Setting the Season

By Elizabeth Winslow
Photography by Jody Horton

According to artistic master Leonardo da Vinci, simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. Simple food is indeed an art—calling for pristine local ingredients at the peak of ripe perfection. The best cooks know not to overwork them, but to simply highlight the quality and flavor already present. Such artfully simple food calls for an equally uncomplicated and elegant setting—one that enhances rather that overwhelms what’s on the plate. And just as you comb the farmers market for the best of the local harvest, also visit thrift stores and consignment shops with an eye for hidden gems.

Vintage finds integrate well with newly acquired collections for timeless appeal. Classic pieces that echo the seasons, loose and lovely floral arrangements and a spot of whimsy are all that are needed to create the perfect backdrop for rustic, farm-fresh dinners.


SPRING SETTINGS (above): Arrangement of ranunculus, iris, sweet pea and dusty miller (Loretta Flower); Chilewich flax/white reversible napkin, Saro linen tablecloth, Jars Tourron jade dinner plate, Jars Vuelta white pearl salad plate (Breed & Co.); vintage brass and wood silverware (St. David’s Next-To-New Shop); Vintage bird salt and pepper shakers, Japanese bottle opener (Spartan).

Serves 6

2–4 T. butter (or ghee)
2 bunches spinach (or substitute chard or kale) washed, dried
   and torn into large pieces
8 oz. paneer, cut into ½-in. cubes
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-in. piece of ginger, finely grated
2–3 fresh hot chilies, minced, or 2 dried hot chilies, crumbled
4 t. turmeric
¼ c. cream
¼ c. thick Greek yogurt (preferably whole milk or 2 percent)
Salt to taste

In a large skillet with high sides, heat the butter over high heat and quickly sauté the spinach just until it starts to wilt (do this in batches if necessary). Remove to a plate and set aside. Turn the heat down to medium-high, and heat more butter in the same skillet. Add the paneer, sprinkle with salt and fry until browned on one side. Toss and sauté for a few moments longer, then remove to a bowl and set aside. Add a little more butter to the skillet and add the onion, garlic, ginger and chilies. Sauté until the onions begin to turn translucent. Add the turmeric and sauté 1 to 2 minutes longer. Stir the cream into the onion mixture, then add the yogurt and cook until the mixture comes together and is heated through. Return the spinach (leaving accumulated liquid behind) and paneer to the skillet and toss until incorporated with sauce. Taste and correct seasoning with salt. Serve with grilled naan or hot basmati rice.



SUMMER SETTINGS: Arrangement of echinacea, nigella, lupine and dusty miller (Loretta Flower); Vietri Incanto Scallop dinner plate, Vietri Incanto Mare Aqua salad plate, Saro linen napkin, Simon Pearce Woodbury knife, fork and spoon (Breed & Co.); Japanese bottle opener, Jen Pearson Matchstick bottle (Spartan).


Serves 6–8

¹/³ c. freshly squeezed lime juice
3 T. fish sauce
2 T. sriracha, or to taste
1 T. sugar
2 T. tamari
3 T. toasted sesame oil

1 package buckwheat soba noodles, cooked al dente, drained and rinsed
½ pound green beans, trimmed, cut into 1-in. lengths and blanched
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into ½-in. pieces
1 c. cherry tomatoes, halved
1–2 spring onions, cut into paper-thin slices
1 c. cooked chicken or tofu, cut into ½-inch pieces
Small handful cilantro leaves
¹/³ c. coarsely chopped roasted peanuts

For the dressing: place the lime juice, fish sauce, sriracha, sugar and tamari in a small bowl. Whisk in the sesame oil until well blended. Place all the other salad ingredients together in a large bowl—reserving a small amount of peanuts and cilantro for garnish. Add the dressing, toss well, garnish and serve.



FALL SETTINGS: Arrangement of roses, silver brunia, chocolate cosmos and seeded eucalyptus (Loretta Flower); Arte Italica salad plate, Vietri Crema dinner plate, Fresco Fabrics napkin, Saro linen tablecloth, Jan Barboglio flower napkin ring (Breed & Co.); Vintage silverware (St. David’s Next-To-New Shop); Spanish wine glass (Spartan).



Serves 6

1 T. neutral-flavored oil, such as peanut or grape seed
3 T. red curry paste
2 cans coconut milk, unshaken
1 butternut squash or small pumpkin, peeled and cut into cubes
2–3 green tomatoes, cut into large cubes
3 T. fish sauce, or to taste
Pinch sugar
Juice of 1 lime
Handful of fresh cilantro
1 package flat rice noodles, soaked in warm water until al dente
   and drained
Limes for serving

Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the curry paste and fry briefly, until fragrant. Open the cans of coconut milk without shaking them. There will be a layer of thicker coconut cream on top and more watery coconut juice on the bottom. Scoop the coconut cream off the top and add to the pot. Continue to fry over medium-high heat for 1 to 2 minutes—whisking to combine. Add the remaining coconut milk to the pot and heat to a simmer. Add the squash and green tomatoes. Simmer until the squash is tender. Balance the flavors with fish sauce, sugar and lime juice to taste. Coarsely chop half the cilantro and add to the curry. Place the rice noodles in serving bowls and ladle the hot curry over the top. Serve with handfuls of fresh cilantro on top and extra lime wedges for squeezing at the table.



WINTER SETTINGS: Arrangement of anemone, juniper, tallow berry and ming fern (Loretta Flower); Simon Pearce Woodbury knife, fork and spoon, Match Convivio dinner plate, Vietri Rosso Vecchio salad plate, Fresco Fabrics napkin, Saro linen tablecloth, Jan Barboglio bird napkin ring (Breed & Co.); salt and pepper cellars, Spanish wine glass (Spartan).




Serves 4–6

¼ c. currants
½ loaf ciabatta
¼ c. pine nuts
1 head large cauliflower
2 T. olive oil (plus more, up to ½ c.)
2 anchovy fillets, chopped to a paste
2 cloves garlic, sliced paper thin
Pinch red pepper flakes
4 T. white balsamic vinegar
½ c. Italian parsley leaves
¼ c. balsamic vinegar

Cover the currants with boiling water and set aside. Tear the bread into bite-size pieces and set aside. Toast the pine nuts at 350° until golden and set aside. Cut the cauliflower into florets, blanch them briefly in boiling water then drain, plunge into ice water and dry thoroughly. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet. Sear the cauliflower over moderately high heat until blackened in spots but still crunchy. Pour into a large bowl. Heat more oil in the skillet and sauté the bread until golden and crunchy. Add to the bowl with the cauliflower. Add a little more oil to the pan and sauté the anchovy paste and garlic until the garlic just begins to turn golden. Scrape the skillet contents into a small bowl and add the red pepper flakes and white balsamic. While whisking, slowly drizzle in the ½ cup of olive oil, until the mixture is emulsified. Drain the currants and add to the cauliflower and croutons along with the pine nuts and parsley. Toss with the vinaigrette.

Pour the balsamic into a small skillet and reduce over medium heat and reduce to 2 tablespoons. Place the salad on a serving platter and drizzle with the balsamic syrup.


Breed & Co.
718 W. 29th St.
3663 Bee Cave Rd.

Loretta Flower

Next-to-New Shop
5435 Burnet Rd.

215 S. Lamar, Ste. D