Before we start the party, let's take a little tour of my garden. If you haven't already guessed by reading past posts, you will now know that I love clematis and have about 100 difference varieties. This is an addiction that began about 8 years ago. Yes, my name is Susan and I am a Clematis-aholic.
This is my favorite corner of the pool deck in the back yard with about 8 of those clematis I was telling you about climbing the fence:
In some areas, I have to grow many shade-loving plants because of all the tall sugar maple trees that surround our property.
Another part of the back yard where I grow clematis on another section of fence...you can't tell from this photo as they bloom at different times, but there are about 25 clematis planted in this area:
Let's leave the patio and walk outside the fence, where you'll see a few more clematis...
...and down to the front yard garden when I grow many more clematis :) This garden area has meandering paths and you'll find a clematis at almost every turn.
The day lilies are just starting their show.
I tried to stitch together a panoramic view in Photoshop so you could see the entire front garden as it looked this morning:
This is also where I grow my annual poppies:
Here is a sweet little clematis, Arabella. She's a rambler and I love how she blooms all summer:
And lastly, here is my teeny-tiny vegetable patch outside of the pool patio where I grow zucchini, peas, beans and onions - I have another similar patch on the other side of the gate:
Now let's see some garden table settings and eat!
On July 4th, we hosted our gourmet group of 10 people. Our patio tables will only seat 6 and for the last two years we have rented a 72" round table for the occasion so we can all dine together. We were surrounded by clematis and container flowers all around, so it really felt like we were right in the middle of the garden. If you look closely, you can see the centerpiece is a metal plant stand that I had strung with white lights and planted with red, white and blue flowers. After dark, it gave just the right amount of lighting along with the candles so we could dine comfortably.
I placed tiny vases of red, white and blue flowers on the table - all cut from my garden. Each couple received a garden-inspired kitchen towel as a hostess gift.
Here is the table from last year's gourmet party that we hosted. I used a small tree strung with lights for this centerpiece:
Last year, I gave Sarah's Mediterrean Sea Salt as hostess gifts and the table was again decorated with flowers from my garden:
For my garden party today, I wanted to set a special table for my garden-fresh recipe dinner. At first, I thought of using this china that was my mother and father-in-laws' first set of china after they married during WWII. It's called Wentworth and I thought the garden flower pattern was beautiful.
I even filled the sugar bowl with old-fashioned flowers from my garden.
However, as much as I love the floral pattern, this next table setting is more me! I love vibrant colors and am more of a contemporary gal. The table cloth even has a garden pattern:
In my last post, I mentioned that I would cooking up some recipes using ingredients harvested from my own garden. For the first course, here is a Salad Caprese with Balsamic Reduction and Basil Oil - made with my very own basil grown from seed by Moi:
For the second course - a delicious new recipe.....Jamie Oliver's Pasta Carbonara with Pancetta, and Baby Zucchini and Thyme from my garden (2 thumbs up from the husband). This could be a meal in itself! You may not be able to tell from this photo but there are torn bits of zucchini blossoms in the mixture:
For the main course, Grilled Chicken Breast with Penzey's BBQ 3000 seasoning; Roasted Homegrown Sugar Snap Peas with Shallots, Thyme and Flowering Pea Shoots; and lastly, steamed Homegrown Yellow Wax Beans with a pinch of fresh Thyme and a touch of butter:
Look at those adorable pea shoots! This is the first time I've actual cooked with the pea shoots and it was a delicious experience. Please do not try this with ornamental flowering sweet peas as they are poisonous!
Here are the recipes for this simple garden dinner:
Caprese Salad with Balsamic Reduction and Basil Oil
Adapted from Chef Roy Harland
2 lbs Heirloom or Stem-On Tomatoes
8 oz fresh mozzarella cheese - in your favorite size
About 12 basil leaves
Basil oil (recipe follows)
Balsamic vinegar reduction (recipe follows)
A nice sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
Balsamic Vinegar Reduction (I halved this for 2 and it still made more than enough):
1 cup Balsamic vinegar
1 cup dry red wine - I used a Syrah
1/4 cup Sherry Vinegar (my personal addition)
1 T brown sugar
1 large bunch fresh basil
2 cups extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp. salt
Rinse tomatoes, cores and slice. Cut each mozzarella ball into slices.
Arrange tomatoes & cheese decoratively on four salad plates. Tuck in several basil leaves.
Drizzle each salad with about 1-2 tablespoons of the vinegar reduction & basil oil.
Season with good salt and freshly ground pepper.
Balsamic Vinegar Reduction Instructions:
Heat the ingredients in a small sauce pan over medium heat. When mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat and bring to a simmer. Cook until syrupy, but do not allow to caramelize. Mixture should yield about ¼ cup. It should coat the back of the spoon when it is done.
Basil Oil Instructions:
1 large bunch fresh basil
2 cups extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp. salt
In a small sauce pan over medium-high heat, bring four cups lightly salted water to boil. Have another bowl filled with ice water close by.
Remove basil leaves, discarding stems. Place basil leaves into the boiling water and cook for 10 seconds. Remove basil with a slotted spoon and place immediately into the ice bath. Drain basil and squeeze out excess water. Roll basil in paper towels and squeeze to dry. Repeat with more paper towels, if necessary.
Place the basil and olive oil in a blender and blend for one full minute on high speed. Strain the oil through a strainer with cheese cloth. The oil should be very clear and bright green.
Adapated from Jamie Oliver
As much as I love Jamie's show and cooking, I tried to make this recipe a little easier to follow rather than using a 'fistful' of this and a 'knob' of that :)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 medium green zucchini (or 4-6 baby zucchini as I used)
1 Box uncooked penne pasta
2 large egg yolks
1/2 cup heavy cream
Approximately 1 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
5 thick slices of pancetta, or good thick bacon, cut into strips to match size of penne
Small bunch of fresh thyme, leaves stripped
Zucchini flowers - if you grow them or ask from some from a friend who does
Heat a large pan of salted water to boil. Halve and then quarter large zucchini lengthwise. Discard any soft middle parts and slice the zucchini at an angle into pieces about the same size and shape as the penne. Baby zucchinis can simply be sliced finely. Add the penne to the boiling water and cook according to the package dirctions.
To make the carbonara sauce, put the egg yolks into a bowl, add the cream and half the Parmesan, and blend with a fork. Season lightly and put to aside.
Heat a very large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add a few tablespoons of olive oil and fry the pancetta or bacon until dark brown and crisp. Add the zucchini slices and 2 teaspoons of black pepper. You want this to have a kick. Add the thyme leaves and stir, so the zucchini are coated with all the bacon-flavoured oil, and fry until they start to turn golden and soften a slightly.
This next step is very important as you need to work quickly. When the pasta is cooked, drain it, reserving a good ladleful or two of the cooking water. Immediately, add the pasta to pan with the zucchini and pancetta, then remove from the heat and add the ladleful of the reserved cooking water and the egg/cream sauce. Stir together quickly. Do not return to the heat or you'll scramble the eggs.
Serve immediately with the rest of the Parmesan and a little more of the cooking water if needed, to give a silky and shiny sauce. Taste and adjust seasonings. If you have any zucchini flowers, tear them over the top, then serve and eat immediately.
Roasted Sugar Snap Peas with Shallots and Thyme
Adapted from Allrecipes
1/2 pound sugar snap peas
A handful of sugar snap pea flowering shoots, if you grow your own peas*
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped shallots
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Salt and Pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C).
Place sugar snap peas in a single layer on a baking sheet, and drizzle with olive oil. Add shallots, thyme, and kosher salt and toss with your hands to combine.
Bake in preheated oven for 4 to 6 minutes until tender but firm. Add sugar snap pea flowering shoots and toss. Roast for 2 minutes more.
*Do not use ornamental flowering peas as they are poisonous! Only use sugar snap pea shoots.
I hope you enjoyed coming to my Garden Party and that you will join me by sharing the URL link to your Garden Party post below after you've published it. Anything garden-related goes and the party goes on all weekend! Thank you, so much for visiting!