Summer is meant for entertaining – friends, family, al fresco dining, and maybe some chilled wine. These gatherings are more than just a good time – the social connectivity has been shown to promote longevity. Pair that with nutrient-dense food, and you have a great equation for health promotion. But nothing drains the fun out of a get-together more than spending hours in the kitchen, prepping, serving, and cleaning up. So, how can you keep it simple while making it delicious and healthy?
Build a buffet around recipes that can be served chilled or at room temperature and can be made ahead of time. Here are some simple summer recipes that will keep you out of the kitchen so you can spend more time socializing with your guests.
Soups: I serve soup as an appetizer at almost every gathering. Puréed varieties are not only perfect for sipping and grazing, but they are a terrific way to use the bounty of summer vegetables. They can be made up to 3 days ahead of time and can be served in small cups or tall shot glasses.
Appetizers: Select a dip to serve with some unlikely vegetables, like endive spears and baby peppers to change it up. Add a few small plates you can make ahead of time and add small bowls of olives, nuts, and small pickled vegetables.
Salads: There are so many vegetables to choose from this time of year as a base for a salad. Add some seasonal fruit for interest and a simple dressing to let the flavors shine. The secret to making salads ahead of time is to store ingredients separately and toss just before serving.
Mains: Proteins, from chicken to tofu, are usually the focus here. Since the rest of your buffet is served up chilled or at room temperature, there is nothing wrong with firing up the grill. Marinating your proteins beforehand is a great way to infuse flavor and adds protection from charring. Prepare a simple sauce or topping, to serve on the side.
Dessert: While the grill is still hot, clean grates and grill some sturdy fruit like peaches and pineapple. Toss with some fresh herbs and serve up with vanilla yogurt. Top with nuts. Light, fresh, and impressive display.