A Very Cherry Birthday Party

By Libbie Summers
Assisted by Candace Brower and Anthony Lunsmann
Photography by Cedric Smith

When one of the coolest chicks in the land (I’m talking about you Autumn Van Gunten) is turning 40 and her even cooler boyfriend (Yep, that’s you Cedric Smith) asks you to cater a little surprise dinner party for her and her closest friends, you scream HELL YES!

Inspired by the juicy ruby colored fruit of the season, I used cherries to inform the table and the menu spectacle for this very special event.

The result, like Autumn, a total cherry bomb!!!

The menu on a chalkboard made of a vintage vanity mirror
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Greens, roses, fresh cherries and vintage milk glass ran down the middle of the farm tables as a centerpiece. 
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The birthday girl, Autumn, in blue and feeling happy surrounded by her dearest friends including her best friend who flew in from Ohio for the surprise! 
Me…explaining the menu and looking tired! 🙂 
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First Course (sat on the table for guests to pour themselves):
Southern Peanut Soup 

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Second Course:
Salad of Pea Shoots, Avocado and Watermelon

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Tablescape Ingredients: Fresh rosemary, eucalyptus, fresh cherries, pink roses, garden greens, vintage glassware, mix of flatware, torn french fabric napkins, mix and match plates, vintage milk glass, glass cloches and burlap. 
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Main Course:
Slow Roasted Pork Tenderloin, Fried Potatoes, Cherry Salsa, Handmade Charred Tortillas
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Happy 40th Birthday Autumn!

Wild Arugula Salad with Garlic Croutons, Shaved Parmesan, and Caramelized Lemon

by Libbie Summers
Photography by Chia Chong for Savannah Magazine
Hosted at Grove Point Plantation
Assisted by David Dempsey, Candace Brower, Anthony Lunnsman

I could just eat a bowl of the croutons with dressing, but adding greens makes me feel better about myself. My go to summer salad.

Wild Arugula Salad with Garlic Croutons, Shaved Parmesan, and Caramelized Lemon
Serves 6

Ingredients:
1 large piece of ciabatta with crust
1 large garlic clove, peeled
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons olive oil
Flake sea salt
Coarsely ground black pepper
1 lemon
6 ounces arugula (preferably wild, about 10 cups packed)
3 ounces aged Parmesan cheese, shaved into strips with vegetable peeler

 

Make Croutons:
Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with foil. Rub crust of bread with garlic clove and tear bread into medium-sized chunks. Place bread on baking sheet and toss with 1/4 cup olive oil and a heavy sprinkle of salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer and bake until golden and crisp (about 10 minutes). Cool and set aside.

Caramelize Lemon:
Cut lemon in half and place flesh side down in a skillet over high heat. Cook until caramelized on the bottom.

Make Salad:
In a large mixing bowl, add arugula. Toss with juice from lemon and 3 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add 1/2 of the croutons and 1/2 of the Parmesan cheese and toss.

To Serve:
Transfer the salad to individual bowls or a serving bowl and add remaining Parmesan cheese and croutons over top.

Strawberries, Spring, Dinner Party, Flowers, Libbie Summers, A Food-Inspired Life

Sweet Pea Soup

by Libbie Summers
Photography by Chia Chong for Savannah Magazine
Hosted at Grove Point Plantation
Assisted by David Dempsey, Candace Brower, Anthony Lunnsman
Benefiting The Fresh Air Home

When the spring peas make an appearance, my go to dish to make is this soup. Really, there is no soup easier, more beautiful and more delicious. The strawberry garnish is everything!

Sweet Pea Soup
Serves 6

What you need:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 leeks (white and light green parts), roughly chopped
1 sweet yellow onion, roughly chopped
4 cups chicken stock
2 (10-ounce) packages frozen peas
2 tablespoons honey
1/3 cup chopped fresh mint leaves, loosely packed
Flake sea salt
Coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
Pea shoots for garnish (optional)
Sliced strawberries for garnish (optional)
Chopped chives for garnish (optional)

What to do:
In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, add butter, leeks and onion. Cook, stirring, until onions are translucent and leeks are tender (about 5-10 minutes). Add the chicken stock, increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Add the peas and honey, then cook for 3 minutes, until the peas are tender. Remove from heat and add the mint. Salt and pepper to taste.

Working in batches, place 1 cup of the soup in a blender, place the lid on top and puree on low speed. With the blender still running, open the vent hole in the lid and slowly add more soup until the blender is three-quarters full. Pour the soup into a large bowl and repeat until all the soup is pureed.

Just before serving, warm soup over low heat and stir in yogurt. Spoon the soup into bowls and garnish with pea shoots, sliced strawberries and chopped chives.

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Grove Point dinner by Libbie Summers, Spring, Strawberries

Before and After: Lotus Root and Chips

By Libbie Summers
Photography by Chia Chong

The beauty of the lotus root.
Peel, slice, fry, salt, repeat.

Lotus root…before. 
Lotus Root, Food Styling, Food Photography, Libbie Summers
Lotus root…after.
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Spiced Lotus Root Chips
(try with any of the finishing salt recipes below) 

What you need:
1 lotus root, peeled using a vegetable peeler
juice from one lemon
canola oil for frying
Dry Herb Finishing Salt (recipe to follow)
Chai Spiced Finishing Salt (recipe to follow)
Sweet Onion Finishing Salt (recipe to follow)
Coriander and Pepper Finishing Salt (recipe to follow)

What to do:
Line a baking sheet with paper towels and set aside.

Squeeze lemon into a medium mixing bowl filled halfway with water. Set aside.

Slice lotus root into 1/8-inch thick slices (we used a mandoline). Place in the lemon water while your oil is heating up.

Heat oil in a wok or heavy pan until it is hot, but not smoking (approximately 300 degrees F.) Working in batches, pat dry lotus root slices before lowering into the hot oil. Fry lotus root slices until golden brown, turning as needed. Remove with a spyder or slotted spoon to the paper-towel lined baking sheet and immediately sprinkle with a Finishing Salt. Allow to cool before storing in an airtight container.

Dry Herb Finishing Salt
In a small bowl, stir together 1 tablespoon dried oregano, 1 tablespoon dried dill, 1 tablespoon dried parsley flake and 1 teaspoon flaked or kosher salt.

Chai Spiced Finishing Salt
In a small bowl, stir together 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon turbinado sugar and 1 teaspoon flaked or kosher salt.

Sweet Onion Finishing Salt
In a small bowl, stir together 1 tablespoon dehydrated onion, 1 teaspoon turbinado sugar and 1 teaspoon flaked or kosher salt.

Coriander and Pepper Finishing Salt
In a small bowl, stir together 1 teaspoon ground coriander, 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper and 1/2 teaspoon flaked or kosher salt.

Before and After: Spring Onions and Waffles

Recipe and Styling by Libbie Summers
Photography by Chia Chong

Spring Onions…before.
Garden Vegetables, Spring Onions, Onions, Food Photography, Food Styling, Libbie Summers, Chia Chong

Spring Onions…after. 
Breakfast recipes, Waffle Recipes, Savory Waffles, Libbie Summers, Chia Chong,
Savory Spring Onion and Pancetta Waffles
(maple butter, sea salt)
makes 5/serves 4 for breakfast or dinner/serves 20 for an appetizer

Ingredients:
1 packet active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
½ teaspoon sugar
3 cups All-Purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 ¼ cups milk
½ cup melted butter
3 eggs, separated
4 ounces diced and cooked pancetta
3 spring onions diced, green and white parts
Maple Butter (recipe to follow)
Sea salt for sprinkling

Directions:
In a small mixing bowl or glass measuring cup, dissolve the yeast in the water. Stir in sugar and allow mixture to sit until it begins to bloom (foam). In a large mixing bowl, stir the flour with the salt and pepper. Whisk in the yeast mixture, milk, butter and egg yolks until smooth.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold them into the batter and let stand for 20 minutes. Just before cooking, fold in the pancetta and spring onions.

Preheat the oven to 200ºF

Prepare a waffle iron by spraying with non-stick cooking spray and heat. Pour 1 1/4 cups of the batter into the iron and cook until the waffles are golden, 6 minutes. Transfer the waffles to the oven to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining batter. Serve with a dollop of Maple Butter on top and sprinkle with sea salt.

Maple Butter
yields about 1 cup

1 cup Irish butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons good maple syrup

Directions:
In a small mixing bowl, stir all ingredients together. Serve with warm Savory Spring Onion and Pancetta Waffles.