Summer entertainment is fun and relaxed. No formal tables or best china. In the summer, paper plates and hands-on eating rule the hot days and long evenings. Cold beer and lemonade are musts, as are foods that travel around the yard or pool easily. Fresh-from-the-farm sweet corn, cold salads, freshly picked tomatoes and more make this season a truly special time for get-togethers and parties.
Burgers and hot dogs and even grilled fish can make a perfect afternoon or evening of entertainment. Add a kiddie pool and maybe a sprinkler — for the adults — and you have the makings of a fun time. For an adult-only event, great cocktails and delicious appetizers before dinner outside can lead to a delightful meal inside as the mosquitos descend.
Great food does not have to be fancy food. We sometimes operate under the misconception that only a multi-step dish is acceptable for company. Nothing could be further from the truth. The other night, I put together a dinner in about 2 hours from start to finish. Homemade hummus, grilled chicken, roasted cauliflower, zucchini potato cups, broccoli salad and lemon cake. What took the longest, was cutting up the vegetables. I need a sous chef!
So, if you want to celebrate the last days of summer, do it with some fun and easy eating and enjoy the time with your guests. Use paper plates and real flatware and lots of napkins. Everyone will be relaxed and will love it!
Broccoli Salad (Pareve)
This is an old favorite that I continue to make to rave reviews. I add a lot of seeds and nuts for health and it becomes a lunch the next day.
4 to 6 cups chopped fresh broccoli florets
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup scallions, green and white
1/2 cup chopped Vidalia or red onion
1 cup halved green seedless grapes
1 cup halved red seedless grapes
1 cup dried cranberries or dried snipped cherries
1/2 cup sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, slivered almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, etc.
1 cup mayonnaise, regular or low-fat
1/3 sugar, more or less, to taste
3-4 Tbsp. white vinegar, to taste
Place all salad ingredients in a large bowl and toss to mix. Whisk the mayo, sugar and vinegar together. Pour over the veggies and serve. Veggies can be made the day before, covered and refrigerated, but add the dressing just an hour or so before serving.
Quick and Simple Baked Beans (Pareve)
6 cans navy or cannellini beans drained and rinsed
1 to 2 large onions, finely minced
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup unsulphured molasses
1 can (3 ounces) tomato paste
1 cup water
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, to taste
3 tsp. dry mustard, to taste
1 tsp. powdered ginger
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. salt (to be added AFTER cooking)
Drain the beans, rinse and place them in a deep 4 quart, oven safe, casserole.
In another bowl, place the minced onion, vegetable oil, molasses, tomato paste, water, brown sugar, mustard, ginger and pepper. Whisk to blend and pour over the beans. Mix well, cover and place in the oven. Bake for 1 to 2 hours, checking often to make sure the liquid does not evaporate. If it is too watery, remove the cover for about 15 minutes, checking often. If too dry, add more water.
About several minutes into the cooking time, taste and adjust the seasonings. You might like to add some more pepper or even some smoked paprika or some red pepper flakes. You can add some lemon juice if you want to brighten the flavor or some more brown sugar if it is not sweet enough. You can also add some vinegar for a tangier flavor. This is a very free-style recipe and does well with many additions. For a fully fleishig dish, add some grilled hot dogs or spicy sausages.
Charred Corn, Tomato and More Salad (Pareve or Dairy)
12 ears of corn
1 large Vidalia or Red onion, finely diced
1 quart cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
1 cup fresh basil leaves, rolled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
7 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
OPTIONAL: Diced avocado, diced cucumbers, cooked farro, quinoa or other grain, crumbled goat cheese or feta cheese or grated parmesan cheese
Husk the corn and place over hot coals until charred in many places. Let cool and cut the kernels off the cobs (save the cobs for chowder). Add the onions and tomatoes and toss gently. Add the basil and toss. Add the lemon juice and olive oil and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper and serve. Serves 8 to 12.
Zucchini Potato and Onion Cups (Pareve)
2 large onions
2 to 3 cloves garlic
2 medium zucchini
2 pounds yellow potatoes, peeled
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. celery salt
1/2 tsp. paprika or smoked paprika
Salt and pepper, to taste
Place the garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the “S” blade. Pulse until finely minced.
Roughly chop the onions and shallots and place them in the food processor, Pulse until finely chopped.
Remove the “S” blade and replace with the medium shredding disc. Shred the potatoes and zucchini. Transfer the mixture into a large bowl and toss to mix evenly. Add the eggs and mix. Sprinkle the flour and baking powder and mix thoroughly. Sprinkle the seasonings, including alt and pepper, on top and mix well.
Place a generous teaspoon of canola oil in each of 12 cups in a 12-cup tin. You may need an additional 6-cup tin. Spoon a generous amount of the mixture into each cup and mound gently with fingers. Drizzle a bit of oil on top and bake until deeply golden, 40 to 60 minutes. Makes 12 to 18.
Authentic Black and Whites (Pareve or Dairy)
Baking with kids is fun and this is great time to teach them about these iconic pastries. Check out this website for a great history:
1-1/4 cups unbleached flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/3 cup buttermilk or almond milk
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. pure almond extract
1/3 cup butter or pareve margarine, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment. Set aside. Whisk the flour and baking soda together in a small bowl. Set aside. Place the milk and extracts in another bowl and mix. Set aside.
Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes on high. Scrape bowl as needed. Add the egg and beat until completely combined.
Add the flour and milk alternately to the butter, scraping the bowl as needed. Mix well.
Use a 1/4 cup measure and pour the batter spaced 2-inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 14-18 minutes or until golden and the cake springs back when lightly touched. Let cool while you prepare the frostings.
White Icing (Pareve)
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tsp. light corn syrup
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. to 1 tbsp. water or almond milk
Mix all the ingredients together until you have a thick spreadable consistency. Add more liquid if needed. Spread on the flat half of the cooled bases.
Chocolate Icing (Pareve)
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 to 2 tbsp. water or almond milk
Whisk all ingredients together, adding more liquid as needed. Spread over remaining half of the base.