THE HOST AND HOSTESS AT HOME
Choosing The Food
With such an abundance of good food in season there should be no problem in selecting a suitable menu. Salads always spring to mind for summer meals-but they do need to be interesting.
Experiment with less obvious vegetables add finely chopped chicory to green salad, made with crisp Chose or Iceberg lettuce and look out for the dark red, bitter radicchio which adds colour and flavor to a salad of leaves. Chopped walnuts crunchy croutons; crumbled, crisply cooked bacon, chopped fresh herbs all these can add texture and appeal to salads. Choose your dressing with appeal to salads. Choose your dressing with care and if you make your own use good oil and wine vinegar. Again you can add interest with mustard, garlic or by using a herb-flavored vinegar.
If your menu is all cold consider serving homemade mayonnaise as a dressing for the fish or meat, which can be coated with the sauce or served separately.
For a simple lunch course and pudding but if you would like starters too, small portions of salad, or bowls of chilled soup are easy and inexpensive ideas.
For a special occasion, you might think it worth tackling a main course that is also a delight to the eye, like the Spinach and Chicken Terrine, or the Poached Trout.
Just because it's summer, there's no reason to serve only cold food. A light casserole of chicken or lamb, made with fresh tomatoes would be good as would fresh fish sautéed in butter and herbs. A dish of new potatoes cooked in their skins, is always welcome, and slices of warm quiche are guaranteed to go down well. For puddings, there is little more, welcome than soft fruits-strawberries, raspberries, blackcurrants-with sugar and cream in a fruit salad, or made into delectable concoctions with whipped cream and meringue. Homemade ice creams and sorbets are bound to be appreciated. Serve with crisp biscuits.
Warm weekends mean long, lazy lunches that linger on into the afternoon. Keep the table unfussy, the food simple and light.
Simplicity is the order of the day when you are planning a summer lunch party. Food really does taste better eaten out-of doors so if you are lucky enough to have a garden, make the most of sunny days whenever you can. And if you own a light folding table and some collapsible chairs, there is no reason why you can't enjoy an outdoor lunch further a field. The furniture in the picture below right can all be transported easily and it's much nicer to picnic in comfort rather than trying to eat sprawled on the ground.
Setting The Mood
Even if the weather is less than obliging, there is no reason why you can't create a summery mood indoors. Plain white china always looks cool and fresh.
Complemented with simple stainless steel cutlery. Beware of overdoing the neutral feel tough low bowls of vivid anemones or rather flowers could liven thing up. A dish of bright green apples or napkins in a clear, strong colour would also do the trick.
Tablecloths make a great job of disguising an old table-perhaps one that is kept specially for outdoor use-and also form a good basis for an imaginative setting. Don't be afraid to mix primaries and patterns. The brilliant sunshine yellow tablecloth is very much at home with the charmingly patterned blue-and-white French earthenware. Checked napkins, also in blue and white, add the final embellishment. You don't need any extra table decoration with settings like these the bold colours and mixture of patterns speak for themselves. Any additional distractions would be overpowering. All that is need is an appetizing array of food plus uncomplicated glasses and streamlined cutlery.
For a more striking mix of patterns that is very effective, the picture marries stripes and spots with happy result. Primary colours and white always make good partners and simple patterns like these look stunning in combination. More colorful accents are added with the red-spotted tumblers, daffodil plates and blue-handled cutlery, in a setting that aims for fun and frivolity, rather than sophistication.
Another way to enhance a summery atmosphere is with pastel shades or white, used in a heavy damask cloth or in pale china with just a rim of colour, echoed by matching napkins or a single-colour flowers arrangement. Whichever way you decide to approach them remember that lunchtimes are relaxed and less formal than dinner, so plan things accordingly.