Friday, May 31, 2013

Ladies' Dinner for Six

Having the ladies over for dinner when the guys are on a week end fishing trip is my idea of a fun evening!  For this dinner for six, our Spring menu was a first course of fried green tomatoes with dipping sauce and a main course of roast turkey breast with quinoa and asparagus pilaf.  Turkey is thought of as a fall menu item, but I like it year round and think it's easier than roast chicken.  Add flavor by rubbing butter and herb(s) of choice under the skin and then rub olive oil all over the outside and salt well.
The base cloth was a new solid blue, hem-stitched rectangle on our oval breakfast table.  The second layer was a vintage 50's cloth in a floral and lace motif that almost looks likes aprons tied together.
For the first course I used a solid blue LuRay 8" plate.  As you see in my front page photo, I have lots and lots of LuRay.  Sometimes I mix colors and sometimes I use all of one color.
The crystal was Steuben glass wines that have a cranberry bowl and clear stem and for water vintage etched crystal tumblers.
The flatware was "Dresden Rose" silverplate by Reed and Barton.  This is a good everyday pattern because it is not too plain nor too ornate and formal.  It was first produced in 1953.

The napkin ring doubled as a place card with photos of the guests in the little silver frames on top.  The photos slip in and out easily so when I want to use them I use iPhoto on my computer and print out little, stamp-size, photos and slip them in.

The first course place setting included mercury glass salt cellars placed at the top of the plate for the fried green tomato dipping sauce.

The salt and pepper set is silverplate with a red bakelite handle and base, circa 1940's.  When one can buy sets this unique and with this much "personality," at equivalent prices, why buy new?!

For our centerpiece I used a faux orchid that was a gift from my son and daughter-in-law who live in Hawaii.  It was handmade by an artisan there.

The dinner plate is "Furnivals Quail" in blue, first produced in 1913.  Quail is a common pattern, made by several different companies and in different colors.

I used the 8" Quail plate, that is a little different pattern from the dinner plate, for dessert which was the strawberry short "cake" my Grandmother made me from leftover pie crust.  She would bake pieces of rolled out pastry on a cookie sheet and break it into large pieces.  Then she'd stack three pieces on a plate and ladle on juicy strawberries and homemade whipped cream.  I still love this crunchy form of strawberry shortcake and do it on purpose, not just to use up leftover pie crust. 

With dessert I used antique Mother-of-Pearl knives and forks in dessert/salad size with a demitasse spoon in the Rogers & Bros pattern "Orange Blossom" made beginning in 1910, one of my favorites.  Also, the Quail demitasse cup and saucer.

I used the credenza behind the breakfast table banquette as our buffet.  I almost always serve buffet-style, rather than plated, so that guests can take the amounts they want.
Our first course fried green tomatoes were served on a round Quail platter with a vintage silverplate tomato server.

For the roast turkey breast I used the oval platter and a Mother-of-Pearl buffet fork.

And I served the quinoa and asparagus pilaf in a covered casserole in a different blue and white transferware pattern called "Venetian" by Henry Alcock that has gold highlights.  Covered casseroles are a weakness of mine and are not that expensive when they are an odd piece, outside of a set.  I used the matching buffet spoon to serve it.

Recipe for Frying Green Tomatoes

Soak 1/2" thick tomato slices in buttermilk for 15 minutes or so.  Mix 3/4 cup cornmeal, 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs, 1 Tbsp baking soda, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper.  Dip tomato slices in flour, then egg wash, then the cornmeal mixture.  Fry over med-high heat in skillet with 1/4" of peanut or grapeseed oil until golden.  Drain on paper towels.  Serve hot or at room temp.

Recipe for Dipping Sauce

1 clove garlic
1 large shallot, cut in half
1 heaping Tbsp dijon mustard
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
4 stems of parsley (leaves & stems)
1/4 cup EVOO
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp salt, or to taste
Fresh cracked pepper to taste
     Put everything up to olive oil in a food processor and pulse to mince.  With motor running, pour in oil to emulsify.  Stir in buttermilk, salt and pepper.

Recipe for Quinoa and Asparagus Pilaf

2 Tbsp butter
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 1/4 cups water
1 bunch asparagus, tough ends broken off, and cut into 1" pieces diagonally
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 Tbsp lemon zest
     Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat and saute onion for apx. 5 minutes or until translucent, but not browning.  Add garlic and saute 1 minute more.  Increase heat a little and add quinoa; saute 1 minute.  Add water and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, covered, 20 minutes.  Add asparagus, salt, pepper and zest.  (If quinoa is fully dry, add a couple of Tbsp of water.)  Steam with lid on 3 or 4 minutes, just until asparagus is crisp-tender.  Serve hot or at room temp.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day

Crawfish Boil

Our American flag waves proudly off our balcony, over the front door, every day, not just on holidays. My husband puts it up every morning and down each evening.  We are very proud of the fact it was a gift from our nephew-in-law, who brought it to us from his tour in Iraq.

We celebrated Memorial Day with a Crawfish Boil by the pool on Sunday.  This time of year we can buy them live at our grocery store and the whole family loves them!  

The first layer on the table for eight by the pool was a new white hem-stitched cloth and on top of that a vintage sea-themed square cloth, placed on the bias.  This is another of my purchases from Michelle Piccolo who has a booth at the Red Barn at the Round Top Antiques Show.  She brings hundreds of really special vintage cloths, napkins and tea towels to the Spring and Fall shows.
The main course place setting included Johnson Brothers' transferware "Fish" pattern.  There are six different patterns and this crawfish/lobster is #1.  Although I have some of each pattern, this is my favorite so I've gone on eBay and bought extras so that I can set a whole table with them.

The napkins are vintage white cotton damask held by a new knife, fork, and spoon ring.  I don't have any fish-themed rings.  Gives me something to look for!
The flatware is a new set I keep at the pool kitchen.  It's fairly "elegant" but is stainless and plastic so it holds up well in an area with stone floors and lots of dampness.  It does beautifully in the dish washer, an important consideration when the hosts are trying to have fun too. 

I used two salt and pepper sets.  One is a plastic scallop shell with two pearls inside and the other set is ceramic lobster claws.
Our centerpiece was a vintage Italian metal candle holder, made around 1950, at the same time as all the floral metal chandeliers.  I also have floral metal napkin rings from Italy from the same period of time.
I used a round folding table as our buffet with a floor length lime cloth as the base and then a lobster themed vintage topper.
I love "odd" color combinations like these lime green lobsters.

This particular cloth is signed by the artist in the lower right corner.

I used three platters to hold all of the crawfish, corn, and potatoes.  Though different shapes, sizes, and patterns, they are all part of the vintage Johnson Brothers' "Fish" pattern.

The buffet table centerpiece is another metal candle holder.
Our Key Lime Pie dessert was served on small "Fish" pattern plates with the flatware salad fork.  Footed glassware for our iced tea is actually very pretty plastic, perfect for the pool area.

Recipe for a Crawfish Boil

Get the biggest pot you own, fill it with water and crawfish boil seasoning and salt.  When it's boiling, dump in new potatoes; depending on size, 2-4 per person.  Let them get a 5 or 10 minute head start and then dump in fresh ears of corn-on-the-cob broken in halves, 2 halves per person, and the crawfish.  It sounds like a lot, but you'll need about 2 lbs per person.  Bring it back to a boil and cook another 1 or 2 minutes.  If you're not ready to eat immediately, turn off the heat, and put on the lid.  Sitting in the seasoned water will just make everything better but don't continue boiling.  Serve with drawn butter if desired.  Put some extra bowls on the table for shells.

Friday, May 24, 2013

An Anniversary Dinner

Elegance for Eight

Celebrating an anniversary is a special occasion that deserves elegance and beauty.  For this dinner I chose our sun room as the setting because of its round table which is great for conversation with all eight guests.

The first layer was a pin-tuck cloth to the floor in "hot" raspberry.
The next layer was a wonderful embroidered organdy square made in Belgium.
For the first course of corn from-the-garden chowder, I used vintage lavender fluted glass bowls and underplates.  These come in lots of colors - pink, yellow, amber, blue, and green.  Within each category, the color intensity varies.  If you look closely at the first photo, you can tell some of the bowls are a pale lavender and some are almost purple.  The bowls seem to be a lot easier to come by than the plates so I am always on the lookout for them. 
 I chose a vintage lace-edged napkin with cut work and embroidery that does not match the cloth but mixes well.  Because the Herend china, "Queen Victoria," has butterflies in the floral pattern, 

I used a lime green silk ribbon tucked around the napkin with a jewelry bug pinned to each.  I had collected the bug pins for my mother who loved to wear a group of three at a time.

I used pale lime green and pink roses as our centerpiece in a new cut glass Waterford vase.

For the main course of lobster chunks over egg noodles in a lemon-cream sauce with steamed whole green beans from the garden, I used Herend "Princess Victoria" plates.  The factory at Herend began making earthenware in 1826 and soon after began producing porcelain.  Several of their pattern names came from the first purchaser.  There are dinner plates in the Queen Victoria pattern, but in the 20th Century there was a demand for a plainer plate that would show off the food so they began making the Princess Victoria pattern in white with several different accent colors to choose from.  Mine is green.

I used 1920's place cards but since they are not replaceable, I wrote on each in pencil so I could reuse them.  You could also color copy, or scan, and print them on card stock to make extras if you find less than you need or want to keep the original unused.

The flatware is a set monogrammed "FD."  I was told by the seller that it was from the New York City Fire Department.  I can't verify that, but it makes an interesting story when I'm using it with guests.  It's beautiful and I'm sure wasn't sitting around in some neighborhood fire station, but I like to think it was used for special fire department awards dinners or was made for the Chief.  The blades are steel and do have a black tarnish that does not come off.  The spoons are larger than the ones in our normal American sets, more like European soup spoons, but not as big as our tablespoons or serving spoons.

The glassware is Fostoria Sceptre in pink.  I used the one on the left for our white wine and the right one for water.  After one Warrenton trip, when I purchased more of these, I discovered there are ones that are similar but are a more purpley-pink.  The colors are very close but if you're setting the table in the daytime, the difference becomes obvious in good light.  After accidents like that, I started carrying color photos of my glassware with me when antiquing so I could make sure I had the exact right color, bowl shape, and stem shape.

I used four vintage sets of salt and pepper shakers, placing sets between every two place settings.  I used two silverplate and two cut glass sets.  I often buy one-of-a-kind cut glass shakers and just mix and match.  As you can see in the top left photo, although the shakers match, the caps are different.  One is Mother-of-pearl and the other silver.

With dessert I used a smaller version of the dinner knife and fork.  I'm not sure what they would have been used for originally unless for salad or dessert.  They are not the right shape to be for fish.

The full dessert place setting included the coffee cup and saucer, a coffee spoon from the "FD" set, and a liqueur glass for cognac.

Here, the cognac and mix and match glasses are on a mirrored silver tray on the coffee table in the sun room.

I think the very prettiest piece I have in the Queen Victoria pattern is the sugar bowl with its lovely rosebud handle.
Coffee was served in a silverplate pot from the Queen Victoria time period.  With its floral accents I thought it went well with the china.

Recipe for Corn Chowder with Zucchini and Orzo

4 Tbsp butter, divided
3 medium zucchini (apx. 1 1/2 lbs), in 1/2" dice
1 1/2 cups cooked orzo (3/4 cup raw, cooked 8 minutes)
2 bunches green onions thinly sliced, white and green parts kept seperate
5 cups fresh corn kernels, reserve cobs
1-32 oz box chicken broth

Saute zucchini in 2 Tbsp butter in dutch oven until crisp-tender, apx. 5 minutes.  Stir in cooked orzo and 1/2 cup green onion tops.  Remove all to a bowl.

Saute white part of onions in 2 Tbsp butter in same pan for 3 minutes.  Add 3 cups of water and the cobs.  Bring to a boil and simmer until slightly thickened, apx. 10 minutes.  Remove and discard cobs.  Season to taste with salt and white pepper.  Add in the box of broth.  Add corn and orzo mixture back into pan with broth.  Bring all to a simmer.

Stir in 1/2 cup heavy cream right before serving or garnish each serving with a dollop of sour cream.