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These days, gathering with friends isn’t exactly promoted the same way it once was. Friends and family are required to congregate virtually, eschewing the outdoors for 2D squares plastered on a laptop. And while we can’t properly socialize in real time—with no foreseeable end in sight—there are certain ways to relive those once ubiquitous experiences. 

Related Reading: 11 Bruschetta Toppings That Are Better Than Avocado Toast

Start with Skye McAlpine’s new cookbook, “A Table for Friends.” The “A Table in Venice” cookbook author, who splits time between London and Venice, knows a thing or two about getting friends and family around the table. Her splendid second culinary tome is an ode to the ability to gather, peppered with images that treat you to verdant outdoor garden parties and wedges of flourless chocolate chestnut cake—without having to leave the comfort of your couch. 

A Table for Friends: The Art of Cooking for Two or Twenty, $21.07 on Amazon

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The recipes in the book are divided into four sections (stars, sides, sweets, and extras), brimming with dishes for a summery tomato salad, lavender honey panna cotta, and spaghetti with creamy lemon sauce. They’re dishes geared toward splitting among friends, or, in the present, simply among your household residents. Skye takes time in the rest of the book to walk readers through why she loves to cook, how to plan a menu and set the scene, and offers excellent advice on how to cook by season.

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Ahead, Skye shares her recipe for a light panzanella salad with garden peas and baby artichokes. It’s the kind of salad you’ll want to eat outdoors—whether it’s on the porch or makeshift terrace—filled with an assemblage of summer produce: sweet peas, baby artichokes, spring onions, gem lettuces, and fresh torn basil. The panzanella portion simply requires a few hunks of stale crusty bread, primed to be slathered with olive oil and lemon juice. Pair this salad with a trusty iced beverage and get ready to feast on greens for the rest of the summer.

Reprinted from “A Table for Friends” by arrangement with Bloomsbury Publishing. Copyright 2020, Skye McAlpine. 

Panzanella with Garden Peas & Baby Artichokes Recipe

Panzanella, in most of its incarnations, is a riot of color, but this variation is an ode to the verdant plenty of spring: a sumptuous green salad, only amplified. I use those tender baby artichokes that are so small and sweet you can eat the choke, or else the chargrilled kind you find packed in glossy olive oil in jars. Feel free to add to the mix as you please: a few stems of slender asparagus either raw or lightly chargrilled (great for using up any leftovers), shavings of fennel, or just-blanched, podded broad beans. You could also slip in a few oily, salty anchovies.

Whereas most panzanella will keep—indeed improve in flavor—with time, lettuce tends to wilt if left sitting around for more than 30 minutes. If you want to prepare this in advance, leave out the leaves and soft herbs, then throw them in just before serving.

Panzanella with Garden Peas & Baby Artichokes

Prep Time: 10 minutesServes: 4
  • 200g stale crusty bread, such as baguette or ciabatta
  • 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 150g shelled sweet garden peas
  • 6–8 baby artichokes, or chargrilled artichokes in a jar, finely sliced
  • 2 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 2 Baby Gem lettuces
  • A handful of mint leaves
  • A handful of basil leaves
  • Sea salt flakes
  1. Roughly tear the bread into pieces and throw it into a large bowl. In a second bowl, combine the olive oil, lemon juice and a generous pinch of salt, whisk vigorously with a fork, then drizzle over the bread. Now add the peas, artichokes and spring onions, then toss together well to dress all the ingredients. (To prepare baby artichokes, if using, see below.)
  2. When you’re ready to go to the table, roughly tear the lettuce leaves, mint and basil, throw them in the bowl, then toss one last time before serving.
  3. Directions for cooking baby artichokes: Tear away the tougher outer leaves of the baby artichokes, cut the top 1 inch off the heads and trim the stalks, halve each one from top to tail, then cut into wedges, if they are larger. Pop these into the pan with pancetta and spring onions and give everything a good stir. Cook for 5–10 minutes until the vegetables are lightly coloured but still quite tough.

Header image by Skye McAlpine.

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