How to Create the Perfect Mother’s Day Luncheon at Home
There’s nothing better than feeling like you’ve been invited somewhere special, and Los Angeles social fixture Stephanie Booth Shafran has given everyone VIP entrée into her home for some of the most beautiful and thoughtful parties you can imagine with her new book, You’re Invited: Classic, Elegant Entertaining (Rizzoli).
Drawing from a lifetime of throwing fabulous gatherings, she shares firsthand how to re-create everything from an astrologically themed dinner under the stars to a Pucci-patterned pool party. In keeping with her extensive charity work, Shafran has partnered with Oscar de la Renta to create a special edition covered in one of the house’s fabrics. Proceeds from the publication will go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which makes it a perfect Mother’s Day gift.
Shafran says springtime is the ideal moment to host a luncheon—whether it’s to honor mothers on their special day or an elegant way to bring cheer to those with whom you’ve been staying at home. Working with designer Jeffrey Bilhuber, she’s decorated her homes with entertaining in mind—especially carving out spaces for cocktails before a meal and then somewhere to retreat to after. “He can create perfect seating areas for 2, 12, and 20,” she remarks. The beautifully designed loggia in her new L.A. home provides several seating options and even features a custom-made tablecloth in the same Peter Dunham fabric as the chairs.
For the flowers, she styles pieces like the ginger jars with a single type of flower and a consistent color scheme, picking pale blooms from her rose garden in shades like ivory or pink. “Using existing vases helps incorporate the arrangements into the home, and I like an abundance of one type of the flower,” she says. The blue and white of the ginger jars carry over to the table setting, which is also accented with green, mainly with the topiaries at each setting that serve as place card holders or with a Baccarat butterfly.
She likes to bring family into the mix by using china and silver collected over the generations and bringing them into the present with colored William Yeoward glasses. “When I set up the table it brings back memories. The Rothschild pattern with the bird is one I remember eating on as a child.”
When it comes to the menu, her entertaining rulebook is pretty simple. “I don’t like food to be precious—colorful, tasteful, and fresh.” As a result, she keeps things bite sized and healthy, pulling from local California market ingredients. She also says a chilled soup is the perfect way to start a meal in warmer months, since it can wait on the table as guests take their seats, and almost no one can resist a slice of simple cake for dessert.
Shafran makes this type of entertaining part of everyday life—not just reserved for special occasions. “Setting a beautiful table and serving a thoughtful meal brings happiness. Whether it’s for a special celebration or while you’re sheltering in place with your family, it’s a great way to connect and show appreciation.” This time together has brought her family even closer together, and at dinner recently her 22-year-old son thanked her for always setting the table and said that he hoped to do the same when he’s married one day. “It’s not about being fancy,” says Shafran. “It’s about thoughtful and creative.”
Here, she shares with Galerie her perfect menu for a spring luncheon—whether it’s for Mother’s Day or a special family meal together.
Spring Pea and Watercress Soup
A vibrant green and rich with spring favorites, such as peas, watercress, and green onions, this soup is the perfect first course for a formal luncheon, especially when garnished with crème fraîche, microgreens, and edible flowers. Serves 6.
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2/3 cup sliced green onions
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
5 cups chicken broth
1 8-ounce russet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
4 cups watercress leaves
3 cups freshly shelled peas, or 1 pound frozen peas
1/3 cup crème fraîche, plus more for garnish
Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
Microgreens and edible flowers for garnish
Heat the olive oil in a heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the green onions, garlic, and ginger and sauté until the green onion is tender, about 1 minute. Add the broth and the potato and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook over medium heat until the potato is very tender, about 12 minutes. Stir in the watercress and peas. Cover and cook until the peas are tender, about 4 minutes. Cool slightly.
Purée the soup in batches in a blender. Return the soup to the saucepan and whisk in the 1⁄3 cup crème fraîche. Season the soup to taste with salt and pepper. (The soup can be prepared up to 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.) Reheat the soup by stirring over medium heat until it just simmers. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with additional crème fraîche, microgreens, and edible flowers.
Shrimp and Asparagus Salad
Have your fishmonger peel and cook large fancy shrimp to top this colorful salad. Forbidden rice, also known as black rice, is both flavorful and rich in antioxidants. Serves 6.
12 ounces asparagus, trimmed
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
1 small shallot, minced
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, plus more for asparagus water
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup forbidden rice
12 cooked, peeled, and deveined jumbo shrimp
Nasturtium flowers for garnish
Fill a 10- or 12-inch skillet with enough water to come 1 inch up the sides; season with a pinch of salt. Bring the water to a boil. Add the asparagus, cover, and simmer until the asparagus is crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Drain and plunge into ice water to cool and refresh. Drain the asparagus well. Whisk the lemon juice, honey, shallot, and ½ teaspoon salt in a small bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in the olive oil and set the dressing aside.
Place the rice, 3 cups water, and a pinch of salt in a heavy medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the rice is tender and has absorbed the liquid, about 50 minutes. Transfer the rice to a medium bowl and cool completely. Add half of the dressing to the rice and stir to combine. Arrange the rice in the center of a platter and top with asparagus and shrimp. Spoon the remaining dressing over the shrimp and asparagus. Garnish with nasturtiums.
Vanilla-Berry Layer Cake
8 to 12 servings
3 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cups sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup raspberry preserves
1/2 cup strawberry preserves
1 12-ounce bag frozen unsweetened raspberries
6 cups powdered sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
10 tablespoons (about) heavy whipping cream
For cake: Preheat oven to 350ºF. Butter two 8-inch diameter cake pans with 2-inch sides. Line the bottom of the pans with parchment; butter parchment and dust with flour. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt to blend in medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time, and mix in vanilla. Beat in dry ingredients alternately with milk, in three additions each. Transfer batter to prepared pans, dividing evenly; smooth tops.
Bake cakes until golden, just firm to touch, and a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool cakes in pan on rack 10 minutes. Run a small sharp knife around edge of cakes to loosen. Turn cakes out onto racks and cool completely.
For filling: Combine preserves and raspberries in a heavy medium saucepan. Simmer over medium-low heat until the mixture reduces and thickens slightly, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Cool completely. (Cake and filling can be prepared 1 day ahead. Wrap cakes and cover filling with plastic and keep at cool room temperature.)
For frosting: Using an electric mixer, beat powdered sugar, butter, vanilla extract, and 4 tablespoons whipping cream in a large bowl until well blended. Continue beating, adding 1 tablespoon of cream at time, until mixture is light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
Using a long, serrated knife, cut cakes horizontally in half. Place one cake layer on cake plate. Spread cake evenly with filling (about 1/2 cup). Carefully spread frosting (about 1 cup) over filling and top with second cake layer. Repeat with filling and frosting two more times. Top with remaining cake layer. Frost top and sides of cake. Refrigerate cake until the frosting is just set, about 1 hour. (Cake can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover with cake dome and keep at cool room temperature.)