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Mother's Day Luncheon
Words of wisdom inspire a celebration with young and old
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Recipes for this Story
Roasted Asparagus Soup
Frozen Chocolate Nougat Mousse
Although sentimental heirlooms like wedding china or a piece of jewelry handed down from mothers and grandmothers are treasured, it's those practical pieces of motherly advice that are the most useful: Don't slouch. Always write a thank-you note. Never chew gum in public. Remember who you are. Never be too proud to pick up a penny. The best way to make a friend is to be one. I'll always love you the most. So for a Mother's Day luncheon, party planners Catherine Bailly Dunne and Tanis McGregor of Door Couture let those words of wisdom inspire a celebration where guests span generations, from toddlers to grandmothers.
"A mother's advice is special because you don't realize how poignant it is until later in life when you've had your own experiences and discover that you are repeating your mother's or grandmother's words," says Catherine.
To establish a visual theme for an elegant event, elaborate calligraphy and monogramming dress up the invitations, the decoration hung on the door to welcome guests, and the place cards carefully set around the table.
The table achieves an ultrafeminine look courtesy of the green, blue, and coral pink vine-and-bow motif of the dinner plates paired with the lacy blue pattern of the service plates. Gold accents on both plates complement the gold-leaf screen in the corner of the room. A variety of embellishments distinguishes a trio of mismatched crystal glasses: One stem is cut crystal, one is elegantly etched, and one is classically unadorned. In addition to visual interest, the stemware offers a solution to the problem of broken sets--making the different patterns seem a choice, not a necessity. Table linens are restrained in color but not style. White hemstitched linen place mats quietly anchor the dinnerware ensemble, while hand-crocheted pearl trim bejewels plain linen napkins.
The center of the table amplifies the beauty of the settings, with matching floral arrangements that mix fresh white flowers with white porcelain objects from the homeowners' collection.
To top off a meal of Salade Niçoise, a pink Depression-glass cake stand elevates a tower of pink and green macaroons to special-occasion-dessert status. Keepsake boxes, wrapped in white paper and festooned with oversize bows of dupioni silk ribbon in alternating coral pink and celery green, cradle more macaroons, to be taken home and enjoyed later.
Further sweetening the occasion, and keeping the mood of the formal luncheon light, each guest gets a card reading, "My mother always told me" with a blank space where she can add her own pearl of wisdom.
The conversation-starter brings a bit of fun, but it also reminds young guests about the importance of family--and a shared history. As Tanis says, "Those pieces of advice that are handed down transcend generations because they are usually universal truths."
Photography: Mark Edward Harris
"Festivite" porcelain dinner plate by Raynaud through Devine Corp. (devinecorp.net).
"Blue Lace" service plate from Mottahedeh (mottahedeh.com).
"Obsession" linen napkin with pearl trim from Nuko Creations (732/542-0200).
Catherine Bailly Dunne and Tanis McGregor share some pearls of wisdom for a successful luncheon.
1. Ribbon rules.
Add ribbon when you can. It's inexpensive and offers many color and texture choices.
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2. Bring out the past.
Mismatched teacups generate conversation about travels and flea-market finds.
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3. Name it.
Personalized place cards make guests feel special. Brass place-card holders by Jenny Kompolt through Maison au Naturel (310/657-1002). Calligraphy and monogram artwork from Allison R. Banks Designs (allisonrbanksdesigns.com).
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Menu & Shopping List
Elegant calligraphy of "Pearls of Wisdom" (the theme of this Mother's Day luncheon) slips into a crafts-store frame adorned with a bow of Midori Ribbon (midoriribbon.com).
We’ve organized a grocery list to make shopping for Catherine Dunne and Tanis McGregor’s Mother’s Day brunch easier for you. Package sizes are included so you have enough for duplicated recipe ingredients.
Check your pantry for these necessary items before shopping:
- Salt and/or kosher salt
- Ground black pepper
- Olive oil (need about 2/3 cup total)
- Sugar (need about 1 1/8 cup total)
- Whole cloves
- Honey (need 1/2 cup)
- Vanilla extract
- 4 (6-ounce containers) fresh raspberries (3 cups)
- 1 lemon
- 2 bunches green onions
- 2 pounds fresh asparagus
- 1 large onion
- 1 large or 2 small shallots (need 1/4 cup finely chopped)
- 1 pound tiny new potatoes
- 3/4 pound fresh green beans
- 4 small or 3 medium heads Bibb or Boston lettuce (12 cups)
- 1 bunch radishes (need 1-1/2 cup sliced)
- Lemon juice
- Sherry vinegar
- Dijon-style mustard
- Anchovy fillets
- 1 (8-ounce) jar pitted niçoise or kalamata olives (need 1 cup)
- 1 (32-ounce) container low-sodium chicken broth
- Cinnamon sticks
- 2 (4-ounce) bars 69 to 73-percent-cocoa chocolate or bittersweet chocolate (need 4 1/2 to 5 ounces)
- 4 ounces Italian nougat candy or almond toffee pieces (1/2 cup)
- Unflavored gelatin
- 8 (4- to 5-ounce) fresh or frozen ahi tuna steaks
- 2 half-pints whipping cream (need 1-2/3 cup)
- 1 pint half-and-half (need 1 cup or 1/2 pint)
- 1/2 dozen large eggs (need 5)
- 1 pint milk (need 1/3 cup)
- 1 (750 ml.) bottle dry Champagne or sparkling wine
The raspberry syrup can be made up to 3 days in advance. For a children's version of this drink, substitute lemon lime soda or ginger ale for the champagne.
3 cups fresh raspberries
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
4 inches stick cinnamon, broken
5 whole cloves
1 tablespoon snipped fresh sage or 1 teaspoon dried sage, crushed
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 cups ice cubes
1 750-ml bottle champagne or non-alcoholic champagne, chilled
Fresh sage sprig (optional)
Reserve 1/3 cup of raspberries for garnish; set remainder aside. With a vegetable peeler, remove strips of peel from lemon. In medium saucepan, combine sugar, water, lemon peel, stick cinnamon, whole cloves, and the 1 tablespoon sage. Bring to boiling, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add raspberries. Return just to boiling, stirring with long-handled wooden spoon; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, 5 minutes.
Remove from heat. Cool to room temperature, about 1 hour. Stir in honey and lemon juice. Press mixture through a sieve; discard solids. Cover; chill syrup until ready to use, at least 1 hour or up to 3 days.
To serve, in small punch bowl combine raspberry syrup and ice cubes. Slowly add champagne. Stir gently. Ladle into glasses. Garnish with the reserved raspberries and with sage sprigs. Makes 8 servings.
Roasted Asparagus Soup
Roasted green onions give this soup smoky depth.
2 bunches green onions
2 pounds asparagus, trimmed and cut in 2- to 3-inch pieces
1 large onion, cut into thin wedges
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 32-ounce container reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup half-and-half, light cream, or milk
2 tablespoons snipped fresh dill
Fresh dill sprigs (optional)
Preheat oven to 450° F. Trim root ends from green onions. Cut white parts into 1-inch lengths. Cut green tops into 1-inch lengths and reserve. Place white parts, asparagus, and onion wedges in even layer in shallow large roasting pan. Drizzle vegetables with olive oil. Roast, uncovered, 15 to 20 minutes or until vegetables are charred and tender.
Place half of the roasted vegetables in food processor or blender. Add 1 cup of broth. Cover; process or blend until smooth. Transfer to large saucepan. Repeat with remaining vegetables and 1 cup broth. Stir in remaining broth, salt, and pepper. Heat through. Stir in half-and-half and snipped fresh dill.
To serve, ladle soup into bowls. Top with reserved green sections of onion and dill sprigs. Makes 8 servings.
8 4- to 5-ounce fresh or frozen ahi or sushi-grade tuna steaks, cut 1 inch thick
1/3 cup sherry vinegar
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 anchovy fillets, rinsed and mashed
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound tiny new potatoes, quartered
12 ounces green beans
12 cups Bibb or Boston lettuce leaves
1 cup thinly sliced radishes
1 cup niçoise olives or kalamata olives, pitted
Thaw fish, if frozen. Rinse fish; pat dry. For dressing, in small bowl combine vinegar and shallots. Whisk in mustard. Add 1/4 cup oil in thin, steady stream, whisking constantly. Stir in anchovy; season to taste with salt and ground black pepper. Remove 2 tablespoons of dressing for brushing fish; set aside remaining dressing until ready to serve.
Brush tuna steaks on both sides with reserved 2 tablespoons dressing. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of the tuna steaks. Cook for 2 minutes; turn. Cook 2 minutes more or until tuna just flakes but is still pink in center.* Repeat with remaining oil and tuna.
Meanwhile, in large saucepan cook potatoes in boiling water for 7 minutes. Add green beans; cook for 2 minutes more or until potatoes are tender. Drain; cool slightly.
To serve, slice tuna steaks into thin slices. Arrange tuna, potatoes, green beans, lettuce leaves, radishes, and olives on dinner plates. Pass remaining dressing. Makes 8 servings.
*For medium doneness, cook tuna 4 minutes per side.
Frozen Chocolate Nougat Mousse
Nougat, a crispy white confection, can be found in Italian and other European import stores as well as the candy section of some supermarkets. Wrapping the soufflé cups with a collar helps the mousse stand tall.
5 ounces 69- to 73-percent-cocoa chocolate or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
5 egg yolks, lightly beaten
2/3 cup sugar
1-2/3 cups whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chopped Italian nougat candy or almond toffee pieces
Place eight 3-ounce small cups or soufflé dishes on tray. To prepare collars, cut eight 12x6-inch pieces of foil. Fold lengthwise into thirds to form 12x2-inch strips. Wrap each collar tightly around cups or dishes with one edge extending 1 inch above top of cups. Secure with tape. Place cups in freezer to chill (about 2 hours).
Meanwhile, place finely chopped chocolate in large mixing bowl; set aside. In medium saucepan, combine milk and gelatin. Let stand 5 minutes. Add egg yolks, sugar, and 2/3 cup of the whipping cream. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture coats metal spoon (160°F), about 5 minutes.
Pour mixture over chopped chocolate in bowl. Let stand 5 minutes. Gently stir to combine. Stir in vanilla. Place in freezer; chill 30 minutes or until mixture thickens and cools, stirring after 15 minutes.
Beat cooled chocolate mixture with electric mixer on high speed about 3 minutes or until light and fluffy. In medium mixing bowl, beat remaining 1 cup cream until soft peaks form. Gently fold whipped cream and nougat candy into chocolate mixture. Divide chocolate mixture evenly among chilled cups, filling to 1/2 to 1 inch over top of each dish if collar is present. Cover; freeze for 3 to 24 hours or until firm.
To serve, remove tape and gently peel away collars. Let stand 10 to 15 minutes at room temperature before serving. Makes 8 servings.