Nine summer food and beverage ideas that will keep you entertaining in style all season long

Filed in Food and Wine by on June 2, 2014

If you try every variation of our nine picks, you’ll have over fifty options in your summer entertaining arsenal. Enjoy these ideas and any other combinations they may inspire you to share with your family and friends this season.

SumFood-CapreseGo Crazy for Caprese  – There’s nothing better in the peak of summer when you can grab a handful of basil and a fully ripe tomato still warm from the garden and combine it with a bit of fresh cheese. It’s a salad, it’s a sandwich, it’s an appetizer, it’s a pizza! The classic Caprese combination – Tomato, Basil and Fresh Mozzarella Cheese works in so many ways. Make this combo into a salad by simply drizzling it with a little olive oil, a touch of balsamic vinegar and a little salt and pepper – take it up a notch or two by adding minced fresh garlic, black olives and a anchovy. A sandwich using the same ingredients, with perhaps a little smear of pesto on the bread, can be served cold or hot (turn your grill into a Panini press to keep the cooking outside in the heat of summer). A basic pizza crust with a smear of pesto, layered with slices of fresh cheese and tomato and then baked to gooey-perfection is always the right choice for lunch, dinner or a midnight snack. Top it with a drizzle of olive oil, a bit of salt and pepper and fresh basil the minute it comes out of the oven (or off the grill).

SumFood-Corn-CobCorn on the Cob  This summer staple does great on the grill and takes no time at all to prepare and cook. When you are ready to serve, top it with a quick brushing of your favorite BBQ sauce, or a mix of garlic, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper or sprinkle lightly with taco seasoning; make it buffalo-style by brushing it with sauce made of melted butter and Tabasco, then top each cob with crumbled blue cheese.

Lemonade  A refreshing pick-me-up-and-cool-me-down for kids or for kids of all ages, try a lemon or lime-ade mixed with freshly picked local strawberries or raspberries. Blueberries or blackberries also add a punch of flavor.  For a more invigorating option, add thin slices of fresh peeled ginger root or a sparkling water, club soda or ginger ale to a basic lemon or lime mix – or to any of the fruit combos we mentioned. The addition of rum, vodka or tequila makes any of these combinations fit for your next adults-only gathering.

Beer-garitas  This nifty little drink will take your next gathering down south to Mexico with an easy and refreshing summer beverage called a Beer-Garita. As its name implies, it’s a marriage of Beer and Margarita and couldn’t be simpler to make. In a large pitcher combine a can of frozen limeade with an equal amount of your favorite tequila, add two or three bottles of your favorite “basic” beer – no need to go with the craft brews here – stir and serve, over ice, if you prefer. The addition of a little triple sec and some fresh fruit, is optional.

SumFood-smoresS’mores  The quintessential summertime dessert – there are no dishes and you can cook them up on a stick found in the yard! We suggest the following upgrades: Substitute peanut butter cups for the chocolate bars; perhaps a chocolate covered caramel or two could be added; take them to a more sophisticated level and use your favorite dark chocolate bar or skip the graham crackers and use some homemade chocolate chip cookies to sandwich all that warm, melty goodness.

No Sweat, No Mayo Salads  One of the hardest things about entertaining, particularly outdoors, in the summer, is the concern of keeping food safe in the heat.  Dairy products are often the culprit when it comes to unsafe salads, so we’re suggesting a few alternatives to your basic coleslaw and potato salads. Try Tabbouleh – a mix of bulghur wheat, tomato, cucumber and mint tossed in a lemony dressing, it’s bright and refreshing. A sweet and sour coleslaw, whether you go with a classic vinegar-based combo or take it in an Asian direction with the addition of cilantro, rice wine, lime and crunchy peanuts, is always a treat beside (or on top of) a grilled burger, chicken or pork. Add a bit of crunch to your grandmother’s  bean salad recipe with the addition of diced red onion, celery, cucumber and/or red pepper – or really step things up and add all of them. You won’t be sorry that you did when you taste these crunchy additions to a family classic.

Is it an appetizer or is it dessert? Try Bacon and Dark Chocolate Crostini. Toast or grill thinly sliced pieces of baguette, brushed with olive oil and sprinkle with a tiny bit of salt and pepper. While the bread is still hot, top with dark chocolate chips or a piece of your favorite dark chocolate bar. Add a bit of cooked bacon. Did someone say bacon? This sweet, creamy, salty snack works well as both appetizer and dessert (not in the same meal, of course). Now that we think about it, these would work well as S’mores too!

Grilled Vegetables  Lots of summer vegetables can be simply grilled – brush with a bit of oil, salt and pepper and toss them onto a hot grill for just a few minutes until they begin to caramelize, but still remain crisp. Asparagus, Zucchini, Summer Summer Squash, Red and Green Peppers, Eggplant, Sweet or Red Onions all work well using this method. Be sure to pull them off the grill while still plenty crispy – they continue to cook after they’ve been removed and nobody likes mushy vegetables. Once they’re grilled, you can toss them in with cooked pasta and your favorite sauce – grate a bit of parmesan on top; you can stuff them in a Panini – be sure to add a little pesto and some mozzarella cheese for a zesty and extra creamy summer sandwich; diced them up and add them to a couscous salad with a lemony vinaigrette; or eat them cold or at room temperature with a drizzle of balsamic glaze.

SumFood-CucWmlMojSaladCucumber and Watermelon Mojito Salad  Try this refreshing salad at your next gathering whether it’s a brunch, an afternoon BBQ or an elegant lakeside dinner, this one fits in anywhere it’s summer.


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