No matter where you are on Independence Day, dinner needs some planning to make sure there is enough time afterwards to watch the fireworks. Even if you are home for the holiday, it is possible to put together a summer holiday feast that makes everyone feel like they are on a vacation. With hot summer days and vacation dreams in mind, I developed two summer salad menus. One salad menu is focused around a vegetable and steak salad and a second salad menu is for a vegetarian meal. Both salad menus are perfect for 4th of July or any summer weekend at home or away.
One full meal is easily made by pairing several salads each with distinct and complimentary flavors. One perk for using a salad menu is, a good chunk of the work can easily get done in advance. Additionally, salads give you some flexibility in timing as they taste great either at room temperature or chilled. At mealtime, all that is left are the final touches and adding fresh herbs and the dressing. Once done, you can relax and enjoy the company of your friends and family.
Steak Summer Salad Menu
Fig and Prosciutto Salad
Summer Vegetable and Steak Salad
Garden Vegetable Pasta Salad
Potato Salad with Sorrel Dressing
Nectarine Blueberry Galette
Point Reyes Baby Blue Cheesecake with sliced Figs
Jamie Oliver refers to the Fig and Prosciutto Salad as the sexiest salad in the world. That may be true, but it is totally family friendly. Besides, wrapping a fig in prosciutto might be the only way you can get your child to eat a fig. It is a light and flavorful salad with mozzarella cheese squeezed in the middle of each fig with a drizzle of honey and lemon juice. Also, fig and prosciutto salad is perfectly delicious and acceptable as a light dinner on those hot summer nights when you do not want to cook. Serve a green salad and a glass of chilled rosé and unwind.
The main course for this summer salad menu is a steak dinner loaded with fresh vegetables. It is like two salads in one. Summer Vegetable and Steak Salad is full of summer produce like green beans, grape tomatoes and peaches or nectarines and paired with grilled steak. Along with the vegetables the citrus vinaigrette makes the salad very refreshing. There are some spice notes in the citrus dressing because that is the way I like it. However, you can easily omit the sriracha if you prefer.
A creamy salad like Potato Salad with Sorrel Dressing pairs nicely with the green beans and grilled steak. Sorrel is difficult to find so substitute is with some lemon zest and juice. Serve the potato salad chilled.
If you do not want to make potato salad, an alternative is the Garden Vegetable Pasta Salad. It is a true work horse salad that everyone loves. It has the salty, creamy and fresh flavors scattered throughout the salad and satisfies those creamy cravings without being heavy.
Galettes are really easy to make and always appreciated. I love mixing fruits together like Nectarine Blueberry Galette. For variety, you can substitute the blueberries with black cherries. Make the pie dough the night before and keep in the refrigerator, then assemble and bake the galette in the morning or early afternoon. You just want to make sure to give yourself plenty of time to allow for the galette to cool. Serve with vanilla ice cream.
Another make ahead, and sophisticated dessert is sweet with a slightly savory bite from my favorite blue cheese, Point Reyes Baby Blue Cheesecakes. For a summer variation, garnish the cheesecakes with sliced figs or any summer fruit that pairs well with blue cheese. The blue cheese flavor is subtle, and well suited as either an appetizer or a dessert.
Vegetarian Summer Salad Menu
Muhammarra with herb pita chips
Blue cheese Dip with Caramelized Shallots
Tortellini Salad with Basil Pesto
Green Bean Salad with Lemon Dressing
Leafy Green Salad with Lemon Cream Dressing
Strawberry Basil No-churn Ice Cream with fresh Strawberries
Fudgy Brownies with Sea Salt and Caramel
Dips are easy to make with some dips, like these two, you can make in advance. Often, dips taste better given some time for the flavors to meld. Muhammara and Blue Cheese Dip with Caramelized Shallots are two of my favorite dips.
For a vegetarian main course, pasta salad makes a great main course meal. Make my Tortellini with Basil Pesto recipe into a salad by rinsing the cooked tortellini under cold water to stop the cooking. Shake out any excess water and add the tortellini to a large mixing bowl along with the pesto and grape tomatoes. Omit the green beans because you will have them with the three bean salad. I prefer this salad at room temperature, but you can make this ahead then refrigerate it until time to serve. Here is a link for my pesto recipe. You will find a link for the pesto recipe with the tortellini recipe as well.
This is not your ordinary green bean salad. It is made with green beans, yellow wax beans and kidney beans, essentially it is a three bean salad. It is perfect for the summer or anytime you have vegetarian or vegan guests. The ginger in the lemon vinaigrette recipe does not pair well with the pesto so replace it with fresh basil or parsley. If you cannot find yellow wax beans, as they are not quite in season yet, substitute is with another legume like black beans or chick peas.
Everyone loves ice cream and brownies and these recipes are real crowd pleaser. Strawberry Basil No-churn Ice Cream is delicious served alone or with some fudgy brownies with sea salt and caramel. This best brownie recipe ranks up there as one of the best I have ever had.
Lemon Cream Dressing
Toss the green salad with any dressing you prefer, but since the green bean salad has a vinaigrette I thought it would be nice for something that was different yet compliment the other salads in the meal. Despite the cream, Lemon Cream Dressing is very light. Infuse 4 smashed and peeled garlic cloves in a half cup (125 ml) of heavy cream for two hours in the refrigerator. Once the garlic is infused, remove the cloves and add a pinch of Kosher salt, several rounds of freshly ground black pepper, and zest from a quarter of a lemon. Whisk the cream. As soon as it starts to thicken add two tablespoons (30 ml) of lemon juice and 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of extra virgin olive oil. Continue to whisk the cream until the dressing is light and airy. You are not making full-out whipped cream, but one you can pour that has a light and creamy texture.
Each salad menu has unique and flavorful salads that compliment each other. They also create a balanced dinner filled with summer produce. The amount of servings per salad is the same as the number of servings stated in the original recipe. Unless otherwise stated, each menu will feed a family of 4-5. Fortunately, each recipe is easily scaled up to serve any number of guests. Depending on how many guests you are planning for, you might need additional appetizers like guacamole, deviled eggs, or roasted shrimp cocktail, and desserts like Nifty Cake or peach sabayon.
Hope you get to see some fireworks. Have a delicious and happy Independence Day.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
I have the pleasure of providing lunch for my son Evan, and his 8 groomsmen this weekend. Visualizing the amount of food required for a group of hungry men brought me back to Evan’s high school and college days when I had to feed Evan and his friends after a swim meet. Swimmers require a lot of calories on any given day, and the amount of food they eat is phenomenal. Fortunately, the groomsmen do not have the same appetite as Evan’s teammates had. Yet in the back of my mind the question remained, what to feed the groomsmen? I went around and around about what food to order and finally came up with the idea of doing it myself and make sandwiches with grilled chicken and grilled flank steak.
Of course, it would be easier to order sandwiches from the venue, but the cost for sandwiches was equivalent to a 5 course meal. Additionally, the wedding venue is a resort in a rural area and there is no other place nearby to order food. Making the lunch myself, is the next best option. Fortunately, the venue is just over an hour away from home and I will have a full kitchen in my suite. These perks allow me to feel confident that I can cook everything at home and keep the food fresh once I am at the resort.
Even though it may seem like I am feeding an army, Evan gave me direction to keep the food simple without a lot of munchies with dips, salsas, and desserts. His concern is if there is a lot of food to munch on after they are all dressed, someone, himself included, will spill or drip on their clean and pressed white shirt or their new suit. I totally get that, and I do not want any spills on my gown either. Even at 28 years old spills happen, and white shirts and fancy new suits are an easy target. So, the menu is simple, make your own sandwiches with grilled chicken or grilled flank steak, lettuce, tomato, avocado and condiments on sourdough bread. On the side, only chips. No dip. No salsas. No dessert.
It may sound sparse, but I know the sandwiches will fill them up and keep the groom and groomsmen satiated well past the wedding ceremony. Everyone appreciates having a nice lunch, but the focus on Saturday afternoon is not the food, it is the bride, the groom and getting ready for their upcoming wedding.
Because the menu is limited, and for a special occasion, I wanted to provide sandwiches made with real meats, not processed cold cuts. Garlic and herb marinated, grilled chicken and steak make delicious sandwiches that are not the usual fare. Especially when they are made on Evan’s favorite bread, Joe’s Dough sourdough batard. Between my husband’s homemade sourdough bread and my marinated and grilled meats, both of us contribute to the meal that gives the groom and groomsmen something special to eat, even though it’s only a sandwich.
The marinade is a basic one, with lots of garlic and dried herbs, mustard, vinegar and olive oil. Chicken, especially boneless, skinless chicken breasts, get mushy if they marinate for too long so I keep that time period for a maximum of four hours. First, I pound the chicken flat then season both sides with Kosher salt. Then make the marinade. Once the chicken is coated in the marinade, it then rests on the counter for 30 minutes. Marinating the chicken at room temperature gives the seasoning a jump-start to penetrate the meat because the chicken absorbs the marinade faster when warm then when cold. After 30 minutes, I place the chicken in the refrigerator to marinate until 30 minutes before it is time to grill the chicken.
I have no qualms about letting my chicken rest on the counter at room temperature for 30 minutes because I have air conditioning and it is not too hot and humid. If you do not have air conditioning and it is hotter than hot, be wise and place the chicken in the refrigerator once it is coated in the marinade.
For even cooking I recommend pounding the chicken breasts with a meat mallet to an even thickness between two pieces of plastic wrap. The plastic wrap protects the chicken meat and prevents the chicken from sticking to the surface of your counter. Also, the chicken breast gets a nice flat surface to build a sandwich on.
Depending on the size of each chicken breast, cut the chicken breast in half on a diagonal. This way you get two pieces of chicken that will easily fit on the sandwich bread. Plus, you get enough for two grilled chicken sandwiches from one breast.
Mix it up
Making a sandwich with lettuce, tomatoes and avocado gives the option of making a grilled chicken salad instead of a sandwich. For people who eat a Paleo, or no carb diet, you can provide your guests with the food they eat without you having to make an extra dish.
Make the grilled chicken with either boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs. The photographs in the post, picture the sandwiches and grilled chicken made with grilled chicken thighs.
For vegetarian diets bring some extra cheese like mozzarella, or Munster cheese to make a cheese sandwich with the same vegetables used for the grilled chicken sandwiches. Or, make a salad with cheese. The cheese will also pair well with the grilled chicken and steak.
If the weather turns bad, sear the chicken on the stove using a grill pan, then finish the cooking in the oven. Add some chicken stock or white wine to the baking dish with the chicken to keep it moist and make pan juices. This makes a delicious grilled chicken dinner.
More sandwich recipes in my post, Easy Picnic Ideas for the Summer.
Make a sandwich with Sherry Marinated Grilled Flank Steak
Grilled Chicken with Garlic Herb Marinade
An easy grilled chicken recipe with a classic marinade of garlic and dried herbs. This recipe it easily prepared with boneless-skinless chicken breasts or thighs and makes delicious sandwiches.
Depending on the size of the chicken thighs or breasts you can get 5 to 6 sandwiches. I had a 2 lb (1 k) package of chicken thighs that totaled 5 chicken thighs. A decent serving size per sandwich is 4 oz (125 g) of meat. American chicken breasts are large and range anywhere between 7 - 9 oz (200 - 250 g).
See Notes for directions for stove top grilling method.
- 2 lb (1 K) boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs
- 1 tsp Kosher salt
- 3-4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 ½ tsp Dijon mustard
- 2 TB sherry vinegar
- 1 tsp dried onion flakes
- ¼ tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1 tsp dried rosemary
- ¾ tsp Worcestershire sauce
- ¼ cup 75 ml extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup chicken stock optional
Prepare the Chicken
If you are using chicken breasts, pound the chicken breasts with a meat mallet between two pieces of plastic wrap, until you get an even thickness. About a half-inch (1 cm) thick is ideal, but you do not what the chicken beasts to get torn apart. Place in a baking dish large enough to hold all the chicken.
Sprinkle kosher salt over the chicken thighs or breasts on both sides. Let the chicken rest in a baking dish just large enough to hold the chicken on the counter while you prepare the marinade.
Make the Marinade
In a small bowl, mix together the garlic, Dijon mustard, vinegar, onion flakes, oregano, basil, rosemary, and Worcestershire sauce until thoroughly mixed together. Add the olive oil and mix until well incorporated.
Pour the marinade over the chicken and turn the thighs or breast over to cover both sides of the chicken. Cover the chicken in the baking dish and rest on the counter for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes place the chicken in the refrigerator and marinate for a couple of hours.
30 minutes before grilling take the chicken out of the refrigerator and rest on the counter.
Prepare the Grill
20 minutes before grilling, prepare the grill according to your specifications.
When the coals are ready, push them over to one side to create two areas, one for direct heat and the other for indirect heat. Oil the grill.
Grill the Chicken
When the grill is hot, place the chicken top side down on the grill over the coals. Grill for two minutes then rotate the chicken 45° and grill for 2 more minutes. Turn the chicken over on the other side and repeat the same grilling process.
Transfer the chicken to the side of the grill with indirect heat and cook until the chicken is done, internal temperature 165°F / 74°C .
Remove from the grill and rest for 15 minutes.
Serve as is or make into sandwiches.
To make the chicken with a stove top grill.
Preheat the oven to 375°F / 190°C / Gas Mark 5. Position the rack in the middle position. Place a grill pan on the stove and turn the heat to high. Just before the pan starts to smoke, spray the pay with cooking spray. Turn the heat down to medium high and sear the chicken as directed using an outdoor grill, for two minutes then rotate at a 45° angle and grill two minutes more. Turn the chicken over to the other side and grill for two minutes. You may need to cook the chicken in batches.
Transfer the chicken to a baking pan just large enough to hold the chicken. Pour the chicken stock in the pan and bake the chicken until done. The juices from the chicken run clear when pierced with a fork and the internal temperature is 165°F / 74°C. Start checking for doneness after 10 minutes. Depending on the thickness of your chicken and if they are thighs or breasts, it could take from 10-25 minutes.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
If you ever need something that will take you on a trip to the sunny shores along the Mediterranean Sea, enjoying a Nicoise Salad will do just that. It is a salad full of vibrant foods found in the Mediterranean and in particular the French Rivera. Originating from Nice, France, you can expect a Nicoise Salad made with warm sun ripened vegetables, cured black olives, anchovies, garlic and a garden of herbs reflecting the region’s abundant summer bounty from both land and sea. This is an elegant salad with attitude. It speaks in a loud and briny voice, yet it is never offensive because it’s beauty transports our senses to a sunset along the Côte d’Azur no matter how distant that may be.
Traditional Nicoise Salad
Nicoise Salad is one of my favorite salads. Even though I came to it from an adapted version, rather from an authentic source, I believe it is true in its concept. My research revealed what I knew as Nicoise Salad included several ingredients that are not necessarily “traditional”. Like most regional foods of classic cuisines there usually is a traditional version and the adapted versions built off the one traditional recipe. Yet, for Nicoise Salad, there is debate about what that one recipe consists of. Even in Nice, from restaurant to restaurant and house to house, you get a slightly different version all considered a classic. Despite the fact no one can agree on one “traditional recipe” there is consistent agreement about the essential ingredients that define a Nicoise Salad.
The definitive ingredients are: French green beans, also known as haricot verts, ripe tomatoes, black cured olives, preferably ones from the South of France, anchovies, garlic and fresh herbs, like Fines Herbs. Everything else like potatoes, lettuce, capers, tuna fish, marinated artichoke hearts, and hard-boiled eggs, are open for debate. Two of the add-ins, potatoes and marinated artichoke hearts, are highly debated as definitive ingredients, but lettuce, tuna fish and hard-boiled eggs are questionable, or optional as I like to put it.
My Nicoise Salad
Because my introduction to Nicoise Salad was in New York and not along the French Rivera, my idea for this classic salad includes many optional ingredients, especially tuna, potatoes and hard-boiled eggs. However, it is just these ingredients that turned my mind around about liking anchovies. Therefore, I do not consider them blasphemous because they compliment an essential ingredient in a Nicoise Salad. It was so long ago when I was first introduced to anchovies I barely remember it, What I do know is if you do not like them, open your mind to try anchovies in a Nicoise Salad and then make up your mind. Paired with the other salad ingredients, the anchovies strong fishy and briny flavor turn complimentary and not overpowering.
Now I love anchovies, especially with lots of garlic, and add them to many recipes, like Baby Artichoke Hearts with Anchovy Caper Sauce. These artichoke hearts make up a Nicoise Salad in its own right, just add some tomatoes, haricot verts and olives and you are good to go.
Including tuna, potatoes, anchovies, and hard-boiled eggs in one salad may seem over the top, but it is the salad I know and love. I could omit the tuna to feel more authentic, because tuna is the ingredient you rarely find in a Nicoise Salad in France, or so I’ve heard. Though I do believe tuna adds a nice flavor. Plus, if you use good quality prepared tuna from a jar or can, it makes a big difference.
The tuna I used is TonNino tuna (not an ad) in olive oil. It comes in a jar, is wild caught, dolphin friendly, Yellowfin Tuna. Plus, you can find it at most grocery stores. It had a mild tuna flavor that was very moist without a mineral-metallic aftertaste you get from canned tuna.
I have never made this salad with grilled or fresh tuna because there is enough preparation without it. Also, I believe fresh tuna will dominate the flavor and at $24 plus per pound, should be the featured ingredient. I am sure it tastes delicious, but call it by a different name, like Grilled Tuna Mediterranean Salad.
How to Compose a Nicoise Salad
Another Nicoise Salad debate is over how to assemble the salad. You’ll find in a lot of restaurants serve Nicoise Salad plated as a composed salad with each ingredient artfully placed on a platter with the dressing drizzled over the top. Another way to present the salad is to mix all the ingredients together, like salads usually are, with the salad dressing evenly coating all the fresh ingredients. Personally, I prefer the all mixed up style because I believe it tastes better that way. It is a perfect jumble of deliciousness compared to the composed salad.
As you can see in my photographs, I opted for the composed salad just because it photographs better. However, by dinner time I had everything all mixed up.
Making a Nicoise Salad becomes a personal choice of ingredients and appearance. The important consideration is always including ripe tomatoes, black cured olives, blanched green beans, anchovies, garlic, and a handful of fresh herbs. No exceptions. Everything else is up to you. Keep in mind Nicoise Salad is vibrant so don’t skimp on the garlic and anchovies. As you make this salad, think of hot summer days, dry heat, warm coastal breezes, salty air, and the best seasonal ingredients found around the Côte d’Azur . You will reward yourself with a trip to the French Rivera even when you are thousands of miles away.
Classic Nicoise Salad for Two
Take a bite, close your eyes then transport your senses to the Côte d’Azur on a hot summer day.
This recipe can easily be doubled and tripled in size to feed 4-8 people. You may need to adjust the dressing somewhat, but that is easily done.
Nicoise Salad is best eaten as soon as it is prepared. Arrange it decoratively in a bowl or platter or serve mixed together in a delicious jumble of fresh ingredients tossed with the vinaigrette. With all the ingredients at room temperature.
- 2 Yukon gold potatoes about 8 oz (247 g) total
- 1 small onion peeled and cut in half
- 2 cloves garlic peeled and smashed and green germ removed
- 2-3 sprigs of thyme
- 2 eggs
- 4 oz (125 g) French Green Beans (Haricots Verts) ends trimmed
- ½ 4 oz ( 105 g) head of green leafy lettuce like Boston Bibb
- 1 6.7 oz (190 g) jar tuna in olive oil, such as TonNino
- ¼ lb. (115 g) grape tomatoes, cut in half use plum tomatoes when they are at the peak of the tomato season
- ¼ cup (75 ml) black cured olives
- 1 TB capers brined cured
- 4 anchovy fillets
- A handful of fresh herbs either Fines Herbs, tarragon, basil, chives, parsley
- 1 clove garlic finely minced
- 2 anchovy fillets
- 1 TB minced shallot a small shallot about 1 oz or .5 g
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 ½ TB red wine vinegar
- ¼ cup 75 ml) Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- A couple grinds of fresh black pepper
Cook the ingredients:
Fill a sauce pan with water and add the potatoes. Add about 3 tablespoons of Kosher salt to the pot along with a couple of thyme springs, onion and garlic cloves. Bring the water to a boil turn down the heat and gently simmer the potatoes until they are fork tender, about 25 minutes. Depending on the temperature of your simmering water will depend on how long the potatoes need to cook. I check the potatoes every 10 minutes so I do not over cook them.
Once done, remove the potatoes from the sauce pan and set aside to cool.
While the potatoes are cooking, fill a bowl with ice and water and set aside.
If adding eggs to your Nicoise Salad, place the eggs in a sauce pan and fill the pan with water. Bring the pot to boil then turn down the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook the eggs for 7- 8 minutes. Ideally you want medium-boiled eggs when the yolks are set but not cooked all the way through, but not runny.
Turn off the heat and add the eggs to the ice bath. When the eggs are cool enough to handle, gently roll the egg back and forth on the counter to crack the egg shell. Peel off the shell, with the egg submerged in the ice bath for an easy peel. Set the eggs aside. If you are making these in advance, store the peeled eggs in a bowl with filled with water in the refrigerator.
Make another ice bath for the green beans.
Fill the pot you used for the potatoes or eggs with fresh water and bring to a boil. When the water comes to a boil, add a large pinch of Kosher salt and the prepared green beans. Once the water returns to a boil, remove the green beans and add them to the ice bath. Once cool, remove the green beans from the ice bath and place on a clean lint free kitchen towel and dry. Set aside.
Make the Vinaigrette
If you haven’t already done so, mince the anchovy fillets, garlic and shallots then add to a small bowl.
Add the Dijon mustard and vinegar and whisk until well incorporated. Continue to whisk and add the extra virgin olive oil in a slow and steady stream. Stop pouring the olive oil periodically to whisk and the salad dressing and make sure the dressing is emulsified.
Assemble the Salad
In a large mixing bowl, add the lettuce leaves if using and pour about 2 teaspoons of vinaigrette over the leaves. Toss the leaves gently with your hands until the greens are evenly coated with the vinaigrette. Divide the lettuce between two large pasta bowls, or large salad plates. Or, arrange the lettuce on one platter large enough to hold the whole salad.
If you wish peel off the potato skins, or leave them on. Slice the potatoes into bite size pieces. Also, if you want the green beans into smaller pieces, cut them in half.
Arrange the green beans, chopped potatoes, chopped tomatoes, tuna fish, anchovy fillets, olives and capers over the lettuce. Drizzle the salad with the vinaigrette, making sure every add-in gets a coating of the salad dressing, especially the potatoes. Cut the eggs into quarter wedges or in half and arrange them on the salad.
Serve immediately at room temperature.
If you choose not to add in lettuce, double the amount of fresh green beans to make up for the loss of a green vegetable. You may also want more tomatoes. Also, cut up the green bean into bite size pieces for ease and convenience.
When tomatoes are in season and perfectly sweet and ripe, substitute the cherry tomatoes with plum tomatoes or other sweet flavored tomatoes. Cut them up into generous bite size pieces.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
There is nothing like getting together with friends and family for a day into night BBQ. The warmer temperatures and longer days just invite people to relax and hang outside. I put together a delicious BBQ Menu designed for ease of preparation, seasonal produce, diet flexibility, and just good eats. When preparing a BBQ menu, the first thing to evaluate is know your guests’ dietary restrictions, if any. Don’t put any of your guests in the position where they must bring their own food. A courteous host will design a menu around their inspiration and friends and family food restrictions. In my case no matter if I am entertaining friends or family, I always need food for vegetarian, sometimes vegan, and gluten free diets. The whole menu does not have to include all the restrictions, but having at least one selection per course for any specialized diet is greatly appreciated.
Food allergies are taken more seriously than when I was growing up and there are times when people have so many food allergies and restrictions they opt to bring their own food. No one wants to put anyone out or feel like they are needing a special meal just for them. As a courtesy describe your menu to your friend or family member and inform them of your menu. If you are making something they can eat, let them know.
Summer BBQ Menu
Beer Wine Raspberry Hibiscus Margarita
Muhammarra Grilled Shrimp Cocktail Pickled Deviled Eggs
Grilled Sherry Marinated Flank Steak
Cold Sesame Noodles
3 Bean Salad
Double Coconut Pie
Gluten Free Strawberry Tart
Fudgy Brownies with Sea Salt and Caramel
BBQ Menu: Drinks
Serving a selection of wine and beer and non-alcoholic beverages is all anyone expects at a backyard party. However, these days people are very particular about the type of wine and beer they like to drink. Most likely your guests will bring a beverage they like and willing to share.
For beer, offer a variety like a lager, IPA, and Saison. This variety should cover most people’s taste preference. You know you guests best, if the only beer your guests drink is Corona, then that is all you need. For me, I am surrounded beer aficionados, so the more diverse selection the happier they are.
My summer wine selection usually includes, red, white and rosé wines. Here again, people are particular about what wine they like to drink and based on my experience two types of white wines are necessary. There are two distinct white wine camps, those who only drink chardonnay and those who do not drink Chardonnay period. A choice of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio will round out the white wine selection nicely. Another option is offer White Bordeaux. It is a dry white wine and should appeal to both white wine camps.
For red wine, Merlot pairs nicely with the steak and is not as heavy as a Cabernet Sauvignon. Additionally, I found during the summer a lighter, dry red wine like Cotes de Rhone is another all-purpose red wine choice.
The great peace keeper is Rosé. Both red and white wine drinkers enjoy a dry rosé. So, if you do not have the white or red wine they prefer, rosé to the rescue. It is a refreshing wine and perfect for summer.
For fun, offer a signature cocktail like Raspberry Hibiscus Margarita with Jalapeno. You get two drinks in one with this recipe. The raspberry hibiscus juice is excellent in a cocktail and a non-alcoholic beverage mixed with seltzer or ginger ale.
BBQ Menu: The Beginning
No BBQ menu is complete without a good selection of appetizers. Chances are, your guests will arrive hungry anticipating a night of eating and drinking. Appetizers give people something to do other than drink, plus they set the mood of your party. Also, it is my experience people love appetizers or nibbly foods, sometimes more than the main dinner selection. Some people like to help and pass around a tray of appetizers because it gets them connected to everyone at the party.
BBQ Menu: Appetizers
Depending on the amount of people determines how many appetizers you need. For a party with 8 people, I usually have three appetizers. Having more than 2 appetizer selections gives people choices for their meal, it looks welcoming and people feel like they are going to be well fed. When there is a small selection of food, people feel self-conscious about eating, because no one wants to be the guy who eats more than their fair share, and like I mentioned earlier people are usually hungry as soon as they arrive to a BBQ. Even if you have a larger party, 3 appetizers are a nice selection but make enough of each for two appetizer stations.
Variety is the name of the game. People love chips and dip of any variety. Serve with a vegetable crudité, and chips and crackers. All my dips published in this blog are some of my favorites and picking one is like choosing which of your children is your favorite. They are all my favorite. For a small party, I would select one dip, for a larger party I make two or three dips depending on the other appetizers.
Muhammarra is a delicious roasted red pepper dip from Syria. It is a vegan dip, but not gluten free. You can easily eliminate the crackers and add more walnuts for a gluten free option. Next to guacamole, Muhammarra is one of my favorites.
No one can resist shrimp cocktail and this roasted shrimp cocktail with Sriracha horseradish cocktail sauce is a definite crowd pleaser. As long as you got your grill going, grill the shrimp over indirect heat instead of roasting them.
If it is not super hot outside people love Deviled Eggs and the Cornichon Pickle Deviled Eggs will pair nicely with the rest of the menu.
BBQ Menu: Main Course
I went traditional with this BBQ menu and selected a meat entrée because this flank steak is easy to prepare and cooks up quickly. My recipe for Grilled Sherry Marinated Flank Steak is an oldie but goodie and one I use regularly. The marinade is also delicious for pork tenderloin. The photographs may need updating but the steak has a sweet, salty and smoky flavor that is timeless. With grilled sherry marinated flank steak, you can make all sorts of crowd pleasing main entrées. Serve it as is, make into a steak salad, or make tacos or steak fajitas. Additionally, any leftovers make the best steak sandwich.
Very few people don’t like grilled asparagus and it pairs well with this flank steak. On several occasions I discovered grilled asparagus is the only prepare some people will eat asparagus. As long as you got the grill going, you might as well grill up some vegetables. You can serve the grilled asparagus as is or have an orange mayonnaise dressing on the side. If you have vegetarians at your party be considerate and grill the asparagus before you grill the flank steak.
I often find a green salad is not the most popular food item at buffets and barbecues. My theory is people pile their plates with the main food selection with the best intention of returning for salad. But chances are they go back for seconds and forgo the salad. However, no one will miss the leafy green salad as long as there a couple of vegetable dish selections. For a leafy green salad substitute, I enjoy this 3 Bean Salad, made with two types of string beans, kidney beans and a lemon ginger vinaigrette. Not only is it a delicious salad, it provides some protein for vegan and vegetarian guests.
For an unexpected side dish, serve Cold Sesame Noodles instead of potato salad. Cold sesame noodles also give your vegetarian guests some more protein with the 3 bean salad. If you need a gluten free side dish, make the cold sesame noodles with your favorite gluten free pasta, or Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Dried Fruit.
BBQ Menu: Dessert
For a small party one dessert is plenty, but if you are having more than 8 guests, then offer a selection of desserts. I prefer desserts that can easily be made in advance and maintain their vibrant appearance and taste. Unless I make a sheet cake, like Pioneer Woman’s, Best chocolate Sheet Cake, I do not bake cakes for barbecues. Pies, cookies, brownies, crisps, or make your own ice cream sundaes are perfect for a summer BBQ menu. An excellent pie, and gluten free to boot, is Double Coconut Pie or, Gluten free Strawberry Tart made with pistachio cookie crust. The strawberry tart taste best when it is assembled right before serving, but that does not take too much time.
Nothing beats these fudgy brownies with sea salt and caramel, and they can easily fit in to make your own brownie sundaes. Just add the caramel sauce after you top off with the ice cream. But if you want a cold and refreshing dessert, Lemon Mousse or Yogurt Panna Cotta are excellent options for a small backyard parties.
All these recipes were published to feed an average size family, yet they can easily scale up to feed any number of number of people. If I am only serving one main entrée selection, I figure on 6 oz (175 g) per person for the main entrée. A 6 oz (175 g) serving is a normal sized dinner portion. If you have a lot of food in your buffet and a second entrée, figure on 4 oz (150 g) of meat or fish per person. A half cup (125 ml) per person is a good portion size for any salad, vegetable or grain side dish.
The key to a fun and relaxed backyard BBQ is don’t fret it. Do as much as you can in advance and let people help when offered. Once the appetizers are made, the only food you need to time is the flank steak, everything else can be made in advance. Keep any cold food chilled before serving. There is nothing on the vegetables dishes you need to worry about going bad, except if you serve the orange mayonnaise.
Summer parties are less formal, and people enjoy making a dish to share. The main point of your get together is just that, a gathering of friends and family for a relaxing evening of good food, and fun. There is nothing wrong with asking people to help. Know your talents and limits, if dessert is not your forte, ask friends to bring dessert or buy it. Or, maybe you love making dessert but can’t swing the appetizers or salad, ask for help. Honestly, most people enjoy bringing a contribution because it makes them feel they are part of the party’s success. As much as you do not want to be alone in the kitchen, your guests want to visit with you as well, so ask for help when you need it.
Here is to a summer full of lots of parties and barbecues. Enjoy!
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.