Food & Drink

Guest Blogger Donna Karan on the Taste of Summer

Donna Karan’s design philosophy began with a simple motto: “Accentuate the positive to delete your negative.” For almost 30 years, her eponymous label has empowered women to take charge of their style, creating fashions and a lifestyle that not only help women look good but feel good too. Karan’s commitment to and pursuit of total-body wellness moved her in 2007 to establish the Urban Zen Foundation, which aims to inspire change through integrative and practical healthcare solutions.

HEROSummer Gatherings: Donna Karan’s home in Parrot Cay, one of the most secluded destinations of the Turks and Caicos Islands where she enjoys poolside dining

Leading the movement on the importance of eating clean, Karan and Urban Zen have heightened awareness on the benefits of raw nourishment. Hungry for change, The Thread asked Karan to curate a menu for the ‘conscious palate’ and the result is a healthy homemade summer meal that you can easily prepare yourself.

For me, summer is all about family and friends. I love having everyone to my house for a casual, intimate dinner. I’ll set out lots of pillowed banquettes to hang out on, and buffet tables so you can serve yourself whenever you’re ready. It’s the same atmosphere whether I have a dozen guests or two hundred. This way people come and go, bring friends, whatever. It’s easy, like all things summer should be. My environments are all indoor/outdoor—whether it’s my Manhattan apartment with its wraparound terrace, my Easthampton home on the water or our family place in Parrot Cay. At the beach, the look is natural—fresh flowers everywhere, a million candles—everything easy and relaxed. There’s always great music, or maybe we’ll have an outdoor showing of a new movie on a huge screen by the pool—everyone loves that.

Now the food. Maybe it’s the mother in me, but I only serve nutritious, natural food. It’s my way of taking care of those I love. I’ve been on a raw diet forever; it’s how I lost a lot of weight, but more importantly, it’s how you get the most nutrition from food. So even if I’m not serving raw food—which isn’t for everyone—I serve in the spirit of raw food.

Yummy: Check out the Clean Plates Cookbook for mouthwatering, great-for-you recipes

For appetizers, we’ll serve spring rolls or canapés of endive filled with beet tartare and orange zest. Maybe a grilled flatbread pizza with broccoli rabe, shiitake and truffle oil. Or steamer clams in a broth of leek, garlic and wine. I’ll have big bowls of salads—local Bibb lettuce, avocado and sunflower seeds with avocado green goddess dressing. And we’ll serve BBQ shrimp and scallops with parsley, tomato and basil. We’ll also have a timbale of brown-rice pilaf with grilled zucchini and scallion or maybe a quinoa timbale with fresh corn, red pepper and carrot. All fresh and divine. I provide chopsticks, which are great for eating slowly and deliberately, though of course knives and forks are optional. In the summer, meals like this are really easy, especially in the Hamptons, where the fresh produce is amazing and all locally grown. Go to any of the farmers markets and everything has been picked that day.

To drink, we’ll offer iced tea with fresh mint, sliced orange and raspberries or a vodka spritzer, also with mint and orange slices. And white wine and champagne. Of course, then comes the dessert table. You can always expect an indulgence or two, like triple cappuccino sorbet with toasted almond or watermelon carpaccio with lime and mint syrup. For the grandkids, we have their favorite: honey marshmallow s’mores with dark chocolate and gluten-free graham crackers. I always grab one for myself.

With the food and table preparations made, it’s time to choose an outfit for the occasion. I love one-stroke simplicity in a party dress, so either the Matte Jersey Infinity Dress (left to right), the Sculpted Bonded Jersey Dress or the Draped Mélange Jersey Dress. I’m always barefoot, but a flat, easy slide works too. In the city, you can wear one of these dresses with killer heels. It’s amazing how shoes shift the attitude of a dress. Whatever you decide to wear, you should look effortless, especially at the beach. Hopefully, you’ve spent the day on a boat or walking the shore, not getting ready for a party. Because to me, a party should make you feel relaxed and social. It’s a time to catch up with friends and loved ones in a warm and inviting environment.

Ready to plan your own summer celebration?
Check out our guide on reusable place settings that are perfect for outdoor entertaining.

Qianna Smith

[Food Image Sources: and]

  • Blueklaus1 July 7, 2013, 3:41 pm

    I LOVE Donna Karan–always have, always will. SO effortless.

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