Best of the Web

Handmade Gatherings Giveaway + Best of the Web

by Grace Bonney

Handmade Gatherings_page-12
The sun is finally out in Brooklyn and it looks like it might reach 70 degrees (!!) here in Brooklyn. So I’m closing up shop and heading outside to soak up the sun with Hope. But before we leash-up and head out, I wanted to share a delicious warm-weather recipe from our friend and former teammate Ashley English. Ashley’s new book, Handmade Gatherings, is out now and is packed with delicious (and healthy) recipes for friendly get togethers with friends. Today she’s been kind enough to share one of her favorite recipes with us, vegetarian-friendly Pistachio Crusted Asparagus with Feta Vinaigrette, as well as give away a copy of her book to a lucky DS reader.

To enter, just leave a comment below with your favorite summer party idea. How do you celebrate with friends with the temperatures rise? Something in a pool? A beach bonfire? Share your party idea below by next Friday and Ashley will pick her favorite to win a copy of her book. Thanks so much to Ashely and Roost Books! xo, grace



From Handmade Gatherings by Ashley English, © 2014 by Ashley English. Reprinted by arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications Inc., Boston, MA. www.roostbooks.com

Pistachio Crusted Asparagus with Feta Vinaigrette

Serves 4-6


-2 pounds large asparagus 1⁄4 cup olive oil
-1 cup shelled pistachios 1 teaspoon sea salt
-2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
-1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

For the vinaigrette:

-1/4 cup olive oil
-1⁄4 cup crumbled feta cheese
-2 teaspoons lemon juice
-2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
-1 tablespoon honey Several grinds of black

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Rinse the asparagus and cut about an inch off of the stem ends. Pat the asparagus dry.

Place the asparagus on a dry baking sheet, put in the oven, and bake for 3 minutes to dry off any excess moisture. Remove the sheet from the oven and toss the asparagus on the sheet with the olive oil.

Crush the pistachios in a food processor (or under a towel with a kitchen mallet or hammer) for about 1 minute, until finely ground. Transfer the ground nuts to a small bowl. Using a spoon or clean hands, mix the nuts with the salt.

Lay the asparagus out evenly across the baking sheet. Sprinkle the spears with half of the ground pistachio and salt mixture. Turn the spears over, then evenly sprinkle them with the rest of the ground pistachio mixture. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven and, using tongs, carefully plate the spears onto a platter.

Combine all of the vinaigrette ingredients in a lidded container or a food processor. Shake or process until smooth. Drizzle the plated asparagus with the vinaigrette. Top with the feta and parsley. Serve at room temperature.

Suggested For You


  • Funny, I just went to the bookstore today to get this…they had to order it for me! Anyway,
    For summer fun – a guacamole party. Let’s see who makes the best guacamole! And tacos! And margaritas! And mojitos!
    Then a water balloon fight.

  • For a LONG time I’ve wanted to hold a mole-making party (as in the complex Mexican sauce, not the hole-making creature) in summertime: rent a big kitchen, drink frosty drinks, have snacks and play festive music…then everyone can go home with their own stash.

  • One of my favorite summer party ideas is to have a potluck picnic brunch and book swap. Everyone brings a dish, a paperback, and a blanket and gathers mid-morning while the air is still friendly. Great dishes for this type thing include Raw Honey + Greek Yogurt Dip w/ fruit skewers, muffin-pan quiches, grilled tomatoes with rosemary and smoked salt, and bacon wrapped figs or dates. After everyone eats and drinks peach mimosas, you lay on the blankets in the cool grass and read or chat until the day warms up, then everyone heads indoors or to the lake or the pool!

  • I’m in my late twenties and I’ve had braces for two years. They’re coming off this summer and I’m having a braces off party with lots of sticky candy. If you don’t have braces coming off, just copy the candy idea!

  • My favorite summer party idea is fresh Mexican everything–that’s usually our go-to food theme because everything is in season and sooo fresh and cool yet spicy!
    I’d have to say a close second is root beer & homemade ice cream floats for everyone outside!
    Sarah M

  • What an awesome giveaway! I am spoiled, living in LA with this nice weather. My favorite gathering is at the beach. I just went to a friend’s birthday on the beach and we had a nice bonfire, some secret drinks (drinking technically wasn’t allowed) and s’mores. A wonderful time.

  • Ashley’s book looks amazing! I can’t wait for summer at my parents farm and all off our family and friends hanging out by the pool.

  • A bunch of my friends live in the same neighborhood and this summer we’re planning on having a biking 4 course dinner. Everyone will ride their bikes over to the first persons house and the people in that house will have made an appetizer, then we will all bike over to house number 2, where those inhabitants will have made a salad/soup. House 3 will have dinner, and house 4 dessert and a campfire. A roving dinner party if you will!

  • I’m personally a fan of a relaxed summer party–lawn games outside in the afternoon, drinks in Mason jars, and lots of pulled pork (my husband’s specialty). I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.

  • We belong to a supper club and each couple host the dinner at their home and choose the theme such as Mexican, Italian, Greek or tropical etc. It can be inside or outside depending on the weather. The host couple prepare the entrees and provide drinks (cocktails, wine, water and sodas), The other couples take turns bringing appetizers, side dishes and desserts.

  • We enjoy hosting a yard game party each summer, horseshoes and croquet included! I usually make rum punch for guests, with snacks like clam dip and taco salad.

  • I love Ashley’s books so hopefully this hits a home run…warm freshwater lake potluck with inflatables for some float and soak action.

  • I think a block party-style BBQ and pool party is everything that is summer. The kids (and some adults) in the pool, BBQ burgers and hot dogs, and lots of fun alcoholic beverages for the grown ups.

  • Start with a playlist! We installed Sonos audio system in our house, so we can queue up any music we like to set the mood. In the warm summer evenings I choose a Bossa Nova station – it’s mellow, kinda retro and smoothly exotic. We put candles in tall (!) glass vases filled with sand, open the doors between our sunroom and deck and set out a tray of cocktails and small plates of hors d’oeuvres so there’s no prep work to distract from relaxing. As the sun sets and the locusts start to whir, all the pressure of the week filter away.

  • we love to hang out in the yard with the abundance of flowers and crops and birds and the bounties of summer

  • summers are great for s’mores parties when night comes and the heat dissipates. but, being from california, s’mores parties are great all year round!

  • Bocce ball tournament! Great for all with ability not necessarily impacting enjoyment. Also, you can throw a bocce ball while holding a cocktail in your other hand!

  • Washington, DC, where I live, has an amazing 4th of July fireworks display. I love to take guests on a picnic to the lovely Bishop’s Garden at the National Cathedral and then watch the fireworks from a small rooftop there. Other times we’ll have a barbecue at home and then walk up the hill a few blocks and watch with the neighbors!

  • My fiance and I are moving into our first house this May. It will be our first time with a yard, so we can’t wait to host a potluck barbecue house warming party

  • I there are so many grea family gathering gatherings Whether it be by the poolside any time spent with family i any time spent with family is great for memory makin making Great ne Great new recipes are helpfu for those kind of occasion occasions!

  • Ashley’s dish sounds amazing. I’m a fan of asparagus. Especially with vinaigrette. I will have to go through the extra steps to discover what seems to be layers of textures! I really enjoyed her book: A Year of Pies. Hope this one will be as fun!

    With us, summer parties mostly happen with people who enjoy beer, wine, guitars, singing, harmonica and egg shakers! Lots of jamming, drinking and eating in between and kids running through it.

  • My favorite summer party is one filled with fresh appetizers, ice cold beverages (like sangria), and bbq entrees. Top it off with a bonfire and I’m the happiest girl in the world.

  • Summer is hot in Australia. We love to head down to the beach at Fremantle with the kids and dogs. They have a wonderful grass area with BBB’s. You can set up the chairs, lie out some blankets and challenge friends and family to a game of cricket. More often than not we end up with a few extra kids joining in!!! The afternoon is usually finished with a few quite drinks, the sounds of waves crashing and the sun setting over the indian ocean. Summer time Bliss!!!

  • This recipe looks so delicious and so easy- asparagus is everywhere right now , what a great call. Because we’re in the event business our idea of summer fun is very low key and preferably just the two of us in the pool with our 6 dogs (I know , they’re rescues ) , some chilled , steamed shrimp with my husband’s homemade cocktail sauce and a lovely ice cold bottle of Vinho Verde.

  • I love pit cooking in the summer. Succulent Chicken with fire sided tin baked bread, wrapped potatoes, and roasted corn cobs, smother it all in butter. YUM It’s a great way to spend a day. Everyone gets involved with cooking and relaxing fireside while the food slowly cooks. We like to relax in Ireland :) And if it rains the food will still cook in the pit :)

  • Full moon picnics in the Sawtooth Mountain Range in Idaho……….hands down simply the most fantastic viewsof the moon, stars, and snow capped peaks with the most delightful of friends. The menu, lets see…….ususally I do a beef bourguignon in a big Stanley thermos and bring all the trimmings, especailly a great bottle of cab. Flashlights down the hill complete round out the necessary list!!

  • My favorite summer party idea is just sitting around a bonfire roasting things and talking. Thanks for the giveaway!

  • A question: in the vinaigrette recipe, are you sure about the 4 cups of olive oil? Proportions on everything else would seem to call for 1/4 cup of oil or thereabouts, no?

    My summer party idea has to do with minted lemonade and breaking out my hand-crank ice cream maker.

  • Thankfully my parents have an in ground pool and love to entertain. So that is where we spend our time together when it gets hot.

  • I love being able to grill something from every course…grilled ceasar salad, grilled peaches filled with marscapone, feels like summer to me!

  • The perfect summer fete for me is a small (5-6) gathering of close girlfriends somewhere in nature – on a blanket at the beach, around a table on the grass in the mountains, on a porch, anywhere! There will be amazing coffee in french presses if it’s the am, and chilled bottles of rose it it’s the evening (and oysters). We nibble on tasty snacks, let our hair down, and enjoy one another’s company and the beauty of being friends. That is all : )

  • The perfect summertime fete for me would consist of a small smattering (5-6) of girlfriends gathered around a table somewhere in nature – on a blanket at the beach, on a porch in the mountains, in the garden, anywhere where the air is fresh! If its the morning, there will be a french press filled with nutty coffee and melons, mangos and papaya with sea salt to nibble, and if its the evening, there will be chilled rose and briny jewels of oysters from Walla Walla. We’ll let our hair down and enjoy the rarity of our friendship.

  • When it gets warm, I love having laid-back cocktails (with the “big” kids) and ice cream (with the little ones). But I think my husband’s idea of an awesome summer gathering must include some barbecue and soccer! Lovely giveaway!

  • I’m thinking about a get-to-know the neighbors progressive dinner this summer. Each home would choose a course, House one would have appetizers and cocktails, House two salad, etc. Ending with a bonfire and dessert.

  • …love cooking for friends and eatting on the screened porch on a beautiful night.
    …family, friends, good wine and great food combined with outside is magical.

  • My husband built our family an outdoor pizza oven last year! The best outdoor party revolved around it: I make the dough & sauce, and each guest is asked to bring their favorite topping. We assemble the pizza on our kitchen island & whisk them outside on wooden peels. My hubby has turned out to be the BOMB in cooking them: at 90 seconds per pie, they are handled quite deftly. Nothing like that wood-fired crust! We have hosted gatherings numbering from 12-60 people this way. Great memories already from our 1st year!

  • Can’t wait to see this book! Thanks, Grace! We live in the city and have a tiny backyard with a mature wisteria that hangs over an even tinier patio. Little glass and ceramic lanterns with candles hang all summer from the tree for soft light. Our friends and we have taken dance lessons (see OUTtodance.com), so we have potluck — people always bring AWESOME food! — and tango, cha cha, swing, and two-step the night away on our little deck. BEST TIME EVER.

  • Our favorite early summer party is a crayfish/crawfish boil with corn on the com and small red potatoes done in the left over water. YuuuuuuuMMMMyyyyy!!!!!!!

  • My favorite summer party is a good ol’ backyard BBQ with all the trimmings (like homemade potato salad), etc.

  • Oh no. Not overalls. As an above average height person, I assure they are not a tall person thing…I honestly don’t know anyone in person who they look good on (except my grandpa, while he is working in his shop). Think it must be some sort of photoshop magic that makes them good in pictures.

  • The summer backyard gatherings are the best for us. A fire in the evening, some grilled chicken, lots of salads, and everyone talking and laughing. In the winter of course, it is pots of soup and hot cider here in north Iowa. The asparagus dish looks amazing and so, of course the cookbook. Thanks for sharing!

  • I’d love to have a picnic party on the roof of our downtown loft! Just need to find the right night to watch the sun set and the stars shine…!

  • An iced tea party. I did that a few years ago when it was stifling hot. Had the usual tea party fair along with four or five teas – flavored, unflavored, and herbal – plus lots of ice.

  • When our Wyoming weather warms up enough, we light a fire in our backyard and celebrate with drinks, good food and great friends

  • When our Wyoming weather warms a bit, we light a fire in our backyard firepit and celebrate with drinks, good food and great friends

  • Summers in Long Beach Ca we love a picnic dinner at the bay and stay until dark
    It’s very relaxing and no clean up

  • Thank you in advance for the opportunity. The recipe book looks lovely! I look forward to summer movie nights and make-your-own grilled cheese night. I love grilled cheese and would love to have an array of items to add to the basic (yummy) grilled cheese- avocado, grilled onions, bacon, lettuce- and guest could build their sandwich before watching a movie under the stars.

  • I think you can’t beat a picnic dinner on the beach and a fire pit. Throw in some good friends and you’re all set.

  • How fun to see everyone’s plans for summer gatherings! I wanted to mention that there’s a slight typo in the recipe here. For the vinaigrette, where it reads “4 cups olive oil”, it should read “1/4 cup olive oil” (which is how it’s printed in the book). Thanks, Grace, for hosting the giveaway!

  • My ideal summer party would be if we had a huge backyard with a woodburning oven and we invited all our friends and family for a “make your own pizza party.” I’d have homemade dough, grilled veggie toppings, various sauces and cheese, along with a bunch of side salads, wine, beer, and ice cream and cookies for dessert! We’d break out games when the sun sets and people are a bit more buzzed and then let the fun ensue :)

  • When weather warms up and the kids are out of school we do an annual Tuesday Night Supper Club with 5 other couples. Everyone in the group likes to cook and appreciates fresh food so its a weekly surprise. Its either al fresco, on a patio, by a poolside or however each couple wants to host during the summer months. Because fresh is abundant the food always coordinates perfectly. Host makes the main (meat, fish etc.) and guests sign up to bring a “green” a “starch” a “side” a dessert etc…so we always have a complete and balanced meal. Whats great is we enjoy seeing each other weekly at different homes so its never or redundant, and its a nice way to break up the week with friends. Somehow it really prolongs summer and gives us a chance to be creative every week.

  • As soon as it gets warm enough I like to invite friends over for an old-fashioned outdoor movie night! I bought a vintage screen and folding chairs specifically for this reason, and I was able to find a fairly inexpensive projector on Craigslist. We usually watch classic comedies from the ’80s and ’90s like Troop Beverly Hills or The Great Outdoors. I serve themed snacks and drinks, and of course lots of freshly popped popcorn!

  • favourite summer party is best friends and their families, good old fashioned BBQ with a paddling pool that is never big enough and it starts off with the kids….. they get bored and then adults find the water pistols and get a bit silly !

    happy days :)

  • Hands down, it’s gotta be a crab feast. Newspaper, Maryland blue crab, Old Bay & cold beer. There’s nothing more delicious or nostalgic for this east coast turned west coast girl. Miss it so much!

  • A summer isn’t complete without Porch Fest. Invite family and friends over to handout on your front porch, and stick a sign in front of your house. Everybody does the back yard party, but by moving the part to the front porch you never know what new neighbor or walker/biker will decided to join you.

  • I love to go on the PBS app and catch up on my shows… Nature is a favorite. Caught the Bionic Pets show Sunday evening. I had been out to a farm on Long Island on Sunday so animals were especially on my mind.

    The idea that we are not “owners”, but “guardians” is what stayed with me. Too often, we believe we own something – an idea – an animal – a circumstance. But actually it’s not ours. It’s just passing through. I loved that concept and it opened my eyes. To choose how you are going to steward something.

    I loved seeing those animals running around, and their drive to survive.
    I remembered you had posted about the show so came back to say thanks for the recommendation. : )

  • A picnic at the beach, with fresh fruit, lemonade, summery beers and tasty melty things to roast over the bonfire later. Lots of beach games and big blankets to lay out on.

  • For my summertime birthday, I often throw an open house known as The Champagne Jam: I buy a case or more of cheap bubbly and serve an all-day brunch, The menu includes several dishes with champagne or jam or both: usually a tray of biscuits with savory spreads (including bacon jam and garlic-onion jam with sparkling red wine) to make sandwiches, a tray of scones with sweet jams (usually including a strawberry-champagne jam), pink champagne cupcakes, vegan chocolate cake bars with raspberry jam filling, and so on.

  • Picknick with friends at an open air cinema. We theme the food according to what is showing, we had french for Ratatouille, italian for The Tourist etc.

    Sometimes it’s more a Picknick de luxe, like the time it included white tableware, silver cutlery and Veuve Cliquot. That was The Great Gatsby.

  • My favorite outdoor gathering is a casual potluck with lots of great friends around. I’ll supply the sangria and salsa, the rest is a surprise!

  • To kick off the summer season, I like the idea of hosting a Saturday morning post farmer’s market pot luck brunch. I organize a make your own bloody mary and coffee bar, set the table with a colorful variety of linens and dishes/glasses, lay out a few blankets and pillows in the yard, put together a center piece or two from the garden, and fire up the grill. The emphasis is on creating a casual, welcoming, and functional atmosphere in our small urban space. Fingers crossed for sunshine. :)

  • So I went ahead and bought the book, and I’m so glad I did! I’m just getting started with it, but I’ve thumbed through to look at the pictures. It’s absolutely lovely. I can’t wait to try some of the ideas.

  • Well, I just want to have a glampful, glampalicious outdoor art party with all types of poetic vagrants in Austin (where I do not live, except in my own mind) … I actually have been preparing for this, to tell the truth. I’ve got a purple blow-up (meaning inflatable, but it’s also da bomb!) chair, bright Moroccan poufs, and ideas about how to make art that’s more durable and weather-proof. I’ve been collecting various cool-looking first-aid kits, just in case, and got a book about emergency wilderness medicine. Because I can’t help but be international, I’d probably also order some yummy fortune cookies with my own poetic sayings inside, as well as cooking up couscous with sultanas (big plump yellow raisins) and other tasty luxuries as inspired by my poetry, in which I reside. Of course, I’d also invite others to read but especially perform, and we’d have a nice new-fashioned record player going when there weren’t words …. This is a party for people who want to expand their minds through their hearts, and perhaps even eventually become more philosophically esoteric, like myself.

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