Wednesday, July 25, 2012

shower power

Whenever someone asks me to cater a shower I am thrilled. They are my favorite events to plan. Hosting a a baby or bridal shower at home makes the occasion personal and intimate, even for a large crowd. It certainly takes a fair amount of work and planning, but it does not have to be an overwhelming experience and it can be done simply and even on a budget.
Good weather is a variable that cannot be adjusted. This weekend I helped host my niece's wedding shower at her mother's home; we were blessed with a perfect day for an outdoor lunch.

Here are some of my catering tips for a successful at home shower party:

Use rented tables, and plates to spare yourself a big clean up. Dirty glasses and flatware can go right back into the rental containers! This is a wonderful advantage that can make the cost of the rental worth every penny.

Choose a simple color scheme and stick with it for table cloths, napkins and flowers. This garden party in pinks and peaches reflects the bright summer day. Masses of flowers in a single color will add elegance. Fancy, expensive arrangements are not necessary. The charm of a humble flower such as a daisy or in this case, a cosmos, will rise to the occasion.

For hors d'oeuvres, an arrangement of crudites will make a colorful statement. Limit the vegetables to two or three choices. Make a dip in your food processor- it takes no time. This Green Goddess dip recipe is a cinch to make and can be prepared two days in advance.

Use fresh herbs to decorate the platters. Just tucking a few sprigs here and there will do the trick.

The buffet table can be personalized with small textiles used as runners. The serving bowls and platters do not have to match. This is where I really like to use treasures from the host's cupboards. Pull out all those dishes buried in the back of the cabinet. Using an old family heirlooms will bring memories and create new ones.



This lunch was put together with a spread of salads, perfect for a hot day.

A simple green salad will make a dramatic presentation with the addition of edible flowers. If you don't grow your own, look for them at farmers markets; even some supermarkets will have them. A surprising number of flowers can be edible. Let your inspiration and the season guide you. These nasturtiums, plucked directly from the garden add a little spicy bite and lots of color drama to a simple collection of greens.

One of my favorite salads in the summer: cucumber with dill. This can be made in advance and improves as it marinates.

2 cucumbers thinly sliced
1/2 a red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped dill
3 Tbs red wine vinegar
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients and let it marinate in a fridge for at least two hours before serving.

Nothing could be easier than a caprese salad. Sliced tomatoes, lightly salted, fanned out on a plate, dressed with chopped basil, and a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. For the cheese, go with the classic mozzarella or consider a crumbled goat cheese or blue cheese for variation.

This seafood salad is not vegetarian, I know.  I want to include it here because it was so tasty and so pretty and really not difficult to make.  For this occasion, we chose it to take advantage of the wonderful local fresh seafood available.

Orecchiette with pesto and peas is ridiculously easy and always popular. This dish can be made a few hours in advance and served room temp. The pesto can be prepared the day before and then mixed in to the cooked pasta just before serving. I throw frozen peas into the boiling pasta just before the pasta is cooked, to add a little color and texture to the dish.

The only dish served warm was a garden gratin made with fennel and Swiss chard. It disappeared quickly and adds a little substance to all the salads.

Are we exhausted yet? Even if you choose to only make one or two dishes, it will give a home cooked feel to the lunch.  For dessert, order a cake and put out some sorbets. Simple, but Delicious!

The mother of the bride made her own batch of jam to give as thank you gifts to all the guests, made from seasonal summer plums. The inspiration was a spinoff of her daughter's nickname "Plum" when she was a baby. My eyes are getting teary!

Have fun with an at home party. Adding your own touches makes the event memorable. It does not have to be "perfect" when it is filled with love!

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