My friend Erin throws incredible parties. She seems to do it with ease. She always looks calm and breezy, wearing some kind of lovely flowing dress and appearing as though the whole lovely scene came together with a snap of her fingers. She’s fantastically creative, too. The first party of hers that I attended, she’d strung kumquats on baker’s twine to make necklaces for guests. The second, I found myself helping skewer fresh figs onto sprigs of rosemary to cook on the grill. Beautiful little signs identify the appetizers, and there’s always has a fun cocktail at hand. It doesn’t hurt, either, that she lives in an adorable apartment in the woods, with a patio that overlooks a forest full of stately redwoods.
It’s easy for me to think, I could never be so creative! And also, my floor is dirty! But as I flipped through Erin’s new cookbook, I realized something. Though her imaginative spirit is, indeed, a force to be reckoned with, her great parties are more than anything the result of exceptional hospitality. She’s one of the special ones, quick to open her home and heart. Her husband, Jonathan, is the same way (they’re quite the team). And so, they entertain. They do it because they love to, because they want to open their home, gather with friends, share what they have and create a space where people are nourished with food and laughter and cocktails and kindness. To do that, they’ve made this a simpler, less daunting affair than we typically think it to be.
Erin’s book is a map for the rest of us. A salad doesn’t need a million components, but if you slice those avocados in rounds (by magic, you might think—buy the book for that trick!) and match them with circles of fresh oranges, everyone will be in awe. The book is filled with interesting combinations and pretty preparations and colorful arrangements. It’s not a cookbook explicitly for entertaining but rather one that encourages us to eat joyfully every day, whether alone, with a few others or with a crowd.
I knew that Erin and Jonathan had a similar journey to ours—the whole getting married then moving across the country all in one summer thing—and that it had taken her time to find her rhythm in a new place. But reading the intro to this cookbook, I found that our experiences were even more similar than I thought. We both worried about what we’d left behind and felt lost as we tried to figure things out, at home alone during the first weeks and months after we’d arrived.
This cookbook is a testament to so many things—to the fact that feeding people doesn’t have to be hard, to the goodness of food simply prepared, to the truth that we all do, in fact, find our way in time.
And, it comes out tomorrow, so hurry and get your copy! It will be well loved on your coffee table and in your kitchen alike.
Cheers to you, Erin! This book is marvelous, and I know you’ve got much more up your sleeve. I’m so grateful for your creativity, hospitality and friendship—they make this world a more lovely place in which to live.
Strawberry & Cucumber Ribbon Salad
Adapted from Erin Gleeson’s The Forest Feast
If you remember anything about last summer, you will recall how much I enjoy shredding cucumbers and zucchini into ribbons and strips for salad. It’s fun, unexpected and delicious. And as for this preparation, who would have guessed how wonderfully cucumber and strawberries pair? Erin, of course! Thank goodness for her. I love this salad exactly as she made it, but I might add an extra couple of snow peas next time—the crunch is fantastic. A handful of mint, parsley or cilantro would be a welcome addition as well. Note: These pictures show just half of the salad as it is written below.
Make ribbons from 2 large cucumbers using a peeler. Stop when you start skimming the seeds. (I like to chop up those cucumber cores and add them to yogurt with salt, pepper, garlic and lemon for a lovely dip.)
1 cup (170 g) sliced strawberries
1/2 cup (60 g) crumbled goat cheese
3/4 cup (75 g) sliced snow peas (slice on the bias)
1/2 cup (50 g) sliced toasted almonds
Dress with olive oil and lemon juice. Salt and pepper to taste.