In my hometown of Santa Barbara we are spoiled with beautiful weather pretty much all year long. With the exception of a few months when the temps fall below or rise about 70℉, most people (including me) really enjoy bringing a picnic to the beach or to one of the many parks.
Looking ahead to long summer days and inspired by my favorite new outdoor cookbook, Feast by Firelight by Emma Frisch, I decided to host last month's Cookbook-Ish gathering outdoors. For those who are hearing about Cookbook-Ish for the first time, it is a passion project and a book club for foodies that I started this year (more here).
A friend and a creative collaborator, Margaret Lloyd of Margaret Joan Florals, hosted our group in her back yard surrounded by huge trees and her perfectly imperfect garden. She also created all the floral and foliage arrangements for the event. And while there was no crackling campfire or marshmallows, the setting truly captured the spirit of the book. The tables and benches provided by All Heart Rentals couldn't have been more perfect. Read below for a favorite recipe from the menu and highlights of this no-fuss outdoor gathering that's full of intention and communal spirit.
All photos are taken by me unless otherwise noted.
Picnics and camping require a lot of packing, which often translates into taking the easy route and bringing disposable plates and napkins. As an alternative I chose all the lightweight, non-breakable and reusable materials I could find. Black and white plaid linen napkins completed the look. An assortment of blankets and throws lined the benches, and some were available to the guests to use in the evening (April is still a bit chilly here).
The Feast by Firelight Menu:
Strawberry Campari Sangria Spritz
Smokey Baba Ghanoush
Pan Con Tomate
Lemon and Parsley Potato Salad with Honey Mustard Dressing
Chile-Lime Festival Corn with Feta Cheese and Cilantro
Raw Kale Caesar Salad
Foil-Packed Salmon with Lemon, Thyme, and Blueberry, and a version with Sunflower Seed and Basil Pesto
Ayla's Lemon-Olive Oil Thumbprints
We enjoyed wine recommendations by Hana-Lee Sedgwick of Wander & Wine: Rosé, Pinot Grigio, California Chardonnay, light Pinot Noir.
One of my all-time favorite foods to eat outside happens to be corn on the cob. I can easily put away two ears in no time. So, it was no surprise that my husband and I chose to make the Chile-Lime Festival Corn with Feta Cheese and Cilantro. And as a staunch "butter-and-salt" only person, I am converted to this magic concoction that's spicy, tangy, and really satisfying. Like many recipes from the cookbook, this one allows for the sauce to be made ahead of time and easily transported to your campsite or the picnic table. Here is the recipe, which I've already made once again.
Chile-Lime Festival Corn with Feta Cheese and Cilantro*
3⁄4 cup finely crumbled feta
1⁄2 cup plain yogurt
1⁄4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
6 ears corn, shucked
Olive oil for drizzling (optional)
1⁄4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
prep: About 5 minutes
cook: About 8 minutes
yield: 6 servings
Finely grate the zest of the lime and set aside. Cut the lime into wedges and juice as many wedges as you need to yield 1 teaspoon lime juice.
In a lidded jar or airtight container, combine the feta, yogurt, mayonnaise, red pepper flakes, lime zest, and lime juice and stir to mix. Seal the jar and then chill for up to 3 days. Pack the remaining lime wedges in a ziplock bag and chill for up to 3 days.
Fire the grill or campfire to medium-high heat and position the grill grate 2 to 4 inches above the coals. Place the ears of corn over direct heat and, using tongs, rotate every 2 to 3 minutes until the ears are uniformly charred and the kernels bright yellow, 10 to 12 minutes. For a darker char, drizzle olive oil over the corn so it drips onto thecoals and the flames jump up to lick the corn.
Transfer the corn to a serving plate or baking sheet. Shake the feta mixture to reincorporate and then spread evenly over each ear of corn and sprinkle with the cilantro.
*(Recipe reprinted with permission from Feast by Firelight, text copyright © 2008 by Emma Frisch. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.)
The meal was a combination of family style and buffet, with some menu items grilled on the spot and others made at home and brought to the gathering.
When the sun set, the guests were enjoying the cookies, coffee, conversation, and a combination of candle light, moon light and solar light. A friend and I joked that the #feastbyfirelight turned into the #feastbysolarlight with the LED lanterns from Solight that she discovered at the Santa Barbara Earth Day festival the weekend prior to our dinner.
As a party favor, everyone took home a smudgestick of fresh sage, lavender, and reship berries, made by Margaret. Once dried, it can be burned at home to release the fragrant scent that would hopefully remind us of our time together. Let the feast by firelight continue!
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