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Great Gatherings: Summer Dinner

Celebrate the joys of June with a colorful table and a light and lively meal

Written by Rebecca Christian
  • Luca Travato

    Recipes for this story
    Hibiscus and Goji Berry Iced Tea
    Chipotle Cheese Puffs
    Chilled Tomato, Basil, and Bread Soup
    Grilled Hazelnut Salmon with Watercress, Snow Pea, and Beet Salad
    Triple Cherry Trifle

    Red and green may be synonymous with Christmas, but when you use cherry red and apple green—accented by a white as bright as Tom Sawyer’s legendary picket fence—the result is the epitome of summer joie de vivre. “When paired with vivid color, bright white becomes the ultimate summery accent,” explains Traditional Home’s senior style editor Krissa Rossbund of the scheme she created for this alfresco dinner for weekend houseguests at the Malibu home of designer Erika Brunson.

    A pro at mixing flea-market finds with fine tableware, Krissa created a tablescape that is casually luxurious, using crystal glasses and sterling flatware with mother-of-pearl handles. Yet it’s also reminiscent of lazy, hazy summer days spent picnicking (napkins in an oversized check), antiquing (the hobnail milk glass your grandmother collected), gardening (fragrant mini-pots of herbs at each guest’s plate) and boating (rope trim on the cushions that make patio chairs comfortable enough to linger in until the fireflies come out).  

    Jewel-toned fruit set out as a warm-weather appetizer confirms that life is a bowl of cherries while rattan lanterns flicker, introducing a rougher texture to the polished tabletop. The menu is as light and refreshing as a summer shower, featuring chilled tomato-basil soup, grilled salmon, and a cherry trifle.

  • Luca Travato

    A light and breezy printed linen tablecloth in “Tilia Apple” softly enhances the table set for guests on a covered patio at the home of designer Erika Brunson. Napkins are made of “Melbury Ginko” and “Elmore Rocoto” cotton, underscoring the gingham check elements that distinguish the table setting. All fabrics are by Romo through Thomas Lavin (310/278-2456).

    Recipes begin here. 

  • Luca Travato

    Old Meets New
    Red “Color Concept” glass buffet plates and “Anmut My Colour” bone china dinner plates, both from Villeroy & Boch, take a vintage spin when paired with “Lace Edge” milk glass salad plates and mother-of-pearl flatware from Replacements.

    Recipes begin here. 

  • Luca Travato

    Got Milk Glass?
    Reminiscent of summer days gone by, vintage milk glass from Replacements, including Westmoreland “Grape Panel” iced tea glasses and Fenton hobnail tumblers, brightens the clear “Miss Desiree” crystal champagne flutes from Villeroy & Boch.

    Recipes begin here. 

  • Luca Travato

    Tulip Treasures
    Back-friendly pillows in Romo’s “Tulipa Coral” cotton fabric amp up the color factor on existing bright apple-green cushions with rope trim. The cushions soften the white metal furniture from Erika Brunson Couture Living that is accented with gold-finish

    Recipes begin here. 

  • Luca Travato

    Check and Check Again
    Gingham checks are back. Here they suggest the homespun look of a picnic on pretty, fanciful placecards. It’s just one of those personalized touches that help make an occasion more memorable.

    Recipes begin here. 

  • Luca Travato

    Berry Delicious
    Welcome guests with summer’s bounty by offering jars of fresh preserves as a gift to take home with them. Create custom labels for each jar, then tie with a coordinating ribbon for a signature look.

    Recipes begin here. 

  • Luca Travato

    Menu & Shopping List

    Outdoor dining menus suggest freshness and immediacy in our cooking—simple methods such as grilling, an exotically flavored iced tea to cool us down, and the sweet-tart lusciousness of just-picked cherries.

    Extended summer sunlight creates early evening ambience while these “Careen” rattan-and-bamboo lanterns from Crate & Barrel provide an after-hours glow as the night deepens.


    Hibiscus and Goji Berry Iced Tea 
    Chipotle Cheese Puffs 
    Chilled Tomato, Basil, and Bread Soup 
    Grilled Hazelnut Salmon with Watercress, Snow Pea, and Beet Salad 
    Triple Cherry Trifle


    Check your pantry for these necessary items before shopping:

    • Cinnamon sticks (need 2)
    • Vanilla (need 1-1/2 teaspoons)
    • Eggs (need 4)
    • Flour (need 2 tablespoons)
    • Sugar (need 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon)
    • Kosher salt (need 3 teaspoons plus additional for blanching)
    • Milk, half and half, or light cream (need 2 cups)
    • Extra-virgin olive oil (need 1/4 cup)

    Specialty grocery store

    • 1 (8-ounce) package goji berries
    • 1 (24.7-ounce) container agave nectar (need 3 tablespoons)
    • White balsamic vinegar (need 1/3 cup)
    • Hazelnut oil (need about 1/3 cup)


    • 1 orange
    • 1 lemon
    • About 1 pound sweet cherries (enough for 2 cups, halved and pitted)
    • 2 pounds ripe tomatoes
    • 8 ounces golden or red baby beets
    • 6 ounces snow peas (enough for 1-1/2 cups)
    • 1 head garlic (need 1 clove)
    • 2 bunches watercress (need 2-1/2 cups)
    • 1 bunch chives (need 3 tablespoons)
    • 1 bunch fresh mint
    • 1 large bunch fresh basil


    • Cherry preserves (need 1/4 cup)
    • Sherry vinegar (need 2 teaspoons)

    Bakery aisle

    • Chipotle chili powder (need 3/4 teaspoon)
    • 1 (2-ounce) package hazelnuts (need 1/3 cup ground)
    • 1 (2-ounce) package sliced almonds (need 2 tablespoons)

    Cheese counter

    • 1 (8-ounce) package shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (need 1 cup)
    • 1 (8-ounce) package shredded Parmesan cheese (need 1/2 cup)

    Dairy aisle

    • 1 (half-pint) container whipping cream

    Fozen foods aisle

    • 1 (17.5-ounce) package frozen puff pastry
    • 1 (10.75-ounce) frozen pound cake

    Fish counter

    • 4 (6-ounce) skinless salmon fillets


    • 1 loaf French bread, baguette style


    • Cherry liqueur (need 3 tablespoons; can substitute unsweetened cherry or orange juice)
  • Luca Travato

    Hibiscus and Goji Berry Iced Tea
    • 2 quarts water
    • 1/4 cup dried goji berries*
    • 1/4 cup dried hibiscus flowers (not in syrup) *
    • 3 tablespoons agave nectar or honey
    • 2 cinnamon sticks
    • Ice cubes
    • 1 orange, cut into 8 wedges
    • 1 lemon, cut into 8 wedges

    In large saucepan, bring water to boil; remove from heat. Add goji berries, hibiscus flowers, agave nectar, and cinnamon sticks. Let steep 25 minutes. Whisk 30 seconds; squeeze juice from orange and lemon wedges into mixture and mix again. Strain into ice-filled glasses; add 1 orange wedge and 1 lemon wedge to each glass. Store leftovers in refrigerator up to 24 hours. Makes 8 servings.

    *Find dried goji berries at a specialty grocery store or order online at

    *Find dried hibiscus flowers at health food stores, specialty grocery stores or order online at

  • Luca Travato

    Chipotle Cheese Puffs

    • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
    • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
    • 3/4 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
    • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed (from a 17.5-ounce package)
    • 1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water

    Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat large baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. In small bowl, mix together cheeses and chili powder. Set aside.

    Place pastry sheet on lightly floured work surface. Roll out to 12x10-inch rectangle. Lightly brush with some of the egg wash. Starting at short end, sprinkle 3/4 cup of cheese mixture over half of pastry. Fold other half over cheese like a book. Gently press down over cheese. Place pastry on small baking sheet; refrigerate 15 minutes.

    Place pastry on cutting board; trim sides evenly. Cut into approximately 50 (1-inch) squares. Lightly brush tops with remaining egg wash; sprinkle on remaining cheese. Gently press cheese down so it adheres to pastry. Bake 13 to 15 minutes, until golden. Serve immediately. Makes about 50 appetizers.

  • Luca Travato

    Chilled Tomato, Basil, and Bread Soup

    Bread helps thicken this lovely summer soup. Blanching the basil before pureeing helps preserve its color.
    • 1/2 pound day-old French bread, crust removed, crumb cut into 1/4-inch cubes (3 cups)
    • Kosher salt
    • 1 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves, plus additional for garnish
    • 2 pounds ripe tomatoes, cored and chopped (5 cups)
    • 1 large garlic clove, roughly chopped
    • 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
    • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

    Position rack in center of oven. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spread bread cubes on rimmed baking sheet; toast in oven until lightly golden and crisp, about 15 minutes.

    Bring medium pot of well-salted water to boil over high heat. Add basil; cook until wilted, about 30 seconds. Drain; run under cold water. Pat leaves dry with paper towels. Roughly chop leaves.

    In blender, puree basil, tomatoes, garlic, and 2 cups ice-cold water for about 45 seconds. Strain through fine sieve to remove solids; return puree to blender.

    Add bread, vinegar, and 2 teaspoons salt; blend until pureed, about 2 minutes. Soup should be very smooth; if not, continue blending. Add olive oil; process a few more seconds to combine. Divide among 6 bowls; garnish with basil sprigs or refrigerate until ready to use.

    Make Ahead Tip: Soup can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

  • Luca Travato

    Grilled Hazelnut Salmon with Watercress, Snow Pea, and Beet Salad

    • 8 ounces golden or red baby beets, trimmed, scrubbed or peeled and quartered
    • 6 ounces snow peas, trimmed (about 1-1/2 cups)
    • 4 (6-ounce) skinless salmon fillets, about 1 inch thick
    • 1 tablespoon hazelnut oil
    • 1/3 cup finely ground hazelnuts*
    • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1/3 cup white balsamic vinegar
    • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1/4 cup hazelnut oil
    • 2-1/2 cups watercress
    • 3 tablespoons finely chopped chives

    Cook beets in boiling lightly salted water 15 to 20 minutes or until tender; drain. Set aside. Meanwhile, place steamer basket in large saucepan; bring 1-inch water to boil. Add pea pods. Cover; steam 2 to 3 minutes or until just tender. Rinse with cold water; drain. Set aside.

    Brush one side of salmon with 1 tablespoon hazelnut oil. In 9-inch pie plate combine ground hazelnuts, flour, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Dip brushed side of salmon in nut mixture to coat.

    For charcoal grill, arrange heated coals around drip pan; test for medium heat above drip pan. Place fish, coated side up, on greased grill rack over drip pan. Cover; grill 14 to 18 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with fork. (For gas grill, preheat grill.
    Reduce heat to medium and adjust for indirect cooking. Place salmon on grill rack not directly over heat. Cover; grill as above.) (Or place fish, coated side up, in shallow baking pan. Bake, uncovered, in 450°F oven 8 to 12 minutes or until fish flakes.)

    Meanwhile, in small bowl combine white balsamic vinegar and ½ teaspoon kosher salt; whisk in 1/4 cup hazelnut oil. Remove 1/4 cup dressing; set aside. In large bowl toss watercress, chives, pea pods and beets with remaining dressing. Divide among 4 serving plates. Add salmon fillet, coated side up, to each plate. Drizzle salmon with reserved dressing. Makes 4 servings.
    *To grind hazelnuts, place hazelnuts in grinder and pulse until finely ground. To skin whole hazelnuts, lightly toast hazelnuts until fragrant; wrap hazelnuts in clean dishtowel and roll with palm of hand until skins are removed.

  • Luca Travato

    Triple Cherry Trifle

    Red and yellow sweet cherries star in this dessert favorite, layered with custard, almonds, and pound cake and topped with billowy whipped cream.

    • 3 beaten eggs
    • 2 cups milk, half-and-half, or light cream
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • 1 (10.75-ounce) frozen pound cake, thawed
    • 1/4 cup cherry preserves
    • 3 tablespoons cherry liqueur or unsweetened cherry or orange juice
    • 2 cups halved and pitted fresh dark and/or light sweet cherries
    • 2 tablespoons toasted sliced almonds
    • 1/2 cup whipping cream
    • 1 tablespoon sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
    • Fresh mint (optional)

    For custard, in heavy medium saucepan combine eggs, milk or cream, and 1/4 cup sugar. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture just coats metal spoon. Remove from heat. Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla. Quickly cool by placing saucepan in sink or bowl of ice water for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Cover surface with clear plastic wrap; chill in refrigerator 2 hours.

    Cut cake into 1/2-inch cubes (you should have about 5 cups).

    In 8 dessert dishes or 1-1/2-quart bowl layer half the preserves, cake, and liqueur or juice. Dot with remaining preserves. Top with half the cherries, almonds, and custard. Repeat layers without preserves. Cover; chill in refrigerator 3 to 24 hours. Chill medium mixing bowl and beaters of electric mixer.

    Before serving, in chilled bowl combine whipping cream, 1 tablespoon sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla; beat with electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form. Top trifle with whipped cream. If desired, garnish with mint. Makes 8 servings.

    Make Ahead Tip:
    Prepare and layer trifle as above. Cover; chill in refrigerator up to 24 hours. Just before serving, prepare whipped cream and spread atop trifle.