Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Garden Luncheon

  I love to entertain, but that was the farthest thing from my mind one June morning as I stepped into my North Carolina garden nestled in the Smoky Mountains. I was enthusiastically greeted by the magnificent perfume of lavender, roses, and thyme.  My daylilies had just started blooming, peonies, heavy-headed, nodded hello, a few iris were still showing off, and a variety of perennials dotted the garden with glorious color. But it was my roses and herbs that awakened all of my senses that morning, and I knew I had to share their beauty.
      With my garden as my inspiration, I planned an impromptu luncheon for a few of my closest girlfriends. I chose an herb themed menu that I was sure all would enjoy.  Setting the table was easy.  Since we would be dining al fresco, I chose an elegant neutral palette of ivory and white, letting my garden steal the show.  I chose a crisp cotton lace tablecloth adorned with lime green napkins tied with a pretty ribbon and tucked in a fragrant sprig of lavender. My Beaded PlaceTiles® with a bud-vase were perfect for holding a tiny bouquet of lavender, thyme, cilantro, and roses that I would bundle into a tussie mussie or nosegay for a memorable favor, and the large beaded MessageTile was perfect for listing the luncheon menu.   I looked to my garden for an ambrosia of flowers to fill a teapot for a simple centerpiece. Using heirloom china and silver gave the table a wonderful genteel charm.
      The intimate lunch lasted well into the afternoon with lively conversation and much laughter.  As we said our goodbyes the ladies thanked me for a delightful time spent smelling, sipping, and savoring the yield from my garden.  As I turned to walk back inside, my lavender proudly stood at attention as if to say, “You’re Welcome”.

Minted Tea
      4 cups boiling water
      4 regular tea bags
      1 ½ cups sugar
      1 6 oz can frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed and undiluted
      1 6 oz can frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed and undiluted
      ¾ cup chopped fresh mint
      11 1/2 cups water
Pour 4 cups boiling water over tea bags; cover.  Allow to steep for 12 minutes Discard bags.  Combine sugar, orange juice, and lemonade in a saucepan; bring to boil, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat; add mint.  Let stand 15 minutes.  Strain mint from fruit mixture; discard mint.  Add tea and 11 1/2 cups water to fruit mixture.  May be served hot or cold.  Garnish with lemon slices and mint sprigs, if desired.

Chicken Salad with Lemon Tarragon
            1/2 cup chopped pecans 
            3/4 cup mayonnaise
            1  tablespoon  chopped fresh tarragon
            1  teaspoon  grated lemon rind
            1  tablespoon  fresh lemon juice
            1  teaspoon  salt
            1/2  teaspoon  freshly ground pepper
            3  cups  chopped cooked chicken
            2  celery stalks, finely chopped
           1/2  small sweet onion, finely chopped
            2  cups  seedless red grapes, cut in half (optional)
           Garnish: halved lemon slices
    Arrange pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 5 to 7 minutes or until lightly toasted. Cool pecans on a wire rack 15 minutes or until completely cooled.  Whisk together mayonnaise and next 5 ingredients in a large bowl; stir in pecans, chicken, celery, and onion just until blended. Stir in grape halves, if desired. Garnish, if desired.
    Southern Living, JUNE 2007  

    Shrimp and Pasta Salad
          12 ounces uncooked small pasta shells
          2 lb. peeled cooked shrimp
          6 green onions, thinly sliced
          ½ cup chopped fresh basil
          1 ½ tsp. dried crushed red pepper
          1 T. grated lemon rind
          Fresh Citrus Salad Dressing

    Prepare pasta according to package directions. Toss pasta with remaining ingredients. Serve immediately, or cover and chill up to 2 days.
    Fresh Citrus Salad Dressing: Whisk together 1/2 cup light olive oil, 3 Tbsp. Greek seasoning, 3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice, and 3 Tbsp. mayonnaise.
    Southern Living, MARCH 2007  

    Baby Greens with Raspberry Vinaigrette
          1 pound baby greens
          1 peach, skin removed and sliced
           ½ cup chopped pecans toasted
          1 T. thyme leaves
          Raspberry Vinaigrette

    Combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl; toss gently.  Pour Raspberry Vinaigrette over greens mixture just before serving; toss gently.

    Raspberry Vinaigrette
          ½ cup vegetable oil
          ¼ cup raspberry vinegar
          1 T. honey
          ½ tsp. grated orange rind
          ¼ tsp. salt
          1/8 tsp. pepper

    Country Scones with Lemon Thyme
          1 T. freshly grated lemon peel
          1 tsp. chopped lemon thyme leaves
          2 ½ cups flour
          1 T. baking powder
          ½ tsp. salt
          ½ cup unsalted butter, chilled
          ¼ cup sugar
          2/3 cup milk

    Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and mix well.  Cut in the butter with a pastry blender until crumbly.  Stir in the sugar, lemon peel, and lemon thyme.  Add the milk, stirring until a soft dough forms.  Shape into a ball.  Knead the dough 10 to 12 times on a lightly floured surface.  Divide the dough into 2 portions.  Knead each half lightly into a ball.  Roll into a 6-inch circle.  Cut each circle into 6-8 wedges.  Arrange the wedges slightly apart for crisp sides or touching fro soft sides on an ungreased baking sheet.  Bake at 425 degrees for 12minutes or until medium brown.  Remove to a wire rack to cool.  Serve with your choice of jams.

    Strawberries with Balsamic and Basil
          2 lb. strawberries (about 4 cups) cleaned and halved
          1 T. sugar
          2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
          8-10 medium fresh basil leaves

    In a large bowl toss berries with sugar and vinegar.  Let sit at room temperature until strawberries have released their juices, about 30 minutes.  Just before serving, stack the basil leaves on a cutting board and toll them vertically into a loose cigar shape.  Using a sharp knife, thinly slice across the roll to make a chiffonade of basil.  Serve in individual pretty serving dishes.

    Lemon Basil Snaps
          2 cups flour
          ½ tsp. baking soda
          ¼ tsp. salt
          1/3 cup chopped pistachio nuts
          ¾ cup butter or margarine, at room temperature
          ¾ cup sugar
          1 egg
          1 T. grated lemon rind
          1 T. fresh lemon juice
          1/3 cup chopped fresh lemon basil or sweet basil

    In a bowl cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the egg, mixing until combined.  Add the lemon rind, lemon juice, and basil leaves.  Combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and nuts in a small bowl.  Gradually add to the butter mixture, beating until blended.  Cover and chill 1 hour.  Roll the dough into 1 inch balls.  Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheet.  Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden.

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