Planning a perfect Slow + Simple Mother's Day Lunch

image via Once Wed

It's really about simplicity. It shouldn't be lavish or fussy or over the top. A perfect Mother's Day lunch should be easy and relaxed. You may prefer to eat out and not worry about food prep, setting the table and doing the dishes. My children like to prepare lunch - this may be the best reason to keep it simple. Stick to ideas that are easy to make, that require very little prep-work and don't take took much of a mess. After all, a lavish meal made by the kids is wonderful gesture, but when the kitchen looks as though it's been hit by a hurricane, tornado and earthquake and you know that the children's idea of "cleaning up" is vastly different from yours, and because you don't want to spend hours picking up after them, wiping up drips and spills - simplicity is best in this case. Though, in my opinion, I think it's always best. 

Last year the children gave me a wonderful lunch. We decided on a menu together a couple of days before-hand and I went shopping and did the prep work ahead of time with them so that on Mother's Day only minimal assembly was required. We love to graze. We love appetizers and tapas and that's basically what our Mother's Day Lunch was. We feasted out on the screened-in porch in a totally peaceful and relaxed manner. The weather was lovely, warm enough to be outdoors. Our table was set casually, as photographed above. It really was quite perfect, at least as I remember it now, a year later!

There's something about putting food on a large platter that I love. It's easy and it's accessible and it's easier to clean 1 large platter than lots of separate dishes. Remember, we want everything to look lovely, but we want to create as little mess as possible. 

image via Saveur

On our large platter, much like the one above from Saveur, we had olives, cornichons, a selection of salamis, several cheeses, some strawberries and raspberries. We had pesto that we could also dip our bread into, that was left over from a pasta we had had the night before. My children all love to make pesto, it's easy and fast and always tastes delicious. You can find my recipe here. Leftovers are great eaten with a good crusty baguette or added to any sandwich. 

imafge via Jessica Gordon Ryan/The Entertaining House

We had gazpacho with our lunch. There are so many ways to make this wonderfully refreshing and flavorful chilled soup. You really can't go wrong. You can follow this recipe for guidance. If you have a food processor, older children can chop up veggies in large pieces - don't worry about being precise, the food processor will do it's job! Gazpacho, bread and cheese... a perfect and complete meal in itself!

image via Jessica Gordon Ryan/The Entertaining House

You may want to have several small salads with your lunch as well - a tomato salad, green salad, pasta salad and chicken salad. All of these can be prepared a day in advanced. Have several or just one. Whatever's leftover can be gobbled up for lunch the next day!

A Salad Nicoise is also another great idea for a Mother's Day lunch. Again everything can be prepped ahead of time. Again my love for platters comes into play. Instead of a large salad in a large bowl, I find them so much prettier this way. Don't you? It's so much more festive - I love serving salads this way for company.

via Jessica Gordon Ryan/ The Entertaining House

Sun tea is refreshing and fun to make. Kids of all ages will have fun doing this. For recipe and tea ideas click here. I do have a bottle of bubbly chilling in the fridge already :)

via Jessica Gordon Ryan/The Entertaining House

For more ideas click here, Simple Summer Party Food and here, A Perfect Summer Lunch. And my Pinterest board here. And if you're looking for some very simple last minute tokens, read here for some ideas.

Don't these seem like wonderful ideas to start with. Amounts can easily be adjusted to suit any size crowd. Meals like these are our favorites! 

A perfect summer lunch...

Property of Jessica Gordon Ryan and The Entertaining House

I've been talking about gazpacho non-stop, it seems, this summer. I've always loved the soup, but for some reason, this year I simply cannot get enough of it. The other day I was on the beach with a couple of girlfriends and off I went on my gazpacho tangent. We'd all been to the local farms and our counter tops were brimming with bowls of fresh veggies but, what do you do when you simply have too much, or when they're just about to become overripe? I tend to make gazpacho, or ratatouille, or pasta sauce. As we packed up to leave the beach, Sara went home with the sudden urging to make gazpacho. She chose to follow the recipe from the Moosewood Restaurant Cookbook. The next day I was the lucky recipient of her culinary prowess. And dare I say, this very well could be the best gazpacho I have had all summer? So, even though I know I just posted a recipe here the other day, this one is simply too good not to shout it out from the rooftops and share it with the world! And while normally I am a huge fan of deviating from the original recipe to put my own twist on it, this time I am telling you not to. Don't do it! Don't mess with it. Don't mess with perfection!

Following is the Gazpacho recipe from The Moosewood Restaurant Cookbook.
Even though everything is going to go into the food processor, you will still need to chop many of the ingredients beforehand - a little extra work, but so well worth it! 
  • 4 cups cold tomato juice
  • 1 small, well minced onion
  • 2 cups freshly diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup minced green pepper
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 cucumber, diced 2 scallions, chopped
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon and 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon each of dried tarragon and basil (if you have fresh, use 1 tablespoon of each) dash of ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley
  • dash of Tabasco sauce
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil salt & pepper to taste
  • lemon for garnish

Process all the ingredients except for the tomato juice in a food processor and be careful not to over-process. . once the ingredients have been well blended, pour in the tomato juice, mix well, and cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours.
I love to eat this during the week for lunch. So this is not only healthy but super economical. 
Property of Jessica Gordon Ryan and The Entertaining House

Property of Jessica Gordon Ryan and The Entertaining House

Property of Jessica Gordon Ryan and The Entertaining House

I prefer gazpacho most when eaten on its own, as a meal... give me a nice crusty hunk of bread and, today, so tender, fresh mozzarella drizzled with pesto infused oil... Really doesn't get any better than this!
Here's a closeup of the infused oil... 
Property of Jessica Gordon Ryan and The Entertaining House

It's so super easy to make and I keep it on-hand in the fridge and use it with everything.
I simply kept about 2 tbs of pesto that we had used for something else and added olive oil - 1/2 to 1 cup and a few pine nuts, a shake of crushed pepper and a little bit of sea salt. Let the oil marinate in the flavors for a while. When my infused oil gets low I simply add more... refill as needed. If you prefer you can marinate and then strain the oil from the pesto mixture - but we like the bits of pesto. Of course, if you end up scraping out all the pesto we'd never blame you. You'll just have to whip yourself up another batch. Infused olive oils are so tasty and very healthy!

Chilled Gazpacho

Property of The Entertaining House/Jessica Gordon Ryan

It's tomato season in my part of the world - and vines are bursting with all sorts of these fresh and vibrant fruits in almost as many colors as are found in the rainbow. I can't seem to get enough tomatoes these days. I love them in salads and sandwiches, on a fresh baguette and drizzled with olive oil, and even on their own with a good sprinkling of sea salt! In a matter of days my tomato supply has dried up and tomorrow I am off to my local farms to stock up on all the amazing produce that's out there now. When I get tire of eating them alone I whip up a batch of gazpacho. This Andalusian dish is one of my all-time summer favorites and, at any given day, there's always a container of it in my fridge. I've made yellow varieties and green varieties and they are all simply fabulous. What I love most about this cold treat is that it's totally bathing-suit friendly! You can snack on it any time of the day or turn it into a lunch or dinnertime meal with a crusty loaf of bread and a nice thick wedge of Manchego cheese. 

There are so many versions out there and almost all of them are fabulous. This recipe was my grandmother's and is the one I use all of the time. Sometimes I play around with the ingredients based on what I have in my fridge. This recipe can be followed or altered to your preferred tastes.


2 Seedless cucumbers, peeled, cut into large chunks
1 red bell pepper, cut into large chunks
1 orange or yellow pepper, cut into chunks
3 medium to large fresh tomatoes
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 – 1 ½ cup of V-8 juice (Be daring and use Mr. T’s or Stirring’s Bloody Mary Mix for an extra kick!)
¼ cup of red wine vinegar
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional - I love cilantro and sometimes I toss a handful into the blender and a few leaves on top

Place your ingredients, chopped, into the blender or food processor and pulse to the desired consistency. Taste as you go to adjust the seasonings and chill for at least one hour before serving. This is even better the next day... and the day after that, if there's any left!

I had my hand at drawing this morning. It's been decades but I was inspired by the tomatoes that and the soup I've been devouring lately. I need to learn how to use my scanner... this iPhone upload didn't quite cut it!