Summer entertaining is all about relaxing with your friends and family. It's not about spending all day in a hot kitchen or all night scrubbing pots and pans. With just a few helpful tips, you will be completely comfortable hosting a summer soiree in your backyard. There is still plenty of time to plan that Father's Day dinner or a 4th of July BBQ. Minimal effort required...I promise!
1 - Do it outdoors. No one knows why, but food seems to taste better outdoors. Plus, why mess up your kitchen or dining room? Don't save this just for your big summer BBQ's. Whenever the weather allows, I serve our weeknight family dinner on the back deck.
2 - Use your oven as little as possible.
Turn your grill into an oven. You can cook almost anything on the grill. Put a cast iron pan on the grill. Make pizza on the grill.
Want rice? Use your rice cooker. Want chili? Use your crock pot (bonus points if you can place it in your garage or outdoors). Your oven will heat up your entire kitchen so avoid it whenever possible. If you do need to use your oven, do it early in the morning, while it is still cool outside. You could also use your toaster oven whenever possible.
3 - Keep a cooler in your car. I keep a collapsable cooler in the trunk of my car. When you go food shopping, you can put you perishables in the cooler, and not worry about having to rush home before your ice cream melts. This is especially handy in the summer when you have multiple stops to make and you need to keep your dairy, meat and other perishables fresh and cool.
4 - Always cook more than you need. Leftovers should become a staple over the summer. There are endless possibilities for another meal when you have extra chicken, lamb or steaks. This does not apply to fish, although salmon is probably an exception.
5 - Cook in the morning or evening whenever possible. These are the coolest times of the day. Plan on reheating before eating. Guess when I do most of my cooking? In the morning while I am still in my PAJAMAS!!!!!
6 - Buy a fan for the kitchen. I just purchased a standup, oscillating fan to use in my kitchen this summer. It cost me about 50 dollars and was worth every penny. It really helps to keep the kitchen cool on those 95 degree, sunny Atlanta afternoons.
7 - Say hello to cold desserts. Who doesn't like ice cream? OK, maybe some people don't. How about cheesecake, trifles, Jello, frozen yogurts, sorbet, gelato and of course, fresh fruit.
8 - No dish served between Memorial Day and Labor Day has to be served "piping hot".
9 - This is the best time of year to stick to seasonal produce....what is better than a ripe summer peach, sweet berries or a fresh off the vine, ruby red tomato?
10 - Summertime = Casual No formal entertaining allowed!!!! We are talking casual clothing, casual food, disposable dinnerware (Costco has really nice ones that look like real plates), etc. It doesn't matter if you are cooking for four or forty, keep it laid back, simple and easy. Do 90% of your meal preparation ahead of time so you can relax along with your guests.
There is no reason why you cannot invite your family over for homemade BLT sandwiches with tomatoes fresh from your garden (or from the farmers market) on an amazing bread. Whip up a basil mayonnaise and serve with a side of cole slaw, potato salad, and cut up veggies. For dessert, offer ice cream (homemade if you have an ice cream maker), fresh berries and whipped cream. I guarantee no one will complain. If they do complain, don't invite them back!