Cornelia Guest's Guide to Vegan Entertaining
by danyelle freeman
I love playing around with different types of noodles, like for this soba salad. These Bee dishes are so old; I only use them for special occasions
An outdoor table awash with hydrangeas and candlelight awaits summer guests, a bottle of chilled rosé and appetizing nibbles at the ready. A bouquet of radishes just pulled from the garden are a mere scrub away from becoming a savory snack. Such are some of the delightful culinary vignettes captured on the glossy pages of Cornelia Guest’s first cookbook, Simple Pleasures: Healthy Seasonal Cooking & Easy Entertaining (Weinstein Books). Daughter of legendary hostess C.Z. Guest and champion polo player Winston Guest, Cornelia has combined her entertaining pedigree with her expertise in vegan fare to create a useful—and quite attractive—collection of healthy, animal-free recipes delicious enough to tempt even the most steadfast carnivore.
Handily organized by season, Simple Pleasures finds inspiration in local and organic fruits, vegetables, and grains, putting the ingredients on a pedestal and letting the subtleties and simplicity of their flavors shine. From spring pastas like spaghetti with asparagus and pine nuts, to winter stews of mushroom, barley, and squash, Cornelia’s recipes are easy but nevertheless elegant, underscoring the idea that local, in-season food doesn’t require much dressing up.
There are also plenty of takeaway tips that make Simple Pleasures a valuable addition to any library. Clever table décor ideas pepper its pages—we particularly love Cornelia’s repurposing of her father’s trophies as flower vases—as do her thoughts on topics like how to create a well-stocked freezer, and which hosting rules are unbreakable (hint: do not arrive late to one of her dinners; she will serve the food without you). Guest has also called upon her friends to offer useful tidbits here and there, like how to pair wine with meat-free food, from Richard Brown of Amagansett Wine and Spirits; and, from Flower magazine editor Margot Shaw, floral-arranging tips for every season, accompanied by a handy guide to what’s in bloom. Sample menus for breakfast, lunch, and alfresco dinner parties are also included, perfect for at-home chefs in need of inspiration as they browse the bounty of farm stands this summer.
What are some of your favorite Hamptons locales for fresh produce?
I love Juicy Naam, the greenmarket in Sag Harbor, and Provisions—it has the best tempeh reuben sandwich and fresh coconuts. They hack off the top and put a straw in it, and you have fresh coconut water.
You’re on the board of The Humane Society of New York and own a lot of dogs, many of which are featured in Simple Pleasures. Where do you like to take them when you’re out East?
I have 10 dogs! I visit my friends Bruce Weber and Nan Bush in Montauk. Bruce, Nan, and I have this love for all of our dogs, and taking them to the beach is just the best.
So, simplicity is the best policy when it comes to food?
To me there’s nothing better than a fresh tomato from the garden, sliced up with a little salt and pepper, and even a little olive oil. Nothing is more beautiful or tastes better than Mother Nature.
You use a lot of repurposed swap-meet finds in your entertaining décor in Simple Pleasures. Any tips for antique hunting?
I think the most important thing is if you look at something and it makes you smile, buy it. One of my favorite items I ever bought was an old needlepoint of this dog in a little wooden frame, for five cents at a garage sale.
As a seasoned entertainer, I’m sure you’ve received and given countless hostess gifts. What are your go-tos?
Cornelia Guest chocolate chip cookies and a great bottle of wine, and I also love to bring a plant or a bush. In the winter, if I go to a great party, I’ll give someone two holly bushes; if I spend the weekend with someone, I’ll give them a rose bush. Then they go outside and think of you—and it helps the planet.
Your parents were known for throwing legendary parties. What did you learn from them, and what entertaining traditions have you continued at your own events?
The most important thing I learned is that, even if you’re having a seated dinner party with every piece of silver on the table, it can’t be pretentious. People should laugh and smile and giggle. There always has to be something whimsical and charming. I always think that if it’s going to make me happy, it will make my guests happy. And if it doesn’t? Hey, you win some, you lose some.
Simple Pleasures: Healthy Seasonal Cooking & Easy Entertaining is available June 12 at bookstores throughout the Hamptons
photography by MATHEW KLEIN (soba noodles, tulips, menu, soup, dog, radishes); christina Gerry (portrait)