When it comes to summer entertaining, it’s not hard to impress. But it’s easy to get yourself in over your head trying to do so.
Which is why I have a few rules about summer gatherings. About all entertaining, actually. But this menu is better suited to summer, so we'll call it that. My rules are thus:
• I don’t bake. Not even seasonally appropriate berry pies, or cupcakes or muffins or quick breads. Baking is a fall and winter activity. In summer, that’s what bakeries are made for.
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• I don’t fuss with individual cocktails. If I can’t make it by the pitcher or in a blender, or if it doesn’t pour directly from a bottle into your glass or your mouth, it doesn’t get served.
• I make judicious use of the grill. It’s kind of a no-brainer, but still. There’s no cleanup.
• I don’t worry about mains and starters and sides and such. I make what I feel like making. I put it out. You eat it. Done. If that means we nibble on five starters and drink a bunch of wine, that works. If it means we graze over several slabs of juicy meat off the grill while tearing hunks of baguette to sop the juices, that works, too.
• Anything that can be prepped ahead should be prepped ahead. A summer gathering is for chilling out, not getting hot and bothered in the kitchen.
To show you how it all looks in action, I’ve re-created a recent menu I assembled – mostly on the fly – when I found out a bunch of family members were coming over on a toasty Saturday afternoon. It was simple, delicious, effortless and everyone left satisfied. Depending on the size of your crowd, add some chips, hummus or guacamole, maybe a hunk of cheese and some fruit, and you’re good.