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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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Customer Spotlight: Your Favorite Uses for Serving Trays

I know my favorite ways to use Italian blue and white ceramics (like a blue and white mug for my morning coffee), but it’s always great to hear from customers about ways they use ceramics in their daily lives. Recently people have let me know about the ways they entertain with their favorite pieces, from square serving trays to blue and white ceramic bowls, so I wanted to share some of their stories with you.

At the Brown house, family dinner often involves a mix of ceramics. They mix and match serving trays from Gorky Gonzalez for mains and sides (and dinner in this photo certainly looks delicious!). The rounded shape of this rectangular serving platter makes it perfect for vegetables or desserts alike while the sloped sides of the oval serving dish keep sauces nicely contained for your main course. Even with different designs, the blue and white ties these serving trays together for a stylish meal everyday.

“Sometimes bigger really is better,” Michael wrote about his fish platter by Richard Esteban. He went on to say that this oval serving tray “is great for summer salads when I have people over for a barbeque.” I think this salad looks super delicious with the one-of-a-kind decoration around the edge. Other large trays, like this unusually shaped mustard yellow serving tray by Poterie Ravel, are ideal for handling the fixings for burgers, tacos, or other customizable meals.

On Facebook, Sarah told her secret for throwing a great party: “a beautiful Italian platter with yummy cheese and crackers.” This technique works well for a wine and cheese party, casual get together, or special occasion like a birthday, anniversary or engagement celebration. Square serving trays by Ceramiche Bartoloni with their cheerful lemons or Italian blue and white ceramics decorated with fruit motifs are great ways to use Sarah’s tip. Compliment your cheese and crackers with Italian blue and white ceramic bowls like this one with cheerful lemons.

Many thanks to all of you who have written in about how you use your ceramics and posted pictures on Facebook. Want to share your favorite uses for rectangular serving platters, Italian blue and white ceramics, or salad bowls? Simply leave a comment below!

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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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A Plate for Every Occasion

I love a good-looking table, whether it’s for a champagne brunch or an intimate dinner. Besides serving dishes, plates are the big stars when it comes to making a table with personality. Easily overlooked, these dining essentials can be a simple way to inject some excitement into your meal. Let’s look at the different types of plates and the roles they play when it comes to making a dining experience that everyone will remember.

Serving plates

Often the biggest plates, a serving plate handles main dishes and sides with ease. Your roast or pasta primavera never looked so tasty. Serving dishes are also a party essential for finger foods and desserts. A sideboard with cheeses, bread, canapés, and other nibbles makes even the most causal gathering feel just a little more festive.

Dinner plates

These are the workhorses of the plate world. Dinner plates aren’t just for dinner, of course, appearing at most meals (though I stick to a bowl for my morning cereal). Mixing dinner plate patterns can be a fun way to make your table a little more unique. Kids especially like plates with pictures or different designs (though these plates can still have a grown-up feel). Whether you choose solid colors or patterns, use dinner plates as the core building block for your table design.

Salad plates

Slightly smaller than dinner plates, salad plates are a great way to keep courses separate. Whether you eat your salad before the meal or after (like they do in Europe), this plate is the perfect size for greens. If using salad plates for a starter, stacking them on dinner plates makes for a colorful table.

Dessert plates

The smallest plate in the set, dessert plates are sized to make your sweets look the perfect size.

I also use dessert plates as bread plates at a more formal dinner party or for toast in the morning. Fun motifs make dessert plates just a little sweeter, giving the perfect finishing note to the meal.

Wall plates

Any plate can be a wall plate, though often they have intricate designs or pictures. Unusual shapes (like this Limoni rounded square plate) also make for great display plates. Hanging or mounting plates can be a fun way to decorate a kitchen or dining room, making your favorite plates part of your daily life. Wall plates also make great gifts for any occasion (and serve a dual purpose as tableware and art – how’s that for smart giving?).

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Countdown to Holiday Parties with Mexican Ceramics

Can you believe it’s already December? After the shopping frenzy of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, now we hit the fun part of this time of year: holiday entertaining. Cocktail parties, sit-down dinners, and cookie swaps vie for the round of work and family parties, leaving us ready to put our feet up come January.

Here, we’ve put together some original ideas to help you entertain with style. Plus, we have suggestions for memorable host gifts to bring to events outside your home. Here’s a countdown of Mexican ceramics with flair – they’re perfect for holiday entertaining, whether an intimate dinner or blow out bash.

5. Platters. Start off a party right with delicious appetizers arranged on ceramic serving platters. Having food stations spread throughout your home keeps the party from clumping around a central food table and makes food easier to replenish when items get low. Use a rectangular serving tray to keep two-part foods (like spreads and dips) together visually and physically. Large serving platters are great for a spread of meats and cheeses next to fresh bread. Try a rectangular serving tray for vegetable crudities or to showcase sweet treats at meal’s end.

4. Mugs. Warm drinks need the proper equipment, so have festive Mexican ceramic mugs on hand. They’re both functional and aesthetically pleasing. Whether it’s a gran taza filled with hot chocolate as you prepare the night’s meal or mugs filled with spiked coffee after dinner, a mix of mugs means your guests won’t get confused as to whose drink is whose. Mugs also make a great host gift since everyone can find a use for them, no matter their hot drink of choice.

3. Serving dishes. If you’ve been slaving over a gorgeous roast, show it off with the proper ceramic serving dish. An oval serving dish is perfect for meats and the handles make it easy to get it to the table. Ceramic serving platters and dishes are also perfect for centerpieces; this Vazquez serving dish looks fabulous on the table, whether filled with fruit or left empty.

2. Ceramic salad bowls. You need something cool and crisp to compliment a hearty meal, so fill ceramic salad bowls with a mix of greens that goes with everything. A substantial salad bowl can double as the perfect place for chips before dinner or cookies afterwards.

I love this ceramic salad bowl with barely visible handles that make it easy to pass. Because it’s so versatile, this is another Mexican ceramic piece that’s great for gift giving.

1. Trivets. Protect your surfaces in style with colorful Mexican ceramic trivets. These spice up an empty table even before the meal begins; you can mix and match the variety of colors for holiday cheer. Small and portable, these trivets have quickly become a favorite small gift for anyone who loves Mexican ceramics, entertaining, or cooking.

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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!

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6 Unique Uses for Your Gorgeous Ceramic Bowls

How do you make delicious food even more appealing? Serve it in something gorgeous. Unique dishware, like a handmade blue and white bowl or serving platter, adds flair to any table. Whether it’s a family dinner, cocktail party or casual barbecue… any get-together is made more festive when decorative details are included – how do you think Martha Stewart built her empire?

When it comes to serving and eating from ceramics, I am especially drawn to unique bowls. Maybe it’s the round shape, so lovingly thrown by hand on a potter’s wheel. Or maybe its the various uses for bowls, which differ from one culture to the next. Mexican ceramic bowls, French coffee bowls, Italian pasta bowls, really bowls of all shapes, sizes, and origins cry out to be brought home and enjoyed. And because I believe it is important to really use these beautiful vessels, here are some creative ways to get the most of your ceramic bowl collection.

  • Drinks. French coffee bowls are an obvious choice for a large café crème or a chocolat chaud. Nothing beats dipping a fresh croissant into your favorite warm beverage of choice. Then again, I know kids who love having their chocolate milk served in a bowl – it always seems bigger that way.

  • Fruit. I love the complimentary beauty of citrus fruit displayed in blue and white bowls. Whether its a rustic blue bowl from the south of France or a blue and white floral pattern from Mexico, ceramic bowls are perfect for highlighting the natural beauty of oranges, lemons, and limes.
  • Jewelry. Use mini bowls to keep rings, earrings, or even necklaces. One of my customers told me she uses Mexican ceramic bowls like these by Gorky for her cocktail ring collection.
  • Snacks. If healthy food is readily accessible, you’re more likely to eat it. So why not load up Italian bowls with fresh fruits or nuts for an afternoon pick-me-up? A series of small Mexican ceramic bowls can also be great for serving dips for crunchy vegetables or a trio of salsas for your taco dinner.

  • Salad. A large green or fruit salad really comes to life when you serve it out of a big and beautiful Italian bowl. Traditional pasta dishes are also an obvious way to get the most of a large ceramic bowl. 
  • Dessert. While some may actually use their French coffee bowls for coffee, I am much more apt to use them for ice cream sundaes. Whether Greek yogurt with honey, nuts, and fresh figs, or piping hot cobbler à la mode, an assortment of ceramic bowls compliment a delicious finish to any meal.

Coffee bowl image courtesy of St0rmz.