While her Argentine husband oversees their Independence Day party feast, Nina Griscom hits up the flower district for all manner of fresh decor. Here, some of her favorite vendors and a recipe for her summer gazpacho.
On the 4th of July my husband Leonel Piraino (who hails from Buenos Aires) and I like to do a barbecue for family and friends at our home in Millbrook, N.Y., with an Argentine tweak — meaning an asado (a traditional Argentine barbeque) in place of American hot dogs and hamburgers. We make homemade empanadas (my mother-in-law’s recipe), with different fillings of beef, pork and chicken, to be passed around at cocktails in linen-covered baskets; gazpacho for a first course; followed by flank steaks, sweet breads, baby lamb chops, sweet and hot Italian sausages and the odd breast of chicken, accompanied by our Chimichurri sauce. And then there are grilled vegetables: red and yellow peppers, eggplant and corn. Everything is cooked to come out in perfectly timed stages. Argentines like to eat slowly!
A few days before our party, I head down to the flower district of New York, on West 28th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues, to buy fresh blooms and decorative items for my tables. I love to use fresh-cut sunflowers and a range of potted herbs in varying heights. The combination creates a rustic, natural effect.
I go to Jamali Garden for all the decorative containers for the sunflowers as well as fun straw table runners and copper lanterns. They have every conceivable product for any party…ribbons, feathers, candles, votive containers, glue guns, etc.
Next I bring the containers I bought there to Fischer and Page, where I buy my sunflowers. They trim them and put them in the vases for me to take home, ready to go. I also make sure to pick up topiary rosemary plants, which I have mossed and potted in clay pots. These make great gifts for our guests to take home after dinner. And I always call one day ahead to order mini potted olive trees, which add another dimension to the overall effect. Those I keep in our garden long after the asado is over.
Jamali Garden Supply
149 West 28th Street
Fischer and Page
150 West 28th Street
8 ripe plum tomatoes
2 red onions
2 cloves of garlic
4 red bell peppers
1 Tbsp. of Maldon salt (or sea salt)
1 Tbsp. of freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup of fine white-wine vinegar
6 cups of fresh tomato juice
zest of 2 lemons
8 basil leaves, chopped or whole
1/4 cup of olive oil
Boil the tomatoes for 2 minutes and remove their skins. Cut into quarters. Peel and dice the onions, cucumbers and garlic. Remove the stems of the peppers, seed them and chop peppers into rough pieces. Finely puree the ingredients and add the salt, pepper and vinegar. This can be done in batches. Transfer the puree to a large bowl and add the 6 cups of tomato juice. Stir thoroughly. Zest the 2 lemons and add as garnish along with the basil leaves. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours. It’s even better the second day!