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Celebrate 4th of July with Red, Blue and White Dishes

July 4th is almost here and I’ve discovered a slew of recipes perfect for this summer holiday. I will admit an aversion to blue-colored food (yes, besides blueberries!), so it’s time to game out which blue and white dishes I will fill with delicious treats for barbequing with friends this Friday. Which of these would you try?

4th of July cake

patriotic drink

Patriotic Drinks

I’m not really a beer person, so for me this raspberry fizz and red, white, and blue sparkling sangria nicely satisfy both non-alcoholic and boozy needs. These drinks also put fruit front and center, which is perfect with so many ripe berries available. This blueberry smash also looks divine, though it might be too labor intensive for a causal party drink. A lemon-ginger base that can become strawberry lemonade or a dark and stormy equally fast seems much more on track.

 

Blueberry desserts

It’s unlikely that any of my red fruit crumble will be left by Friday, but it would be wonderfully festive on blue and white dishes. I think I’ll stick with blueberry and strawberry combos to share. This list of red, white and blueberry recipes has a couple inspiring ideas like blueberry trifle and blueberry cobbler. I’m wary of the flag cupcakes, though they look great. Short on time? Grab some pound cake and make a delicious blueberry sauce. Done and done.

summer fruit

Cool treats

Growing up, July 4th was always hot, hot, hot. Here in San Francisco we worry if there’ll be too much fog to see the fireworks, so there’s not quite the same imperative to make thirst-quenching delights for picnics. Still, a girl can dream, right? Paletas (a.k.a. popsicles but better) are always delicious and have infinite flavor combinations possible. Serve ones made with red fruits on blue and white dishes for maximum patriotic impact. This watermelon agua fresca makes for a cool drink or frozen treat, depending on your mood.

watermelon

Hmmm, looking this list over I see a definite sweet theme. That’s probably because I’m not responsible for the grill!

What will you be having on blue and white dishes to celebrate this holiday weekend? Leave a comment below as well as links to any recipes that I should test out this year.

salad_bowl

4th of July cake image courtesy mmatins.

Drink image courtesy Lori L. Stalteri.

Berry image courtesy ClatieK.

Watermelon image courtesy mynameisharsha.

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The Best Decorative Dinner Plates for Summer Dining: 3 Tips

Summertime means incredible fresh fruits and vegetables, grilling adventures, and leisurely outdoor dining with friends and family. Even if you’re not planning to eat every meal outside this summer, it’s the perfect time to embrace playful motifs that celebrate the season. Bring on the bright colors and interesting textures!

decorative dinner plate
Looking for the best decorative dinner plates for your summer meals? Here are three rules to follow when updating your table this season:

1. Matching is so yesterday. It’s really true: plates and bowls don’t need to match. Mix up your classic dishware sets with square plates, oblong bowls, and other unusual shapes. Highlight that incredible dessert by serving it on distinct plates from the rest of the meal. The eclectic vibe will make your meals feel more relaxed and personal.

 rectangle serving platter

2. Color rules. Have at least two colors in your dishware sets; the variety makes even the most ordinary weekday meal feel more fun. If working from a base of white plates and bowls, mix in colorful serving or salad plates. Bold reds, cool blues, bright greens, brilliant yellows – there are no wrong answers. Patterns are also an excellent way to incorporate texture and more color without getting too crazy.

decorative dinner plate - orange stripeyellow dinner plate

3. Avoid plastic plates and cutlery. Nothing ruins that gorgeous masterpiece from the grill quicker than trying to cut it with a flimsy knife. The same goes for having your plate fly away in the wind. Unless you’re carrying your dishware multiple miles on a camping trip, take the time to use decorative dinner plates and solid silverware. The guests at your next barbeque will thank you.

dishware set

Need some ideas for what to serve on your decorative dinner plates and tableware sets that is suitable for summer? Check out Emilia Ceramic’s Pinterest boards for delicious recipes and ways to entertain as the days get longer.

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Craving Tapas? Add Spanish Ceramics for Delicious Results!

One of my favorite things about Spain are the tapas bars. Endless small plates, delicious wine… it’s a great way to spend an evening or afternoon with friends. Or in my case, the perfect way to unwind after looking at endlessly beautiful ceramics at Ceramica Valenciana. This same causal vibe is one of the reasons Spanish dinnerware is so popular; the ceramics are just as delicious as the food they serve!

Traveling to Spain not in your immediate future? Why not throw a tapas party? The individual elements are fairly simple and the result is a lovely way to spend time with people you enjoy. Here’s what you’ll need for tapas success at home:

Spanish MusicScreen Shot 2014-02-17 at 11.15.42 PM

The right music instantly sets the atmosphere. And for a real Spanish party, there’s nothing like Flamenco. I’ll never forget how when I lived in Sevilla, Spain, I’d walk into tiny little bars and find people playing the guitar and singing Flamenco casually in the corner. This photo shows just that — the whole bar would all start singing along, clapping, and occasionally dancing too.

For your own tapas party, you can’t go wrong with Flamenco music. If you have it in your collection, the Gipsy Kings will do, and if not, use Pandora’s traditional Spanish station, one of the many internet radio stations on iTunes, or a similar streaming service for the right grooves. Keep the music low so that people can easily talk over it. Music done.

Spanish Food

This quirky post on The Paupered Chef outlines just how easy it is to make food for a tapas party. Some delicious Spanish ham (Serrano if you can find it), olives, cheese, and bread provides your base. A tortilla espanol (basically a potato omelet served at room temperature) is another staple. Sausages, shrimp, grilled bread with a variety of spreads and tapenades, marinated mushrooms… the list goes on and on. Check out Real Simple, Martha Stewart, and All Recipes for more tapas ideas and recipes. Food done.

Spanish tapas

Spanish Ceramics

The real workhorses of a tapas evening, Spanish ceramics will make all your delicious treats look their best for your guests. A variety of small plates and serving platters are key, as are bowls for dips and spreads. Also have a stack of small plates for your guests to load up with their favorite bites (if everyone is moving around the room) as well as plenty of napkins. Ceramica Valenciana has a host of serving pieces, from little plates to salsa bowls, that are perfect for tapas. Spanish dinnerware done.

Spanish ceramicssalsa bowls

Spanish Wine

Make a bowl of Sangria with red wine, fruit, and brandy (do this at least one day ahead so everything can soak for maximum flavor. Or head for your favorite Spanish wine bottles: Rioja and Priorat are classic Spanish reds. Or go for the sparkles of cava, a crisp Spanish white, or even a rosé. As one of the top wine producers in the world, there’s plenty of wine to choose from. Drinks done!

Now all you need to do is add the people and you have a tapas party all without heading to Spain. ¡Que aproveche!

Tapas images courtesy The Travelling Bum and heatheronhertravels.

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Delicious Winter Whites: Gourmet Salads & Chic White Platters

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There’s snow on the ground and suddenly I’m feeling drawn to the pure simplicity of white plates and platters.

As far as I’m concerned, there’s no rule that white must be bland. Take this collection of fresh, modern winter white salad recipes by Ignacio Mattos over at Bon Appétit. Seared scallops with avocado and daikon – divine. Grapefruit and white beets – crisply elegant. Barley and cauliflower with burrata – inspired. These combinations are way beyond mashed potatoes or a side of rice.

white platter

We’re often told that color is the surefire indicator for flavor and nutrition, yet these winter white salads prove that white is anything but boring. The photos of these recipes really stand out (go check them out!) because of the food styling on simple, white plates. I could see these salads showcased on round or oval white platters, the hints of color peeking out from underneath fresh citrus and subtle root vegetables.

The best part about both these recipes and white platters? Their simplicity. Just a few ingredients let real depth shine through — the crisp flavors of endive mixed with toasted walnuts — especially when set against a striking shaped backdrop, like a square white plate or rectangular platter.

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Have you ever made a white salad or an entire monochromatic meal? Leave a comment with your favorite pairings and what you think of this white on white theme for your seasonal salad.

white platter with peacock

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Holiday Gift Ideas for Pasta Lovers and Culinary Connoisseurs

Counting down the days until Christmas and still need some gift ideas for pasta lovers on your list? What about your foodie friends? Hard to buy for friends and relations always pose a challenge this time of year, but here are some practical and delicious gifts that are sure to delight those who love to cook (and eat!) on your list.

Here some some Holiday Gift Ideas for Pasta Lovers

Pasta bowls: Ensure that the pasta lovers in your life have pasta bowls that are just as tasty as the sauce and noodle creations they consume. A good pasta bowl should be large enough for a hearty serving of everything from pesto gnocchi to spaghetti bolognaise. Gorky’s pasta bowls are colorful, large (but not overwhelming), and, with an array of bright colors, compliment pasta dishes from all over the world. Pair a set of pasta bowls with a hefty serving bowl for a family gift that’s sure to please. My favorite dish for mixing and serving a large bowl of pasta is Talavera Vazquez’s La Fiesta Bowl.

pasta bowlsPasta makings: Making fresh pasta is actually easier than you might think. Encourage pasta lovers to take their dishes to the next level with the durum and semolina flour that is the base for Italian-style pastas. Orecchiette requires no special equipment and is the base for tasty sauces like this carbonara. If shopping for more adventurous or advanced cooks, go for pasta making machines, specialized cookbooks, or hard-to-find ingredients sourced directly from Italy.

Gifts for Wine Lovers

Wine holders & serving pitchers: Help the wine lover in your life show off the perfect bottle in style with a ceramic wine holder or spacious pitcher. Wine bottle holders make for decorative centerpieces and keep bottles neat; in the hot summers a ceramic wine holder will also keep chilled white wines cool. Ceramic pitchers are another way to casually serve wine and are especially good for reds since having more exposure to the air allows their flavors to deepen. This vino pitcher, a new arrival from Spain, clearly lets people know what’s inside. Pair with a set of vino cups for a wine-inspired gift that’s much more original than another bottle of Pinot Noir.

vino wine pitcher
Wine glass markers:
No one likes mixing up glasses at a party. If your wine lovers like to entertain, the multitude of wine charms, bands, and other glass markers make for fabulous stocking stuffers. Choose markers that somehow fasten to the glass, suction-only markers are more likely to fall off at inopportune moments.

Gifts for Bakers

A specialty class: Many communities have short-term (a couple hours or a weekend) courses on topics like chocolate making, laminated dough (the basis for croissants), French macarons, or breads. Pair the gift of lessons with an appropriate ingredient or tool (quality chocolate, vanilla beans, dough scraper, or a candy thermometer) for a gift that keeps on giving.

baking class
Storage canisters:
If the baker on your list regularly can be found in the kitchen, a stylish canister will brighten the counter and keep essential ingredients at hand. Large or small canisters are perfect for favorite pastas, baking materials like sugar and flour, or even coffee and tea.

canisters from Spain
Need more gift ideas for pasta lovers or others on your list? Check out our holiday gift ideas as well as specialized gift categories for inspiration.

Baking image courtesy star5112.

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Fall French Meals for French Platters

The cooling days of fall mean it’s time to start eating hearty, warm foods. For me, nothing beats country French cooking when it comes to delicious and warming dishes. While many traditional dishes might seem complex at first glance, many of them actually just require time to simmer or stew. Then, volià, complex flavors for dinner with actually little effort on your part.

French cheese platterHere are four of my favorite French dishes for fall, made even better of course when served on French platters!

Crêpes

Is there anything more typically French than a delicious crêpe? Fill them with cheese, spinach, ham, sauce Mornay (béchamel), sautéed vegetables… the combinations are endless. Julia Child’s recipe for crêpes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking remains a classic. Serve folded crêpes on a large French platter either filled or empty with accompanying sides. Need some help making the perfect crêpe? Check out Julia in the two videos below for mastering the batter, flip, and presentation.

Crêpes with jam and whipped cream also make for a quick and delicious dessert.

Cassoulet

French cassoulet

Hearty and filling, cassoulet is a traditional dish of Provence. Beans, sausages, duck or goose confit, and bread crumbs are the base components. Add lots of time to simmer and soon your kitchen is filled with the most amazing fragrance. There are tons of recipes out there, but don’t be frustrated if you don’t have confit laying around your kitchen. You can still create a delicious dish, like these examples from Saveur and the New York Times. Use a covered casserole dish instead of a French platter so your dinner can come directly from oven to table.French casserole dishes

French Onion Soup

Another classic, the trick is to thoroughly brown the onions for the richest flavor possible. Serve your French onion soup in either individual ramekins or a larger casserole dish covered in melted gruyere or comté. A hand-crafted white bowl filled with even more French bread is the perfect pairing for sopping up all that broth.

Pear Clafouti

A delicious dessert with an usual name, clafouti is an easy-to-make dessert that packs a visual punch and tastes just as good. Pears with ginger and dried cranberries are perfect for a fall clafouti instead of the traditional cherries. Try this recipe from the Barefoot Contessa and serve either in a pie plate or pre-cut on a gorgeous French platter.

French platter

What dishes do you serve in fall? Are you a fan of rustic white platters or French platters in rich colors? Have any favorite sources for French recipes? Let us know with a comment below!

yellow French platterCassoulet image courtesy of stu_spivack.

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Entertaining with Originality

Last weekend I went to Portland to visit some good friends who were actually among the first of the couples to register with Emilia Ceramics about 4 years ago. They have a beautiful house full of all sorts of unique touches, including an extensive collection of Emilia Ceramics. Upon entering the house, you’re immediately greeted by 3 such statement pieces: A colorful zigzag ginger jar by Talavera Vazquez, a one-of-a-kind vase by Capelo (stay tuned, I’m about to receive the Capelo pieces I hand-picked while visiting Mexico in June), and a sophisticated planter by Tuscia. Of course I felt right at home in the midst of all this beautiful ceramics… but the best part was seeing how my friends have made these pieces their own by incorporating them into their charming home.

The night I arrived, my friends prepared a beautiful dinner for us, including chips and salsa (served in the las flores serving dish and dip bowl) and a delicious gazpacho, which we ate in blue and white mugs, by Ceramiche Bartoloni.

The relaxed blue and white pattern on these Italian mugs was the perfect compliment for the bright orange soup. The main course was slow-roasted pork tacos, which were absolutely delicious. In fact, they were so good all the guests wanted the recipe. Turns out, it’s from an amazing blog I’ve just now discovered, The Amateur Gourmet. You have got to try these tacos… and I can personally attest to the fact that they look and taste their best when served on Emilia Ceramics!

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Summer Recipes to Fill Your Favorite Bowls

In these carb-conscious times, pasta bowls seem to be a true indulgence. That pile of pasta with a delicious sauce, from a homemade Bolognese to pesto to primavera, is delicious, but perhaps too heavy during the hot summer months. So what do you fill your favorite ceramic pasta bowls with in this season of swimsuit conscious eating?

From salads to ice cream, the fresh produce of summer just begs to fill up even the biggest ceramic pasta bowl. Here are some recipe ideas to get you started celebrating the season, no matter what bowl type or size you have.

Mini bowls. Little bowls are perfect if you’re having a Mexican-inspired feast (now that I’m back from Mexico, I can’t stop eating food that reminds me of the trip).

These bowls hold spices, cheeses, and dips for taco parties or just chips and salsa. I often fill a small bowl with guacamole – fresh lime juice, salt, chopped tomato, avocado, and some spice makes for a simple, pleasing dip that disappears quickly!

StrawberrySmall bowls. These bowls beg to be filled with ice cream sundaes, but if you’re trying to eat a little healthier, then turn to the fruits of summer. (Though check out these ice cream pies if you want to get truly decadent). Something like strawberry shortcake is always a winner, especially if you go heavy on the strawberries. These strawberry and cream biscuits by Smitten Kitchen would fill up a bowl nicely along with whipped cream and maybe even more berries on top.

Pasta bowls. For those who can’t resist the lure of pasta, something unusual like nettles makes for an inspiring summer dish. This recipe by 101 Cookbooks has feta, almonds, and garlic to accompany the green (though kale or spinach would also work) and looks great in a large serving bowl. Green summer salads, full of fresh tomatoes, zucchini, sprouts, and other seasonal delights are a lighter choice for lunchtime that’s also bowl-friendly. And then there’s classic potato salad… or a new twist on it: I love tzatziki, so this potato salad recipe seems perfect to try out at my next cookout.

Have any summer-inspired favorite foods that fill up your bowls? Post your recipes below and enjoy!

Strawberry image courtesy of Manchester-Monkey.

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Favorite Recipes to Fill Ceramic Salad Bowls

I love parties. Throwing them, going to them, it doesn’t matter. A friend’s potluck bash got me thinking recently about all the things I could make to share with a crowd. Making food for parties is totally different than cooking for yourself. For example, I wouldn’t be apt to make a dip to eat myself, but if some guests are coming over, I might make some humus, guacamole, onion dip, or fresh salsa to go along with pita or tortilla chips. I also love the excuse to pull out some Mexican or Italian ceramic chip & dip dishes and class up the entire experience. Dip bowls are just too appealing to pass up!

But what about uses for other Italian serving dishes? A ceramic salad bowl is versatile for lots of dishes from salads to soups to pasta. This tortilla salad recipe from 101 Cookbooks looks delicious and would be great served in a huge ceramic salad bowl. I love salads that use something besides lettuce for the base, whether beans or unusual greens.

Italian serving platters are great for meat dishes, appetizers or even desserts. A juicy roast, delightful canapés, cookies… I’m getting hungry! I find that when you have all these Italian serving dishes around you start looking for more excuses to use them. It makes daily meals just a little more gourmet as a result, just as with any other exciting new kitchen tool.

But back to the potluck dilemma. With all my Italian bowls in the kitchen, I was finally inspired to make a pesto pasta salad. Fresh basil from the farmer’s market really makes it a taste sensation, especially with fresh broccoli and squash. The empty bowl at the end was a testament to the fact that I’d made the right choice. Try my friend Andy’s recipe below and see what you think for yourself. It’s great on pasta both hot and cold; you can use any leftovers to make delicious omelets or jazz up scrambled eggs.

Pesto Recipe

2 cups fresh basil leaves

2 garlic gloves (lightly crushed)

1/2 cup olive oil

2 Tb pine nuts

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2-3 Tb freshly grated pecorino cheese

Blend first 5 ingredients in a blender or food processor. Incorporate cheeses by hand when blended.

I’d love to know what recipes you use to fill your ceramic salad bowls – please post comments with recipes or links to good cooking websites you like!