As restrictions begin to lighten up and the summer weather (fingers crossed) beckons us out of our houses, parties are popping up left and right. But due to the pandemic, we are all a little out of practice, so perhaps you’re not sure what to do, what to bring, or what to wear. We can’t help you with your look (although a white chef coat and black pants is a classic ensemble) but we can help you with what to cook. We’ve got a plethora of recipes just waiting to be served.
If you’re hosting, you’ve got enough stress without worrying about what to serve your guests. And if you’re a guest, you don’t want to bring the same bag of chips as everyone else. Time to think outside the box without getting too crazy. Sometimes simple is best… especially when you want to maximize the time spent with the friends and family you haven’t been able to see in a year!
Red Sangria (©Bobby Flay)
Let’s start things off with a beverage. It’s a summer party – celebrate with some seasonal fruit! Sangria is always a winner, easy to make and highly drinkable. You just have to be willing to commit to practicing your cutting skills. It’s also easy enough to save a portion of the fruit you’ve expertly chopped and put those slices in a pitcher of water or juice for minors and your alcohol-free friends. Family friendly fun? Done.
2 bottles dry red wine
¾ cup brandy
½ cup triple sec
¾ cup simple syrup (see recipe)
1 cup fresh orange juice
2 oranges, sliced into thin rounds
2 green apples, cored and sliced thinly
2 lemons, sliced into thin rounds
- Combine the ingredients in a large pitcher and refrigerate, covered for at least 4 hours or overnight.
- Make a Simple Syrup: (¾ cup water, ¾ cup granulated sugar). Bring water and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan over high heat and cook until the sugar has melted.
- Let cool to room temperature. Prior serving Sangria, stir in sugar syrup to taste.
Everyone thinks about the grill at a summer BBQ, which makes sense, but that’s often burgers and hot dogs. What about the veggies? Do you have anything green on the menu? An easy and delicious way to incorporate something for your non-meat-eating friends is simply grilling some vegetables. Cut them up and skewer them or grill ‘em whole to get a nice char. Get imaginative with different vinegars, herbs, and spices, or give this a try.
3 tablespoons good quality Balsamic Vinegar
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 shallot, minced
1 clove of garlic, minced to a paste
¾ cup good quality olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 eggplant, cut into rounds or strips
1 zucchini, cut into rounds or strips
1 yellow squash, cut into rounds or strips
1 large red onion, cut into wedges
1 red, yellow, green, or orange bell pepper, seeded and cut into strips
2 large Portabella caps, gills removed
- Combine vinegars, mustard, shallot, and garlic in a bowl. Slowly whisk in olive oil until vinaigrette is emulsified. Season with salt and peppers.
- Clean and chop vegetables. Gently toss with vinaigrette.
- Prepare/Preheat grill.
- When coals are covered with a white ash or when a gas grill has been preheated, grill vegetables in batches: 5-10 minutes for just tender peppers or until lightly charred; 10-15 minutes for just-tender squash, eggplant, and zucchini; 15 minutes or longer for onion and Portabellas.
- Remove from heat.
- Slice mushrooms. Arrange vegetables on serving platter. Serve warm and with extra vinaigrette.
Green Beans and Tomato-Almond Pesto (©Joshua McFadden)
If you’re looking to elevate your food, then experiment with a sauce. There are so many flavor profiles to choose from it can be overwhelming! But pesto is fairly easy to make and goes great with a wide variety of vegetables and meats! Did you know that basil is not the only game in town when it comes to pesto? Variations include…arugula, pistachio, parsley, pepita and cilantro, sun-dried tomato or this tomato-almond version. It’s as easy as one, two, three —roasting, chopping, and pulsing in your food processor. New flavor unlocked!
2 pints cherry tomatoes
¼ cup unsalted, roasted almonds
1 garlic clove, grated
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon paprika
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
3 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 pounds haricots verts or green beans, trimmed
- Preheat oven to 450°.
- Roast tomatoes on a rimmed baking sheet, turning once, until blistered and lightly charred, 15–20 minutes. Let cool slightly.
- Finely chop almonds in a food processor. Add garlic, olive oil, vinegar, paprika, cayenne, and half of tomatoes; pulse to a coarse pesto consistency. Season with salt and pepper.
- Heat 1½ teaspoons vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add half of beans; cook, undisturbed, until beginning to blister, about 2 minutes. Toss and continue to cook, tossing occasionally, until tender, 7–9 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Spread beans out on a platter; let cool. Repeat with remaining vegetable oil and beans.
- Toss beans with pesto; season with salt and pepper if needed. Add remaining tomatoes and transfer to a platter.
Garden Party Pasta Salad
And what would any summer event be without pasta salad? Everyone loves this classic carb-filled creation. It’s a treat for meat and non-meat eaters alike, so you can’t go wrong putting it on the menu. To add something special to this dish, use a bit of citrus for a bright touch.
6 oz. sugar snap peas, trimmed, cut into ¾ inch pieces 2⅔ cups orzo (or another small pasta shape)
1¼ cups cubed seeded tomatoes, or pint of grape tomatoes, halved ¾ cup peeled and diced seedless cucumber
1 cup small diced red, yellow, green, and orange bell peppers ½ cup chopped green onions
1 bunch radishes, thinly sliced
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup chopped fresh mint
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (use Microplane)
Dressing: ¼ cup fresh lemon juice, more to taste 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest, more to taste 1 teaspoon minced garlic ¾ cup olive oil
- To Make the Pasta: Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Add sugar snap peas; cook 1 minute. Using slotted spoon, transfer peas to strainer. Rinse with cold water and drain. Add orzo to same pot. Boil until tender but still firm to bite, about 8 minutes. Drain and cool. Place orzo in large bowl. Mix in sugar snap peas, tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, green onions, radishes, parsley, mint, and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper.
- To Make the Dressing: Combine lemon juice, lemon zest, and garlic in medium bowl. Gradually whisk in olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour half of dressing over salad; toss to coat. Toss salad with enough remaining dressing to coat generously. Season with salt and pepper.
It’s usually a good idea to have another meat option besides the traditional BBQ fare (Hot Dogs, Hamburgers, Steak Tips, etc.). A go-to pick of ours is chicken. Truly a diverse meat if there ever was one. Put it in any dish and it’s an instant hit. But if you’re already skewering veggies, why not use the same method on your chicken? You can go with the same flavors or give this seasoning a chance.
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded to even thickness
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon hot smoked paprika
optional: fresh lemon wedges
2 -12” metal skewers
- To brine the chicken breasts, fill a large bowl with 1 quart of cool water and ¼ cup kosher salt. Stir to combine until salt is dissolved. Add the pounded chicken breasts and let them sit in the mixture to brine for 15 minutes at room temperature. Remove the chicken breasts from the brine and place on a plate. Pat dry with paper towels.
- Preheat the grill to medium-high heat.
- Cut the chicken breasts into 1-inch cubes. Add them to a large mixing bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Toss to combine.
- In a separate small bowl, whisk together the salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika until combined. Sprinkle the seasoning mixture over the chicken and toss until evenly coated. Thread the chicken evenly onto the skewers.
- Once the grill is hot, place the chicken kabobs evenly on the grill. Cook for 10-14 minutes, turning once halfway through, until the chicken is golden brown and cooked through and an Instaread Thermometer reads 165F.
- Transfer the kabobs to a clean plate, and loosely tent with aluminum foil. Let the chicken rest for at least 5-10 minutes.
- Serve warm while the chicken is hot and juicy, drizzled with fresh squeezed lemon juice if desired.
And the pièce de résistance of any summer gathering – dessert! No one wants anything too heavy at a party, but it’s nice to have a little something sweet available. You already had fresh fruit for the sangria, so plan ahead and buy extra to give this dessert a try. Pair those fruits with a scoop of homemade whipped cream and voila! A dessert is born. Light and easy, you can make individual-sized portions or one large one for the whole group to share.
2 cups heavy cream
¼ cup confectioner’s sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 lbs fresh seasonal fruit
2 tablespoons basil, chiffonade
2 tablespoons mint, chiffonade
- Place heavy cream, confectioner’s sugar and vanilla extract into a medium sized bowl. With a balloon whisk, vigorously whip mixture until soft plop stage, (think Cool Whip).
- If using a variety of fruit, prepare according to chef’s instructions and then toss together in a medium-sized bowl. Mix in basil and mint.
- Into small bowls or cups, add a layer of fruit, followed by a couple of spoonfuls of whipped cream. Repeat until satisfied! Enjoy immediately.
Whether your event is small or large, these recipes will be a hit. Make them all or pick a few and save the rest for another party – it’s totally up to you! The greatest part of any of these dishes is that you can scale them back or add on to meet your needs. In the end, if you do have extra portions, leftovers make an excellent meal. You can absolutely eat this menu twice!
Finding this is all just too much? Each of these recipes was hand picked from one of our many Recreational class menus. Join us any time to hone your skills and delve deeper into the food world with an experienced Chef Instructor leading the way. The more you practice, the better the cuisine will be!