This little gizmo seems to be following me. Every time I open a magazine, there it is telling me how badly I need it in my life. I’m finally going to surrender and add one to my utensil drawer. It’s the Serve It Up cake stand pedestal, which has a porcelain base and suction cup top. It comes in two sizes ($30/$20) and will hold on to the surface of an shiny, flat or non-porous plate. This past weekend, I brought a Bundt cake to a block party and was desperate for a nice way to transport and display it. This little number would have done the trick! Plus, it will give me an excuse to hit the yard sales in seplace of cute one offs.
Who hasn’t experienced that unfortunate party conundrum when one is forced to choose between a cocktail and a plate of hors d’oeuvres? My solution is to often to shove any offered food into my mouth so fast, that companions are left wondering why I am just smiling and nodding in silence. These finger food plates from perpetualkid.com attempts to solve the dilemma. The small plates slip onto your finger like a ring, creating a perfectly tiny perch for that little canape to rest while you speak your mind. At $10 for ten of them, I think they are worth buying just to as a conversation starter. (Warning, the fat fingered may be out of luck, they are one size fits all.) Click here for more info.
When I grow up I want to be like Paola Navone. The renowned artist and designer exudes warmth and a love a life that is evident in all her work, whether it be Anthropologie’s vibrant color-pop bedding, overly-tufted, welcoming sofas or her new vibrant and playful pieces at Crate & Barrel. She’s also a not-to-be overlooked Italian who gained prominence in the male-dominated design space, and displays a short hairstyle and a prominent nose that I can’t help but identify with. If I can’t grow up to be like her, perhaps we could have dinner one day?
I’m not sure how or when that may happen, but in the meantime I am going to take some inspiration from Crate & Barrel and channel a little Paola for my gatherings this fall. She’s created three collections all centered around entertaining.
The Como collection features bold blue on white designs with organic swirls and patterns. It reminds me of dining al fresco in Sicily, with smells of almond pastries mixing with Mediterranean breezes. Splashes of red wake you up.
The Mallorca collection is more calming, with white on white ceramics that have delicate, feminine edges. Aluminum trays with gentle dimples appear ready to elevate any dish.
All three themes bring a worldly sophistication to the table, without being stuffy or too precious. As the holidays encroach it’s easy to get drawn towards Northernly designs, but a few Navone bits sprinkled about will make sure your dinners always have a sunny disposition. Here’s a little peak at the artistry behind the work.
As if her new designs weren’t enough to inspire some noteworthy dinners of our own, Crate & Barrel even offers up a few recipes from the master herself. This one below, pasta with zucchini, in an interesting take on one of my favorites. I would add a sprinkle of crushed pastachios before serving, to give it a final hint of richness.
Pasta with Zucchini by Paola Navone
What You Need:
2 lbs. baby zucchini; no more than 1¼’ in diameter
Extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 cup fresh mint (smallest leaves only), thyme, rosemary
Saffron threads, a pinch
Fresh cracked pepper
Ground red pepper
Coarse sea salt
1 lb. uncooked dried mezzi rigatoni – shorter, ridged rigatoni
1/4 cup coarse sea salt to season pasta cooking water
To pass at the table:ricotta di bufala *
** Buffalo milk ricotta is less sweet than cow’s milk ricotta.
How To Make:
1. Wash and drain the zucchini. Slice into ¼-inch-thick “coins” and set aside. If using larger zucchini, slice lengthwise, core out the seeds, then slice.
2. Place a large, nonstick sauté pan over low to medium-low heat. Glaze the pan with olive oil. Add crushed garlic, herbs and saffron to the pan to flavor the oil. (Reserve a small handful of the herbs for garnish.) Stir and cook until the garlic just starts to color and become fragrant. Do not let the garlic burn. Remove garlic.
3. Add the zucchini to the pan and season with ground pepper and sea salt. Sear the zucchini until slightly soft and the zucchini begins to brown and caramelize. Remove from heat.
4. Remove ½ of the zucchini mixture; place in a food processor and puree.
5. Add a small drizzle of olive oil to the sliced zucchini still in the pan; gently fold in pureed zucchini. Add more olive oil to taste, but sparingly. The consistency of the sauce should be creamy, not thick.
6. Fill a large pasta pot ¾ full with cold water and place over high heat. Add ¼ cup** of course sea salt to water and bring to a rolling boil. Add dried pasta and cook according to package directions for al dente.
7. Drain pasta (reserving a cup of the pasta cooking water) and place in large serving bowl. Drizzle with a small amount of olive oil.
8. If needed, thin zucchini sauce with a bit of the pasta cooking water. Add zucchini sauce to pasta and toss gently. Garnish with fresh mint and serve immediately. Pass ricotta di bufala for guests to stir into their pasta, to taste.
Note: This post is sponsored by Crate & Barrel.
We don’t know which is more exciting, seeing the Hunger Games at the movies this weekend or finally getting Don Draper back into our Sunday nights with the return of Mad Men on AMC. True, neither will quite fill the cultural void left after the end of Downton Abbey, but we’re still psyched none the less. As far as menus go, deviled eggs and martinis sound much more tasty than roasted squirrels. We might be leaning more towards a retro party than a post-apocalypical one. For inspiration on a Mad Men themed party, check out this gallery on iVillage food (thanks @LisaCericola!).
Having just started season 2, I admit to being a happy passenger aboard the slow train to Downton Abbey. While the delay means I can’t talk about it with anyone, it has also afforded me the great fortune of stumbling upon the Kitchn’s Downton Abbey Cocktails series, which dedicates a drink to each Crawley daughter. Concocted by Nancy Mitchell of The Backyard Bartender, each recipe is fairly simple, containing only three ingredients each for Edith and Sybil, and four for Lady Mary, perhaps the most complex of the three. I’m excited by the splash of gin in Sybil’s St. Germain and Champagne combo, but for the sake of reporting will honestly will have to try all of them, probably multiple times, while I finish season 2. Have you been watching? Which daughter and drink is your favorite?
Season 1of Downton Abbey is streaming on Netflix and Season 2 is available on PBS.org, but hurry; it expires 3/6!
I went to the lovely Green Table for lunch the other day, and was immediately struck by a refreshing aroma when I walked in. No, it wasn’t the squash soup or the insanely good chicken pot pies, but something lighter. Sitting down I noticed little bell jars of rosemary on all the tables. It smelled better than any candle or oil you could buy. I replicated the effect last night during our Oscar shin dig, and it did wonders to get rid of the slightly doggy smell our house had.
What do you like to set out on tables to make your place smell good?