As we are about to enter into the official start of Summer, this Memorial Day represents so much more than it has in the past. Not only are we remembering those that have put down their lives for our safety and protection but all those lives lost to Covid and all those lives changed or altered because of it as well. This summer has a whole new meaning. To celebrate our gathering together once again in the ways that we had been used to prior to the events of the last year, I would like to share with you the elements that can elevate your summer gatherings.
First off for any gathering is selecting the beverages.
As summer is hot, everyone works up a thirst. There is something celebratory in choosing a special cocktail or mocktail that you can offer your guests as they arrive. There are a slew of options in this arena today but here I am highlighting a recipe that we just enjoyed on a recent summer-like evening.
French 75 Cocktail
- 1-1.5 oz Empress Gin
- .5-.75 oz simple syrup (mix equal parts white sugar and water over low heat until all sugar has dissolved)*
- .75 oz lemon juice
- 3 oz champagne
- Combine gin, simple syrup and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake well. Pour into champagne flute. Top with 3 oz of champagne. Garnish with a lemon rind.
- *For the simple syrup we usually make a larger amount than what we need as it can keep in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks if stored in an airtight glass jar. That way you have it ready whenever a recipe calls for it. We will be sharing quite a few recipes this summer that utilize it!
The second element that I always lead with in any entertaining that we do, is the selection of a couple of well chosen appetizers or light bites for your guests to nibble on as they enjoy their beverages and while they wait for all of the guests to arrive.
Here are two light dips that are both healthy and delicious. They go very well when served with a vegetable crudités which is always a great choice as a lead off in the summer.
Hearts of Palm Dip
- 2 cans (14 oz each) hearts of palm, drained
- 1/4 cup chives, chopped
- 1/2 cup packed cilantro leaves, plus more for serving
- 1 tsp grated lime zest
- 2 tsp fresh lime juice
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- Place hearts of palm, chives, cilantro, lime zest, lime juice, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper in a food processer. Pulse until combined. Serve drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and alongside chips, crackers and sliced veggies.
- 1 15.5 oz can of chickpeas/garbanzo beans, drained
- 2 ripe avocados, chopped
- Juice of 1 lime
- 4 scallions (white part, chopped)
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta
- Salt and pepper
- Combine all ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with tortilla chips, crackers or chopped veggies.
- 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 tbsp light mayonnaise
- 2 tsp pure maple syrup
- 4 5-ounce skinless center-cut salmon fillets Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.
- Mix together the mustard, 1 tablespoon of the cilantro, the mayonnaise and maple syrup in a small bowl. Put the salmon fillets on the baking sheet and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Spread some of the mustard mixture evenly over each fillet.
- Bake until just cooked through, 10-12 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon cilantro over the salmon fillets and serve.
- Small potatoes
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Fresh herbs of your choosing (I recommend rosemary)
- Freshly ground sea salt and pepper such as a Maldon Salt or Pink Himilayan
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Fill a medium-sized microwave-safe bowl with 1 inch of water. Add potatoes and microwave for 6-8 minutes until potatoes can be pierced easily with a fork. Let cool slightly.
- Chop potatoes into halves. Toss potatoes with a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper and any fresh herb of your choosing until coated. I love to add fresh rosemary!
- Spread evenly across baking sheet and roast until browned and crispy enough for your taste (about 20-30 minutes). Flip twice with a spatula during roasting for even browning.
- 1 lb. asparagus, ends trimmed
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Salt and pepper
- 1/4 cup crumbled feta
*If so desired you can top each serving with a couple of chopped cherry tomatoes
- In a skillet over medium heat, add asparagus. Add just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan. Cover and steam until asparagus is easily pierced with a fork (about 4-6 minutes).
- Drizzle with lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Top with feta just before serving (and cherry tomatoes if so desired).
There are a plethora of choices for recipes for your summer gathering and parties that are available in some fabulous cookbooks and online sources. Keep in mind when selecting the food that you will serve, to choose something that you like and that you think your guests might enjoy but consider the preparation on the food and the time commitment to do so. Burgers, dogs and grilled fish or chicken are often staples of our gatherings… along with corn on the cob when it is in season, but I like to dress up the typical summer BBQ with a fabulous side salad or two or three for I feel that they are the icing on the cake. For more delicious summer salad recipes, read my post here. Speaking of the icing on the cake… stay tuned for more ideas to come for not only recipes but how to style your gathering with some simple accoutrements that really change the feel of your gathering.
However you celebrate this upcoming Memorial Day weekend, may your hearts be filled with thankfulness for the “normalcy”, however changed that we all will be embracing. Here is a toast to sunshine, laughter, lightness and love at the beginning of the summer solstice!