My good friend Isabel came from Washington D.C. for a short holiday in Portugal and I wanted to organize a festive lunch for her. I had not seen Isabel in more than 2 years. It would be just a few women friends.

I needed to be inventive with the menu, knowing that Isabel is not only a vegetarian, but she is also a superb cook and gourmet.

We started with “funghi porcini risotto”. A rich broth made from onion, leek, garlic, carrot, celery, sprigs of parsley, thyme and rosemary, and of course the dried porcini and sliced fresh champignons. Then soften onion with olive oil, add arborio rice, and finally the broth, cup by cup, stirring slowly. Serve it with a sprinkling of fresh chives. The flavor is so delicate no cheese is needed.

We followed with a salad I discovered several years ago in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and has been a favorite ever since. “Arugula, calamari and avocado salad”. Clean and cut the calamari in slices and sauté them in olive oil with a generous amount of chopped garlic. While the calamari are still warm, toss them and the garlic sauce with the arugula and sliced avocado, adding a bit more fresh olive oil, Balsamic vinegar, and salt to taste. It is deceptively simple but truly delicious. The salad was accompanied with a caprese salad, sliced tomatoes with sliced mozzarella and basil leaves. Kamut rolls helped mop up the sauce and wonderful olive oil.

Dessert was fresh papaya with lime juice, and homemade “honey and ginger ice-cream”. In a double boiler beat 3 eggs yolks with 5 tablespoons of honey, until your arm drops and the mixture is thick. Separately (you either use a friend’s arms, or you become Shiva with 6 arms…), beat the egg whites till stiff, and then fold in stiffly whipped cream. Finally add the egg custard with three tablespoons of minced ginger. Place the ice-cream in the freezer for about 4 or 5 hours, removing it to the refrigerator an hour in advance of serving, so it is semi-soft.

Of course there was a lot of catching up, laughter and sharing of stories of children and grandchildren, of aging, and husbands, and work, and books, and life in general. Summer does that, everyone with red toenails, from watermelon red to burgundy to cherry and ruby, and sandals to show off your pretty feet. And lots of bracelets on the wrists like Indian dancers, and beads of every kind adorning crisp dresses and blouses. Ah, summer, we all become Chagall nymphs.


  1. Oooo! I've had a similar risotto before; if I'm not mistaken, the recipe is in a cookbook called Eating Dangerously. I also love calamari and avocado - I will have to try that salad, it looks delicious!

    The honey-ginger ice cream looks intriguing as well - do you know how much cream?

  2. When will you be opening your restaurant? I know of no other person the can prepare the meals that you do!

    Oh, and a boutique too that sells those lovely beads! I particularly like the colored beaded necklace!

  3. Dear Celeste,

    How lovely to see a friend whose presence has been absent from your life for two years. I know you must have had a wonderful reunion.

    Also, your luncheon menu sounds delicious. My husband will be gone for a couple of weeks starting this Saturday so I think my daughter and I will try duplicating this meal.


  4. It sounds completely delicious. Does Isabel eat calimari? If so, she is a more convenient vegetarian than my granddaughter, Elizabeth, who won't eat any animal thing at all.

  5. Celeste ! Tatiana here...I had a huge plate of pasta for lunch, but here I am drooling over your menu, I think I'm going to try to make that divine salad for my mom this weekend.

    Huge kiss.

  6. Jan, the risotto was improvised. As for the honey-ginger ice cream, I added 300 ml of cream which I think would be just over half pint (10 ounces?). It is really easy to make - took me 15 minutes - and it is delicious.

    20th Century Woman, yes, fortunately Isabel makes exceptions for fish. I also thought, when I made the salad, that she could have the salad without the calamari. But she had everything and loved it.

  7. What a beautiful post, Celeste. That also goes for your previous posts. Lovely photographs! I am also planning a luncheon next week for friends. I hope it will work out... such busy schedules and lives. My best friend will be visiting for a week. My green beans are ready and each summer I make a huge Salade Nicoise, with French rosé and friends.

  8. It sounds lovely.
    I had to laugh over your recipe. It reminded me of my mother, who often wrote things on her recipe cards like, "Beat until your arm falls off".

  9. Oh, my computer didn't like your comment box this morning, but my soul loved the food and gathering. George would especially love that salad. I serve it without the calamari, and with a bit of minced green onion. He loves calamari in any form.

    how wonderful you could have this visit.

  10. Since my husband is the ice cream chef at our house .. . I'll let him become Shiva! Your photos and observations are a breath of fresh air. Many thanks for your thoughtful note on my little blog:
    know that I've added you to my fav list and will look forward to following your adventures -

  11. How wonderful of you to treat your friends to such a fabulous lunch. Nothing better than good food, good friends and good conversation. WOW can you cook! Everything looked fabulous! I know your guests felt special. Love the red toes and fun jewelry. I have red toes too. Love love love red!

  12. Cresceu-me água na boca com o risotto ai funghi porcini e ... não pude deixar de reparar no magnífico colar ;)) bjs

  13. I've been having visits with old friends all week long, Celeste. On Monday, I met a friend in Oxford; we met in Trinidad 13 years ago, and now she lives in Cairo! It chimed so well with this lovely "tale" of friends and summer and sharing. Our day was a bit too wet and cold to bare red toenails, though.

    Another crucial difference: We didn't have such a lovely meal! Every single course of yours sounds so fresh and delicious. How utterly lovely to eat in that wonderful clean Portuguese light.

    I'm so pleased that you stopped by my blog, as I'm delighted to "meet" you!

  14. Thanks for visting my blog. I have enjoyed visiting yours. Love the pics and this menu is wonderful. Everything is just beautiful.


  15. It's wonderful to see the world through your artist eyes. Everything is beautiful, bright, delicious. Your meal sounds delicious. Very much like we would create for a dear friend. Yum.

  16. How wonderful it must be awaken to that magnificent view each day. I am so happy that you are out of the city and into the ocean breezes, soft sand and long beach walks. Your women's lunch sounds wonderful!

  17. What a heart warming post . Love the recipes and the images of red nails and necklaces and summer dresses are beautiful.

  18. Hi,
    I've enjoyed following your blog for a while now, and was captivated by this post the last 2 days. Beginning with a reminder, for myself as a result of this post, that it has been years and years since having a ladies luncheon, and enjoying the summer in the way you have shown here through words and photos.

    When I read the post the first time, it was so captivating, scrolling the words with photos of food and colors, what a beautiful scene.

    I immediately went and painted my summer pink fushia color of polish on my toenails and feel inspired to embrace summer like I did before being in my dark side of my life the last few years.

    I love avocado, and the rest of the menu looks wonderful. It made me long for peaceful summer days, but mostly it gave me a sense of peace.

    Thanks for sharing, and your home is positively gorgeous, what a view.


  19. Wow, sounds and looks delicious ; )

    And your trip photos just beautiful.

    Portugal looks like a beautiful country to visit.

    Thanks 4 sharing ; )

  20. Thank you for the lovely virtual trip to Portugal. What a wonderful meal, and I love your beautiful, evocative pictures. I am now missing some of my women friends very much, and long to lunch with them in a beautiful setting.

  21. You write beautifully, and -obviously- cook beautifully as well; this whole meal sounds incredible. I'm so jealous of the salad in particular (all my favourite ingredients, oomph); you've made me really want to hold a lunch for friends like this! (...Although in Britain we wouldn't be able to eat in quite such gorgeous surroundings... if we ate outside there would be a drowning risk.)

    Thanks for the comment, and welcome to blogging ^__^.

  22. Thank you for visiting my blog so that I could find you. You mention that you are lving with CCL. My brother has cancer of the T-cells which is currently in remission. Otherwise he is so healthy. I hope your condition is also in remission.

  23. Thank you for visiting my blog. You have made me so hungry. I love the pictures and you laid it out beautifully. You are already so far ahead of me in blogging that I will learn from you. Your paintings are so full of thought. You are welcome any time to visit my blog and I will be back to yours for sure.

  24. i've just finished preparing dinner and your post makes me starve!
    so nice to hear from someone who lives in Madrid. You're right Madrid in summer is not bearable..
    it would be great to meet you there sometime..
    Thank you for your lovely comment. I'll be back!
    hasta pronto...

  25. You just made me very hungry! Wow - I'm really enjoying your blog. Really, really! : )

  26. What a beautiful lunch and such wonderful recipes. I am sure you had the most wonderful time. Your blog is lovely, xv.

  27. Hi Celeste Maia,

    Another beautiful post thanks.

  28. Celeste,
    Your lunch was truly beautiful and totally delicious!
    The joy of seeing and being with you again was intense, the day glorious, the meal exquisite, the view magnificent, the friendly gathering a most important few hours of deep joy.
    Thank you so very much!
    You are a truly great artist at living! Which of course includes the wonderful writing and painting and photography!
    Thank you again!!!
    Beauty and Joy and Love!
    Absolute perfection!
    With all my love,

  29. Wow your food and summer toenails and fashions are so intriging!Always the artist you!Love the ice cream!!

  30. What a fabulous lunch , food , friends and farniente !

  31. I have been as far as I can go on this great blog,past and present. I am so grateful you saved that dog on the highway, and it is hard for them to adjust after being abandoned I am so glad you found my blog , so I could see yours. It is breathtaking the nests and all. Thank you for sharin with us. Lucy

  32. Celeste Maia,
    Thank you for leaving a comment on my blog..I'm
    sorry it isn't nearly as put together as your
    I love how you added your pictures. Oh my gosh, your lunch looks delicious..
    I might have to the girls over for

  33. Good morning Celeste. So nice to hear from you and get your comments, Feeling a little under the weather today BUT it WILL GO AWAY. I love to come to your blog and just look at the food and paintings and the painted toenails. Makes me feel good.

  34. Pavlov would have a field trip with my reaction to your food ;)