Event planner Rachel Hollis throws an herb-themed garden party
Recipes for this story
Classic Champagne Cocktail 
Rosemary Gougères with Fig Jam 
Rosemary Skewered Shrimp 
Pear, Pancetta, and Feta Salad with Pomegranate Molasses Dressing 
Rosemary Trout with Heirloom Tomatoes and Rosemary-Scented Couscous 
Ricotta Cheesecake with Blackberry Balsamic Rosemary Sauce 
Event planner Rachel Hollis didn't have to look far to find inspiration for a patio garden party. In fact, she didn't have to look at all. When she happened to whiff some aromatic rosemary bushes, she was inspired to throw a party based on the storied herb.
Photography: Colleen Duffley
Cups and saucers painted in a lavender-and-white pattern stand out on the glass of the console table.
The gold trim on the dishes adds a regal touch of formality to the outdoor scheme.
Antique flatware with mother-of-pearl handles flank gold-trimmed lavender porcelain. An assemblage of randomly-placed clear tealight holders imbue elegance to the outdoor setting.
The crushed silk napkins in lavender and the varying shades of purple that adorn the table emphasize the layers that make up the lusciously appointed scheme.
Place cards corresponding with the menu design are pitched like little tents over beds of green moss.
A gold leaf, porcelain-lidded bowl is a simple accent to the gold-rimmed table and glassware, and adds organic sculpture to the table.
Brass easels elevate menus made from white card stock adorned with a custom drawing of rosemary.
Guests are gifted party favors featuring rosemary, the dinner's star ingredient, fresh from the owner's garden.
The luscious greens of the centerpiece provided a beautiful complement to the purples of the tablescape. Made of succulents, purple artichokes, and a variety of herbs, the centerpiece was stunning without competing with the aromas of the meal.
Champagne is delightful in flutes with gold rims. A sprig of rosemary is an aptly added garnish.
The pierced white garden furniture was charged with strong color, using linens in a profusion of deliberately unmatched purples. The tablecloth was fashioned from a lightweight aubergine-colored fabric while the place mats were an orchid-colored dupioni silk.
The result was an elegant evening filled with delicious food in a setting of bold colors.
Classic Champagne Cocktail
In a flute, soak a sugar cube in 3-4 dashes of Angostura bitters. Add one jigger Cognac; stir once. Slowly fill glass with Champagne. Add lemon peel.
Rosemary Gougères with Fig Jam
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1 cup water
- 2 teaspoons coarse gray sea salt, such as Celtic or Sel Gris
- 1/8 teaspoon sugar
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 4 eggs
- 4 ounces Gruyère cheese, shredded (1 cup)
- Dash ground white pepper
- Finely shredded Gruyère cheese (optional topping)
- 1 (10- 12-ounce) jar fig jam
Preheat oven to 425°F. In large saucepan combine butter, water, salt and sugar. Bring to simmer over medium heat. Add rosemary sprigs; simmer 1 minute. Turn off heat; steep 20 minutes. Remove sprigs. Reheat liquid to boil. Meanwhile, finely chop softened rosemary leaves--you should have 1 teaspoon; set chopped leaves aside. Reduce heat to medium-high. Add flour all at once while stirring with large wooden spoon. Continue to stir mixture until mixture forms ball.
Remove mixture from heat. Transfer to stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Beat mixture on low speed 30 seconds to release heat. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Once eggs are incorporated, add 1 cup cheese, chopped rosemary leaves, and white pepper, beating just until combined (about 15 seconds). On Silpat- or foil-lined baking sheet, use 1/2 inch open round tip or star-tipped pastry bag to pipe small mounds of dough about 1 inch apart. Top each mound with finely shredded cheese. Bake 20 minutes or until just golden brown. To serve, arrange gougères on platter, and serve warm with fig jam. Makes about 60 gougères.
Rosemary Skewered Shrimp
- 12 fresh or frozen jumbo or colossal shrimp
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 12 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 1 lemon, sliced
Thaw shrimp, if frozen. Preheat oven to 350°F. Peel and devein shrimp, leaving tails intact, if desired. Rinse shrimp under cold water (so as not to precook them). Dry shrimp on paper towels; place shrimp on 15x10x1-inch baking sheet.
Drizzle shrimp with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Thread 2 shrimp each on 6 rosemary sprigs, stem side first. Arrange shrimp evenly on baking sheet, allowing at least 2 inches between each skewer. (Spacing helps shrimp roast rather than steam.) Roast 10 minutes or until opaque. Let cool slightly. Remove shrimp from skewers. Garnish with lemon slices and remaining rosemary sprigs. Makes 6 appetizer servings.
The rosemary-skewered shrimp may be grilled on greased rack of covered grill directly over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes or until opaque, turning once halfway through grilling time.
Pear, Pancetta, and Feta Salad with Pomegranate Molasses Dressing
Use a mandoline to slice the pear lengthwise. You'll find this tool useful for other fast, decorative slicing: almost-sheer cucumber slices, tiny shreds of carrot, paper-thin radishes, and potatoes thin enough for really crispy chips. OXO's mandoline slicer is our choice for home use (mandoline slicer, oxo.com  or 800/545-4411, $70.) Find pomegranate molasses in the Indian foods section of a specialty grocer.
- 6 slices pancetta (about 4 ounces)
- 1 to 2 ripe Bosc pears
- Lemon juice
- 1 small red onion
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
- Kosher salt and pepper to taste
- 6 cups torn mixed greens
- 6 tablespoons French or Greek feta, divided
Preheat oven to 350°F. Place pancetta slices on baking sheet lined with aluminum foil lightly coated with cooking spray; manipulate slices into tight circles. Bake about 15 minutes, or until desired doneness. Set aside; cool.
Using mandoline set at 1/4-inch thickness or less, slice pear lengthwise. Select 6 largest, most appealing slices. (Reserve remaining slices for another use). Brush lemon juice over pear slices. Rinse mandoline and adjust blade (if desired). Thinly slice half the onion. (Reserve other half for another use.)
In medium bowl, whisk together oil and molasses; season with salt and pepper to taste. To serve, toss greens with dressing. Divide evenly between plates. Top greens with onion, pear slice, pancetta, and 1 tablespoon feta. Makes 6 servings.
Rosemary Trout with Heirloom Tomatoes and Rosemary-Scented Couscous
Order the trout from the fish counter at a specialty grocery store. Have the fishmonger dress and fillet the trout for you. If you prefer, have him remove the head and tail.
- 6 (10-ounce) whole dressed and boned trout
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper
- 14 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 1 lemon
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons Jerez sherry vinegar
- 1 to 2 pints baby heirloom tomatoes, halved
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 (10-ounce) package couscous
- 2 cups chicken broth
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheet with foil; set aside.
Sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper. Place 2 rosemary springs on each trout. Squeeze lemon over trout and rosemary sprigs; fold trout over to close. Brush fish with olive oil. Place trout on prepared baking sheet; bake 10 to 15 minutes or until fish flakes with fork.
Meanwhile, in medium bowl lightly whisk together 1/4 cup olive oil and sherry vinegar. Add tomatoes; toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.
For couscous, prepare according to package directions, substituting chicken broth for water and adding remaining 2 sprigs rosemary to cooking liquid. Before serving, remove rosemary sprigs.
To serve, divide couscous among six dinner plates. Place one trout on top of each bed of couscous. Top trout with tomato mixture. Makes 6 servings.
Ricotta Cheesecake with Blackberry Balsamic Rosemary Sauce
Plan ahead: You'll need to chill the baked cheesecakes overnight. This recipe was photographed in a 3x2-inch pan; any of the sizes listed below will work, but the cheesecake will look slightly different.
- 2 (15-ounce) containers whole milk ricotta cheese, drained
- 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese
- 2 eggs
- 6 tablespoons fine dry bread crumbs
- 3 tablespoons butter, softened
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons finely shredded orange peel
- 1 tablespoon orange juice
- 2 teaspoons orange extract (or orange liqueur)
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- Blackberry Balsamic Rosemary Sauce (recipe follows)
- 1 pint fresh blackberries and fresh rosemary sprigs for garnish
Let ricotta, cream cheese, and eggs stand at room temperature 30 minutes. In food processor, process bread crumbs until very fine. Set baking rack in lower third of oven; preheat oven to 325°F. Wrap outside of six 4-1/2x1-1/2 inch or 4x2 inch or 3x2 inch individual springform pans with heavy duty aluminum foil to create watertight seal. Grease bottoms and insides of pans with butter. In small bowl combine 3 tablespoons processed breadcrumbs and 3 tablespoons sugar. Place mixture in pans; coat as if dusting pans with flour. Tap out any excess.
To remaining crumbs in processor add ricotta, cream cheese, and 3/4 cup sugar; process just until smooth, scraping down sides as necessary. Add eggs, one at a time, processing just until combined. Scrape down sides; add peel, juice, extract, and salt. Cover; process just until combined. Divide batter evenly among prepared pans.
Place prepared cheesecake pans in roasting pan. Place roasting pan on oven rack. Pour enough boiling water into pan to reach halfway up sides of individual cheesecake pans, being careful not to get water into batter or above foil lining. Bake 40 to 50 minutes or until lightly browned and just set. Remove pans from water bath to cooling rack; let cool 30 minutes. Chill, uncovered, 2 hours. Cover; chill overnight.
To assemble, wrap pans with warm towel several seconds to release cheesecake from sides of pan. Carefully remove cheesecake from pan. Using thin metal spatula, remove cheesecake from the pan bottom; transfer to plate. Top with Blackberry Balsamic Rosemary Sauce. Garnish with fresh blackberries and rosemary sprigs. Makes 6 individual cheesecakes.
Blackberry Balsamic Rosemary Sauce:
In medium saucepan combine 1 (16- to 18-ounce) jar seedless blackberry preserves or jam, 2 tablespoons water, and 1 tablespoon good quality balsamic vinegar. Bring to simmer over medium heat; add 1 sprig fresh rosemary. Simmer, uncovered, 3 minutes (simmer longer for thick glaze-sauce). Remove from heat. Remove rosemary; let sauce cool 1 hour. Cover; chill until ready to use or up to 3 days. Stir before using. Makes 1-3/4 cups sauce.