When entertaining friends in the summer, think easy and breezy. Easy to make dishes that won’t leave you sweltering in a hot kitchen all day long and breezy, casual finger foods that match the lightness of summer living. Try these family-friendly dishes when entertaining a crowd on a summer afternoon or eve. Outdoor dining adds a nice touch to summer meals.
Appetizer: Homemade Hot Pretzels and Cheese
You can create pretzels from any basic yeast dough, so turn to your favorite pizza recipe and get started. After the dough has risen for one hour, roll it into a long tube. Now cut small 2-inch bits off to make pretzel bite, cut and brain longer 6-inch pieces for pretzel twists or shape into traditional pretzels. This dish is family-friendly and fun, and you can always take a shortcut by using purchased plain or whole wheat pizza dough. For the cheese sauce, serve a cheddar cheese dip or a nacho dip.
Main Meal: Cheese Stuffed Grilled Peppers with Grilled Kebabs and Corn Salad
To make the peppers, mix equal parts ricotta and cream cheese and add 1/2-part parmesan cheese. Remove the pepper stem and scrape the inside to remove the seeds. Fill the pepper with cheese mixture using a knife. Run with olive oil and grill for 7-8 minutes or until charred. Experiment with different types of peppers, such as Italian, bell or poblano.
When summer tomatoes and corn are at their best, make a simple salad. If the corn is quite fresh, use it raw; otherwise shuck the ears and blanch for 4 minutes. Remove the corn kernels from their cob. Slice cherry tomatoes in half, dice one-half a red onion and add fresh basil on top.
For kebabs, use your preferred meat and marinade for several hours or overnight in a simple lemon and oil dressing or another simple marinade. Slide the meat onto wooden or metal skewers and grill until cooked through. Try shrimp with lemon and oil, Asian-style beef or garlic-rosemary chicken.
Dessert: Watermelon Popsicles
This no-fuss dessert simply spells summer. De-seed and cut 2-1/2 cups of watermelon. Puree in a blender. If you wish, add tequila for a watermelon margarita popsicle or add lime or mint for a child-friendly twist on the watermelon pop. Pour the pureed watermelon into popsicle molds and freeze. If you don’t have a popsicle mold, use paper juice cups to hold the popsicle base and insert popsicle sticks when the liquid is partially frozen. To serve, run the popsicle mold under warm water and gentle slide out the pop.
For beverages, iced tea and lemonade both quench the thirst and are simple to make at home. If you prefer something sugar-free, add some fresh herbs or veggies to water to create a lightly flavored water. Try mint and cucumber or lemon balm and fresh lemon, for example. If you’re serving adults only, upgrade to a crisp white wine or rose, or try light summer ale or a shandy (half beer-half lemonade). With no-fuss, crowd-pleasing dishes like these; you just may become the preferred hostess.
All of these dishes are easy to scale up when you’re throwing large parties and are adaptable to allergens and personal preference. What are your go-to summer dishes for entertaining?