Setting the Holiday Table with Diane Morgan

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We are big fans of Diane Morgan's beautiful cookbooks. Last summer we featured her book Grill Every Day.

This week we have two recipes from her new book: The Christmas Table. This book is a real treat for the entire holiday season - not just Christmas. There are spectacular and accessible recipes for holiday classics like roast turkey and goose, plus a cranberry relish with raspberry beer, whipped garnet yams, and a very appealing dish of shredded Brussels sprouts.

And yet the book has more than just recipes - it's truly about the table itself as well. Here's our first "recipe" from Diane: directions for beautiful and stress-free holiday decorations. She also answered our questions about setting a lovely table for the holidays.

Diane says:

Let’s start with setting the holiday table.

First, if you are planning to serve Christmas dinner, the best thing a host can do to relieve stress is to set the table the day before. This applies whether it is a sit-down dinner or a buffet.

Second, I look for inexpensive ways to add pizzazz. At crafts stores or floral shops you can buy small glass cubes which are inexpensive. Instead of filling them with flowers, which are expensive, I buy red, green, silver or gold wire and bend it inside the cube to create overlapping circles. (See the picture and “recipe” in my book. About 3 or 4 of these, with a single flower in each, down the length of the table look terrific when little votives are interspersed.)

In addition, look at second-hand or thrift stores for linens, or head to a fabric store for unexpected fabrics to use. I bought rip-stop nylon in red to drape decoratively over a white tablecloth and twisted the ends, or it can be folded and used as a runner.

Another great idea for a buffet is to use small, sturdy corrugated boxes under a cloth to create different levels. An inexpensive cloth is draped over the boxes and the empty platters are arranged on top, adjusting the position so everything nestles together. A buffet looks much more dramatic and artful if some platter are lifted above others and arranged close together. I put a post-it on the platter with the foods I plan to serve on that plate. Again, votives and greens can be tucked in to create interest.

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Glass Cubes with Fresh Flowers and Twisted Wire

Bring a modern, minimalist motif to your holiday table using glass cubes filled with twisted, colored aluminum wire and a single orchid or holiday flower in each vase. These look fabulous running the length of your holiday table interspersed with votive candles.

3 yards of green or red aluminum wire (available online from floraldesigninstitute.com or check your local craft store)
3 (4 x4) glass cubes
3 Cymbidium orchids or other holiday flowers, such as red roses, carnations, or white chrysanthemums

Use 1 yard of aluminum wire per cube. Twist and bend the wire to form an irregular wad that will fit inside the cube. Repeat for each cube. Fill the cubes with water and place a single orchid or other holiday flower in the cube.

Thank you Diane!

Come back tomorrow for another recipe from Diane - a foolproof and lovely appetizer for the holidays.

• Buy The Christmas Table, $13.57 at Amazon.com

Related: Grilling Questions for Diane Morgan: How To Clean a Grill?

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