As someone who reads cookbooks like novels, I’ve got to admit that many of them start to sound extremely similar… I mean, I love beet salads as much as the next girl, but give me something new! So when I picked up Jane Coxwell’s new Fresh Happy Tasty, brimming with fresh ideas and new-to-me cooking tips, it instantly became one of my favorites of 2013. Jane is Diane von Furstenberg’s personal chef (yes, really!) and has sailed to the far corners of the globe on DVF’s legendary yacht, Eos. Her world travels have obviously deeply inspired her cooking, and she translates them simply for the home cook in the 100 healthy, bursting-with-flavor recipes in her book. Since I feel a bit like I’ve found my foodie soulmate, I’ve been dying to get a glimpse into how Jane entertains in her NYC apartment… and the results were every bit as laid-back, fun and delicious as I’d hoped. Click through for all the gorgeous photos by Brooke Fitts of Brookelyn Photography.
The entertaining rule I rarely break:
Keep it simple! I want people to have a good time and be happy, but that kind of relies on me having a good time too. Otherwise, people definitely pick up on stress and it’s contagious. So I try not to overcomplicate anything. My guests aren’t there to be impressed by complicated food, the food is just an added bonus. Whats important is simplicity and good times.
Always in my refrigerator:
Fresh Herbs and Lemons!
The taste I’m always craving:
Cheese! Cheese really makes most things better. I can never really have enough. I do try and be a little disciplined about it… Balance is good. But seriously though– Cheese with fresh bread, cheese on pizza, cheese in a bright salad, cheese with charcuterie, and so on, and so on.
Current favorite color palette for summer fêtes:
I do love color, but I try and keep things white and then use color as an accent. Nothing is as fresh and clean looking as white. White linens, white plates, but I know that can look a little sterile, so it needs the help of some great color. Flowers always have the ability to add wonderfully bright, happy colors, but still keep that natural, fresh look.
My standard host / hostess outfit:
I definitely only ever wear clothes that make me feel comfortable, and so this stays true for entertaining. Generally I do all my cooking in a James Perse T-shirt and a pair of jeans. Those t-shirts are my favorite. So soft. I have so, so many in all colors. Kind of feels like a day to day cooking uniform. I don’t ever expect my guests to dress up, so I don’t either.
Sumac is one of my favorite spices. It’s zingy and fresh, and it’s really what makes this salad special. It’s definitely worth going to the effort to get, and it’s becoming more readily available in supermarkets—it’s lovely in other salad dressings or simply sprinkled on fresh tomatoes, so you’ll definitely find other uses for it.
This North African salad is incredibly tasty, simple, and summery.
My signature entertaining dish:
Hmm, tough one. I just really don’t have one. It depends on the occasion, what’s available and what I feel like making.
Although there is recipe in my book that I use a lot when entertaining just because it’s so easy and it’s a crowd pleaser– it’s basically just bakery/ store bought bread stuffed with anything you feel like stuffing it with, covered in foil, and popped in the oven for about 15- minutes.
My entertaining style in 5 words or less:
Fresh. Happy. Tasty.
What (if anything) scares you about entertaining?
I wouldn’t say this is a fear, but I guess my guests being unhappy is a bad result.
My must-have entertaining tool:
What first popped into my mind was: Wine!
Alternatively, I’d say lovely big platters to serve food on. They keep things unfussy but make most things look beautiful and effortless. It’s also a great way to let your guests help themselves and be involved, that way they get exactly what they want, and can go back for more without having to ask. Large platters in the middle of the table create a relaxed feel.
Click here for the recipe for Jane’s Watermelon Rosewater & Pomegranate summer cocktail
The restaurant meal I’ll never forget:
When I was in Vanuatu in the South Pacific, I was served a whole bat, which is a local delicacy there, but it was tough to eat– I had so many local people, including the chef, watching me. The don’t clean it either… just the whole bat. So that was unforgettable, but maybe not in the best way…
The first time I ate at the French Laundry in California was unforgettable too. The friend that took me had the most incredible wine knowledge, so I really felt like I was getting the very best of the whole experience. Plus I got to take a walk around the kitchen.That place is truly amazing.
You know what would be the awesome? The cast of Arrested Development, in character. But actually what I’d really love is to have my best, best friends from all over the world around one table. That would be a total dream.
The perfect dinner party playlist includes:
For this particular occasion: an outside, in the sun type of meal, I’m going to keep it upbeat and fun– There’ll definitely be some Fleetwood Mac. The Black Keys are always great, old Michael Jackson (the Off The Wall Album is a go to), Cake, Amy Winehouse, Stevie Wonder (Hotter than July is a great summer album), Lauren Hill’s ‘Miseducation of Lauren Hill’ is also awesome.
Sometimes I get so excited about music that I want to play it all at once.