In setting up the style of an outdoor space, it’s the smallest touches that can make the biggest difference. Authenticity is the key, and if your decorations mirror your personal style, or reflect elements of your summer garden, you really can’t go wrong.
Flowers are beloved for so many reasons. Ask any florist and they will tell you that the impact of flowers is not to be taken lightly! Just as important as the flowers themselves is the vessel that holds them. Having friends over for tea? Consider a teapot as a vase. If you’re a collector, incorporate your own personal touch into a table display with elements from your collection. As for the flowers, the style of arrangement can make all the difference between a formal and a casual feel. Pick a color or a theme and go with your instinct. For a summer feeling, grasses and lush foliage can make an arrangement feel like a miniature vignette of your garden.
Tea roses in a tea pot make a simple and elegant presentation
If you want to keep it really simple, a bowl of seasonal fruit can grace a table as nicely as any bouquet. If you’re picking from the garden, keep stems and leaves on for a natural effect, or group colorful lemons en masse for a Mediterranean summer look. Herbs such as mint and lavender make beautiful fragrant displays or sweet garnishes for each dish. Keep it simple, but think abundance! It’s summer after all!
Photo SF Gate, The Italian Table
We like to keep our libations simple, but even simple can be fun! Summer drinks are easy to make ahead of time, and serve in pitchers for ultimate ease. One of our favorite ways to use edible flowers is in ice cubes- simply add borage, nasturtium or rose petals to an ice tray to make any drink, even a glass of ice water, into a work of art.
For a summery twist on a classic, our office manager, Debbie, loves to make the blackberry gin and tonic below, adapted from recipe by Serious Eats writer Kelly Carámbula. Refreshing and delicious, the color is also a stunning compliment to your table:
Photo by Kelly Carámbula, Serious Eats
DEBBIE’S G+T TWIST
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 to 2 tablespoons simple syrup
(to taste, based on sweetness preference)
1 shot gin (1 ½ oz)
2 shots tonic water (3 oz)
Muddle blackberries and lime juice in a shaker until well crushed
Add simple syrup, gin, and ice and shake.
Strain and serve on the rocks, or serve up in a gimlet glass.
If you grow squash or zucchini, by this time of year you may have more squash flowers than you could ever imagine on a plant. Some of these blossoms will of course become squash, so you don’t want to harvest them all, but if you can spare a few, these edible flowers make for a unique and delicious snack that will surely grab everyone’s attention! Thanks to our planting designer Arlene, we have this awesome recipe for stuffed squash blossoms, adapted from the recipe by Lindsay Landis of Love & Olive Oil:
Squash flowers are either male or female. If the flower lacks a round, developing squash at its base, that makes it a male flower, and a more ideal candidate for stuffing since you won’t sacrifice so many squashes. (This is what they look like)
Photo by Lindsay Landis, Love & Olive Oil
ARLENE’S SQUASH BLOSSOMS
1 dozen squash blossoms
5 ounces warmed goat chevre
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons chives, minced
1 tablespoon parsley, minced
1 tablespoon tarragon, minced
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup flour
3/4 cup light beer
Vegetable oil, for frying
salt and pepper
Carefully rinse the flowers and remove fuzzy stamens from inside.
Heat vegetable oil in a pan or fryer, about 1 inch deep.
Mix together goat cheese, herbs, honey, water, salt and pepper until smooth. Spoon into a piping bag or use a small spoon to fill each flower with about 1 tablespoon of mixture. Fold or twist the top of the flower to keep the cheese inside.
In a bowl, combine flour and beer and whisk until smooth. Quickly dip flowers into batter and place in hot oil. for 30 seconds, then flip and fry for another 30 seconds until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack or paper-towel lined plate. Salt to taste. Serve immediately.
John, our founding architect, can always be relied on for creative desserts. He wanted to share his mouth-watering summer favorite, grilled nectarines. These beauties are as simple and perfect as they sound, and can be eaten alone or with ice cream for a decadent experience:
JOHN’S GRILLED NECTARINES
4 yellow nectarines, ripe but not too soft
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 teaspoons agave nectar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat charcoal or gas grill
Slice nectarines in half and remove stones, keeping the skins on
Brush lightly with olive oil on all sides.
Place nectarines inside-up on the grill and spoon agave nectar into the center of each
Sprinkle with cinnamon and grill for 1-2 minutes, until softening
Flip nectarines carefully with tongs and grill for one minute or until lightly charred.
Remove from grill and serve immediately