The best part of summer to me (besides not getting up for kids school) is having friends over for spontaneous casual dinners. I love to sit outside in the evening, not rushing, enjoying the lasting daylight.
So how to make a great dinner with no fuss? The answer is your pantry, freezer and farmer’s market.
You know what you love to eat and most likely your friends will love it too. So start there and then stretch your vision a bit. Surely you have seen some of those great cooking shows. Giada De Laurentiis and The Barefoot Contessa are two of my favorites. I also am signed up to get emails from Bon Appétit. Great ideas at your finger tips. Use them for inspiration when thinking of what to stock up on. Buy something you normally wouldn’t like mushrooms or hearts of palm and think of things you already have in your pantry. And stock up on some fun drinks — like wine and beer and some great lemonade.
Get the basics that freeze well — shrimp, scallops, sausage and chicken. Make sure you have rice, pasta, potatoes — those keep well. One of my best secrets is the partially baked bread that you can freeze and put in the oven or grill. Fantastic! Then to the farmer’s market…herbs, tomatoes and corn. What a great way to say summer. My farmer’s market has a delicious Greek pita, spinach bread that freezes well.
Now you are armed and ready — make some plans. Turn on the grill, pour some drinks and let friends help make a salad. The key to a great time is no stress. Tin foil is your friend for a light cleanup. Veggies sliced, with salt and pepper are easy to grill and so delicious. One of my friends showed me if you peel the outside of a zucchini in strips the inside has more grilled flavor — yum.
Californians love our veggies so mix some of those into your plans. Grilled Portobello mushrooms with a drizzle of olive oil is one of my faves — add some of those great summer tomatoes, a bit of provolone cheese and you have a healthy alternative to a burger for summer dinner. Kids love them too.
Scallops and shrimp in a rice dish is also a great last minute dish. Prepare some Basmati or Arborio rice. Substitute ½ parts vegetable broth and white wine for the water. While steaming rice, cut scallops in half, peel shrimp. Add to rice, salt and pepper and voila the perfect quick dinner with a salad.
Enjoy the evening and let kids make s’mores on the grill.