Summer is a great time to entertain and if you can do it outdoors, it is even better. Casual get-togethers call for easy to do recipes using foods that can stand up to the outdoor elements. If you are hosting or attending such a party, thoughts usually run along the “what should I make” category. Since I live where it is quite hot six months of the year, I tend not to serve or take mayonnaise flavored dishes. Here are some ideas for each menu course of what to make or bring to an outdoor party. These have all been stamped with approval from my family and friends.
Appetizer Course: Crostini with Mushrooms
- 3 lb mixed fresh mushrooms
- 3 oz. dried mushrooms
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
- 6 cloves garlic
- 1/4 cup low-sodium beef or vegetable broth
- 2 tablespoons cognac
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 2 sprigs thyme
- Chopped flat-leaf parsley for garnish
- Grated Parmesan for garnish
Heat oven to 450 degrees F.
Slice fresh mushrooms 1/4-inch thick. Soak dried mushrooms in a bowl of hot water until tender — about 10 minutes. Rinse and squeeze to dry.
Heat a 12-inch ovenproof skillet until very hot. Add olive oil and fresh mushrooms. Cook, while stirring frequently, over high heat until the mushrooms release their liquid — about 10 minutes.
Add the shallots, garlic, rehydrated mushrooms. Cook until the liquid has evaporated. Add broth, cognac, butter, salt, pepper, rosemary and the thyme.
Transfer skillet to the oven and roast, stirring twice, for 30 minutes. Garnish with parsley and Parmesan cheese.
Serve warm with grilled bread.
Salad Course: Grilled Shrimp Tomato Salad
This is a popular dish, so I often divide the salad onto smaller serving dishes, so I can have them available in several areas.
- Vegetable oil for the grill
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 5 tablespoons mixed chopped fresh herbs, such as dill, basil, mint, and/or chives
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 2 pounds peeled and deveined large raw shrimp
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 pounds tomatoes, quartered
- Parsley sprigs for garnish
Oil the grill grates and preheat the grill to medium-high heat.
Whisk together the ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil and next 6 ingredients (through garlic) in a small bowl. Whisk in 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt.
Arrange tomatoes on a large serving platter or in a large bowl, and drizzle with 1/4 cup of the vinaigrette.
Mix the shrimp with the 3 tablespoons of olive oil, the 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt.
Grill the shrimp, covered with the grill lid, 2 minutes on each side or just until shrimp turn pink.
Mix the grilled shrimp with the remaining vinaigrette and arrange over tomatoes. Garnish with the parsley sprigs. Serve at room temperature.
Main Dish: Italian Sausage and Peppers
This dish is always a big hit with everyone.
For the sausage:
- 1 ½ lb. Italian sausage
Prepare an outdoor grill for cooking over medium-hot charcoal (moderate heat for gas).
Keep a third of the grill indirect heat. On a charcoal grill, this means spreading the coals over two-thirds of the firebox and leaving one-third coal-free.
On a gas grill, leave one burner off. Sausages should be grilled over indirect heat.
Lightly brush or rub the sausage with olive oil. This prevents sticking and makes them extra crisp. Use tongs and don’t break the sausage skin when turning.
Grill the sausages over the indirect part of the grill until crusty and golden brown on the outside and cooked through, about 30 minutes, turning them over after 15 minutes.
The safe internal temperature for ground meats—sausages included—is 160 degrees F.
Cut the sausages into two-inch lengths and set aside.
For the peppers and onions:
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 6 sweet bell peppers or 20 Italian frying peppers, seeded, sliced into 2 1/2 to 3-inch long strips
- 2 large sweet onions, halved and sliced
- 4 garlic cloves, grated
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano or 1 teaspoon of fresh oregano leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
To finish the dish:
- 2 cups Marinara (tomato) sauce
Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions, the peppers, garlic, oregano, pepper flakes, salt and pepper and cook for about 10 minutes, until crisp tender.
Add the tomato sauce and heat.
Add the grilled sausage links to the skillet with the peppers and onions. Heat until the sausage is warm. Serve with lots of crusty Italian bread.
Side Dish: Corn Pudding
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
- 2 cups fresh (about 4 ears) or frozen corn kernels, divided
- 1 1/2 cups half-and-half
- 6 eggs
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
- 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
- Chopped parsley for garnish
Heat the oven to 350°. Butter an 8-by-12-inch baking dish or another shallow baking dish of about the same size.
In a mixing bowl combine the onion, bell pepper, 1 cup of the corn and the salt and black pepper; Set aside.
Combine the remaining 1 cup of corn and half-and-half in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Add the eggs and cayenne. Blend thoroughly.
Spoon the corn/pepper mixture into the prepared baking dish and then sprinkle the Monterey Jack over the top. Pour the egg mixture over all.
Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the pudding comes out clean, about 40 minutes.Garnish with chopped parsley.
Dessert Course: Peach Cobbler
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 eggs, slightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 4 to 6 medium (4 cups) peaches, peeled and sliced
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 5 tablespoons sugar, divided
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup cold butter, cut into chunks
- 1 egg, slightly beaten
- 3 tablespoons heavy cream
Heat the oven to 400°F.
Combine all the filling ingredients except the peaches in a mixing bowl.
Stir in peaches. Pour into an ungreased 13×9-inch baking pan.
Make the topping:
Combine the 1 1/2 cups flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl; cut in the butter with a pastry blender or fork until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Stir in the egg and cream just until moistened. Spread the topping over the peach filling; sprinkle with the 3 tablespoons of remaining sugar.
Bake 35-40 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly around edges. Serve warm or chilled.