If you were to build The Chalkboard dream home, inspired by our ethos and aesthetic, you’d have something quite similar to top designer Jenni Kayne’s lovely, natural-as-can-be home here in LA. Full of natural light, natural materials and – on this particular afternoon, natural beauties – a gathering at Jenni’s is one we love to share with our readers.
For this December gathering, Jenni invited top style guide Nathan Turner, with his famed eponymous shop, to co-host this lunch for a few local ladies. From his reliably gorgeous Melrose showroom, Turner plays guide to a bevy of stylish designers, homemakers, and top-of-the-line editors, who rely on him to source the latest styles for spaces of all kinds.
Nathan and Jenni draped the table in seasonal plaid linens and lined the center of the table with found antlers from Nathan’s shop. The table was set with a dreamy combination of new and vintage Heath Ceramics, antique flatware from Anthropologie and cozy place-settings with glass ornaments and handwritten menus by Amy Blessing. To crown the table properly, Bloom & Plume arranged peonies, garden roses, eucalyptus, and hops in bark and cork containers from Nathan Turner Shop among the foraged antlers.
Joining these all-star hosts for lunch, our favorite at-home chef to find in the kitchen, Pamela Salzman, cooked with seasonal organic produce from Downtown LA’s Summerland Produce Co. Pamela created all the gorgeous healthy dishes for the gathering, including hen of the woods toast, whole branzino and more recipes than we could fit in this space (check out Jenni’s rip+tan for the complete menu!)
One thing Pamela excels at is making this kind of extravagant cooking completely accessible (see our video cooking series with Pamela here for more proof). Here are a few of her key tips to demystify this sophisticated holiday layout…
Peeling pomegranates: Poms are filled with antioxidants and vitamins. My favorite way to take the seeds out is to open the pomegranate and submerge it under water so you can push the seeds off the membrane and the peel without bursting them and getting your clothes stained.
Maitake must-have: Also known as Hen of the Woods, miatake mushrooms host an array of health benefits, including boosting the immune system and regulating blood sugar. If you absolutely can’t find, use oyster or chanterelle mushrooms instead.
roast roots: The important thing to remember when roasting any vegetable is to keep the pieces as uniform as possible. Roast in one layer to help everything cook and brown evenly.
dish on fish: It may seem intimidating to cook a whole fish, but it’s actually pretty easy! Start with a really fresh fish. Look for clear eyes and moist, shiny, not slimy, flesh. Ask your fishmonger to scale, gut and clean your fish for you. Roasting a fish whole, with the skin and bones, keeps the fish moist and flavorful.
Hen-of-the-Woods Mushroom Toasts
3 large slices of crusty peasant bread
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for brushing bread
1 garlic clove, whole, plus 2 cloves, minced
10 oz hen-of-the-woods mushrooms (also known as maitake), chopped
1⁄2 tsp sea salt
1⁄2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1⁄4 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock, preferably homemade
6 Tbsp crème fraiche
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
truffle oil, for garnish
fresh chives, chopped, for garnish (optional)
Preheat a grill over medium heat.
Brush both sides of bread with olive oil. Grill bread on both sides until toasted and slightly charred. Thinly slice the end off of the whole garlic clove and rub one side of each piece of bread with the cut side of the garlic. Cut the bread in half crosswise and arrange on a platter.
In a large sauté pan, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add minced garlic and sauté for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add mushrooms, salt and pepper and sauté until softened.
Add wine and cook until liquid is almost completely absorbed.
Stir in chicken stock and cook until reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Whisk in crème fraiche and butter and cook until slightly thickened, but still saucy.
Pour mushroom mixture over toasts. Drizzle with truffle oil, and if desired, sprinkle with fresh chives. Serve immediately.
ROASTED FINGERLING POTATOES WITH GREMOLATA
1 Tbsp grated lemon zest (about 2 lemons)
1 tsp grated orange zest (about half an orange)
1/3 cup fresh parsley leaves and tender stems, finely chopped
2 heaping Tbsp fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
1 large clove of garlic, minced or grated
a pinch of red pepper flakes
2 lbs small fingerling potatoes, washed, dried and halved (leave whole if they are only an inch or so long)
3 Tbsp unrefined olive oil, divided
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper.
Make the gremolata: In a small bowl mix together the zests, herbs, garlic and red pepper flakes. Set aside.
Place the halved potatoes on the prepared baking sheet and toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Spread the potatoes in an even layer and sprinkle with ¾ teaspoon of sea salt and black pepper to taste. Place in the oven for 35 minutes.
After 35 minutes, remove the potatoes from the oven and add another tablespoon of olive oil and half the gremolata. Toss until well combined. Place back in the oven for another 10 minutes.
Remove from the oven and transfer to a serving bowl. Toss with the remaining gremolata and taste for seasoning. Sprinkle with an extra pinch of salt and pepper, if desired.
WHOLE ROASTED BRANZINO (SEA BASS)
6 whole sea bass or striped bass (1 – 1/4 lb each), scaled and gutted
2 lemons, sliced into thin rounds
6 sprigs of parsley or fennel fronds, plus extra fennel fronds for the pan
unrefined cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Season the cavity of the fish with sea salt. Fill each cavity with some parsley or fennel fronds and 2 slices of lemon.
Arrange some fennel fronds on a parchment-lined baking sheet and place the fish on top of the fronds. Drizzle the fish with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.
Roast the fish for no more than 20 minutes.
To filet the fish, use two large spoons and start by removing the head and the tail. They should come off easily. Remove lemon and parsley from the cavity. Scrape any flabby pieces off the bottom of the fish. Turn the fish around and run the spoon along the backbone of the fish to remove the small bones at the top. Open the fish and carefully remove the large spine inside. Take the meat off the skin, if desired, and transfer to a warmed plate.
Sprinkle with sea salt and drizzle with olive oil.