Dear lovely reader,
What would you like to see on Smart Entertaining?
This blogging thing is really new to me, and I’m still trying to figure out how it will unfold.
I love over-sharing about my cats, dog, husband, and top-notch friends, but my real goal with this place is to inspire you to cook, and entertain.
And look at pictures of my cats.
I’m going to make a concerted effort to post more often, and in order to make that manageable and interesting for all involved parties, I will try to offer tidbits of easy entertaining advice, along with my longer musings on pop-tarts, and coveting chickens.
So whether it’s a technique you’d like to learn, a dish you’d like to master, or the best way to turn stale bread into a dinner party (panzanella…ribolitta…or bread pudding). Please let me know in the comment section!
Hopefully your Memorial Day was the first of many fun summer get-togethers. Artie and I went to a wedding, and threw a last-minute Korean BBQ party. I’m excited to nail down those recipes and share.
To get this party started, I’m going to offer a few Summer entertaining tips.
1. Rosé wine. I don’t mean to sound like a-know-it-all (ahahah I can hear Artie laughing all the way across the city as he reads this). But I have been digging pink wine for years. I’m so happy it’s finally having its moment in the sun. I’m not talking about White Zin that comes in a box (well, it might come in one of those fancy, progressive wine company boxes, but it’s not Franzia). I’m talking about the dry, strawberry scented, refreshing wines, that I drink almost exclusively from April to October. In fact, I am drinking a glass right now. Buy a few bottles (no need to spend more than $12-15 a piece) stick them in a galvanized steel bucket full of ice, and you will instantly class up that backyard BBQ. Here is a great Rosé guide from Formaggio Kitchen, where I learned to cook.
2. Turn off that oven before your friends come over. If you are going to bake something (like a wonderful fruit pie..mmmm.) I suggest you do it in the morning, before the heat creeps in. Fire up the grill, cook something speedy in the wok or a big saute pan, or better yet, rely on food that requires no cooking at all, just some quick assembly. But try not to heat up an already toasty house. You will be a calmer, happier host if you aren’t sweating before your guests arrive.
3. Serve foods that can be eaten at room temperature. Summer entertaining should be breezy and fun. Maybe you eat at 8, maybe you are enjoying ice cold beers in the back yard and you don’t sit down till 9. Maybe you keep the party going outside, or you end up eating with your friends on the sofa, because the skeeters were after you, or the thunder clouds rolled in. You want to enjoy this kind of spontaneity, not stress over doling out piping hot plates of food. So what do you serve? Pasta, quinoa, and couscous salads, or ones made with lentils and goat cheese, or black beans and corn. Grilled chicken with pesto, or a simple citrus vinaigrette. Antipasto platters with grilled vegetables, cheeses, cured meats and crusty bread. Prosciutto wrapped around melon, or crispy bread sticks; a slice of pate from a specialty food store. Gazpacho. These are all very simple foods that can be made (or bought) ahead of time and hold up beautifully on a platter or in a bowl, no need to rush from the stove to your seat.
3. Try a Bloody Mary Bar. Hmm two out of the first 3 involve booze, I’m sensing a theme here… There is no need to relegate this one to summer, but at the after-wedding brunch I went to last weekend, Artie’s Aunt Paula had a fantastic set-up: bloody mix and cucumber vodka – you could also use pepper or tomato flavored - in addition to regular for the traditionalists. She had horseradish, cocktail onions, olives, dill, and a big bowl of shrimp. It was a huge hit. I’m a big fan of the make-your-own Bloody Mary Bar at East Coast Grill, but it never occurred to me to try it at home. You could add diced avocado, pickles of all kinds, your collection of hot sauces, oysters and clams on the half-shell…almost anything goes. Thanks Paula!
4. If you cook with what’s in season, you hardly need to cook at all. There is nothing like fresh summer produce. I love to roast and braise my way through the winter but if you can get your hands on some fresh summer veggies – from the farmers market, or a pot of tomato plants in your back parking lot – you will see they need very little work to taste delicious. Salt, pepper, a sprinkle of fresh herbs, (also grow-able in the back parking lot), and your meals will come together in no time.
On that note. Try this shaved zucchini salad.
Shaving zucchini gives it a cool, silky texture that soaks up a simple lemon and olive oil dressing. I tossed it with basil and mint, but you can also use tarragon, cilantro, parsley, or whatever fresh herbs you have. It’s excellent with grilled meats.
5. Get out there and enjoy it! Grill some hot dogs, set out a sundae bar, invite your neighbors to join the fun. Have a pig roast. We did last year and we’re doing it again this summer…but that’s a story for a different day.
Here’s the recipe print-out.
Shaved Zucchini Salad
3 medium zucchini (about 1 ½ pounds)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Grated rind and juice of ½ lemon
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons chopped basil
1 tablespoon chopped mint
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
1. Using a wide vegetable peeler, and holding the zucchini lengthwise, shave it into thin strips. Discard the seeds. Transfer the strips to a bowl.
2. Add olive oil, lemon juice and rind, salt, and pepper to zucchini and toss well. Sprinkle with basil, mint, and crushed red pepper.