a bit newer plastic.

Because I only had two sets of each, I also used little glass shakers with yellow and green tops.
For our peach cobbler dessert, which I made from last year's abundance of peaches that I froze, I used the Greendawn rimmed soup bowls and a pink floral 6" underplate.  I always keep a lookout for pretty floral patterned dessert/salad plates and soup bowls that can be mixed with my solid color sets.

Recipe for Peach Cobbler

1 1/2 cups AP flour
2 Tbsp light brown sugar
2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp table salt
6 Tbsp cold butter, cut into 1/2" pieces
3/4 cup heavy cream, plus 1 Tbsp

4 lbs peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced 1/4" thick
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp corn starch

Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Combine all dry ingredients in large bowl.  Cut in butter or use fingers, as you would for biscuits.  Stir in 3/4 cup cream.
Roll out into a square 1/2" thick and cut into square biscuits.   Brush tops with 1Tbsp cream and sprinkle with an additional 1 Tbsp sugar.
Put peaches, sugar, juice, and cornstarch into saucepan and heat until bubbling hot and beginning to thicken.  Pour into a 9"X13" pan and place biscuits on top.
Bake 25 minutes.

Casual Dining on the Front Porch

Even a workday lunch on the front porch coffee table with my son and daughter-in-law can be festive and attractive with only a little effort.  I used a small, square vintage hand-embroidered white cloth with yellow and orange fern leaves, placed on the bias.
For our simple spring salads with homemade Ranch dressing, I used Fire-king "Leaf" pattern plates, which are actually half of a snack set that a has a "Blossom" bowl that I didn't use.  Tuna salad sandwiches and chips were served on smallish oval Jadite platters which I often use as plates.

Our "butterscotch" Bakelite flatware included salad forks, forks, knives, tea spoons, and iced tea spoons.  In all Bakelite colors, dinner knives and fork are the easiest to find.  You can also find salad/dessert forks, butter knives, iced tea spoons, and serving pieces but they are less common.  Napkins are vintage cotton damask with a Hybiscus flower, used with antique celluloid rings.

Yellow dot iced tea glasses complete the setting.  They are probably 50's or 60's.  Our centerpiece yellow roses of Texas are in a green glass hand-painted vase, probably 1940's.

Spring Barbeque on the Patio

When a couple calls, who are friends, to say they are in town only for one night, you just throw two extra steaks on the barbie and say, come on over!  It's spring and not hot yet so I set a casual, but pretty, table on the patio.  I've always believed that setting a nice table is one way to say to your guests that you value them and that they are worth the "trouble."  Besides, choosing things and setting the table, especially when it's only for four, is Fun!  For this occasion I thought spring flowers would be appropriate so the cloth is lilacs and the dishes are "Springviolet" by Cunningham & Pickett with green and white vintage 40's linen napkins.

     Cunningham & Picket was a dinnerware distributer from the 1930's to the 1960's.  They were not a manufacturer and most of their dishes were made by the Homer Laughlin comp.  
     I mixed old and new glassware, using a Riedel red wine glass and a vintage 40's footed water glass, etched with flowers.
     For the first course of spring greens salad with homemade herbed Ranch dressing, I used the coupe soup bowl on top of the dinner plate.

Flatware was mix and match silverplate, which you can sometimes find at flea markets for as little as one or two dollars each.  The fork is a pattern named "Arbutus," first made in 1908 by Rogers & Bro.  The dessert (salad) fork is "Dresden Rose," 1953 by Reed & Barton.  The knife is "Tudor" from 1903 by Rodgers & Hamilton and the spoon is "Narcissus," 1908 by Oxford Silverplate.  The knife is monogramed with a D.  Monogramed flatware is generally less expensive since there is a limited market, but I love it and don't need it to be my last name.  I'd like to collect enough odd knives to be able to use one at each guest's place with their last initial.

The main course place setting is the plate without the soup bowl.  Everything else stays the same
for our dinner of steaks, artichoke quarters (recipe below), and baked potatoes, all grilled.
The violet egg cup, which is not the same pattern as the plates (who cares!) was filled with drawn butter for artichoke dipping.  The salt & pepper set is a vintage green glass hobnail.

I served our warm carmel brownies (from a mix - it was last minute!) on the 6" bread plate set on a large new leaf plate by Williams-Sonoma.  

For our centerpiece, I grabbed a faux white orchid plant from the family room.  I love real orchids but have never had any luck getting them to rebloom so you will find well-made fake ones on my tables.

Recipe for Grilled Artichoke Quarters

One whole artichoke for every two diners
Three sprigs of fresh thyme per artichoke
One large clove of garlic per artichoke, sliced thinly
One lemon per artichoke, cut in half
Two tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil per artichoke
     Cut the tips off of all the artichoke leaves with scissors.  Set it on a cutting board, upside-down, and cut in half with a serrated bread knife.  Cut each half into halves, giving you quarters.  Using a thin metal spoon, cut out the choke from each quarter and drop quarters into a bowl of acidified ice water.  Tear off a square of heavy duty foil and make it a little bowl-shaped so liquid will not run out.  Place four artichoke quarters on it, lifting them out leaf side down so you keep as much water as possible in the leaves.  Place 3 sprigs of thyme on top as well as the thinly sliced garlic clove.  Squeeze all the juice from one lemon onto the quarters and down into the leaves.  Sprinkle with 1 tsp table salt or 1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt, per artichoke trying to get some of it down into the leaves.  Drizzle with 2 Tbsp EVOO.  Fold up the foil to make a very tight packet.  If you think it might leak, wrap it in a second layer.  Grill, or bake in a 350 oven, 40 minutes.  Open packets carefully so as not to get burned by the steam and serve two quarters per person.  Serve with drawn butter or hollandaise for dipping.

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