Lemon Thyme & Ginger

Summer Backyard BBQ Menu Ideas

Summer Backyard BBQ Menu with recipe links.

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

Appetizers

Muhammarra   Grilled Shrimp Cocktail   Pickled Deviled Eggs

Main Course

Grilled Sherry Marinated Flank Steak

Cold Sesame Noodles

Grilled Asparagus

3 Bean Salad

Dessert

Double Coconut Pie

Gluten Free Strawberry Tart

Fudgy Brownies with Sea Salt and Caramel

 

Raspberry Hibiscus Margarita with Jalapeno, recipe.

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.

Three recipes, Spinach and Artichoke Dip with Bacon, Roasted Red Pepper Dip with Walnuts and Pomegranate, Blue Cheese Dip with Caramelized Shallots

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.

Summer Vegetable Steak Salad with Spicy Citrus Dressing Recipe

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.

Nectarine and Blueberry Galette recipe

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.

Party Success

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.

A Family Favorite, Guacamole!!

Family Favorite Guacamole recipe

Guacamole is one of my all-time favorite foods, ever. I loved it since I was a child and have never stopped. My love affair with guacamole comes from an even greater appreciation for avocados. They are on my desert island list of food that I can’t live without. It is just so hard to imagine what life would be like without them. Avocados remind me of California and eating them is one way I stay connected to my home town.

For most of my lifetime, I have made guacamole and never look at it as a recipe, but something that is fluid and develops into a moment depending on place and time. There is a foundation to build on, but each time I add or omit an ingredient whenever I see fit. Over the years, my guacamole recipe is the one food that people always ask me, “What is my secret for making delicious guacamole?” My answer is not one they expect or want to hear but, I feel like I am stating the obvious. The secret to good guacamole is, making it with perfectly ripe avocados.

Family Favorite Guacamole reicpe

Ripe Avocados make the Best Guacamole

Ultimately, guacamole is only going to taste as good as the avocados you make it with. So, it pays to learn how to identify when they are ripe. It is rare to find them ripe at the market so, it is important to let your avocados ripen to that sweet spot at home. Too hard and the flesh will look pale in and taste bland. Too soft, and the avocado gets gray veins and has bruises on the flesh and tastes over ripe.

The sweet spot is when there is some firmness in the body, but also has some yield when you press on the north and south poles of the avocado. It is like Goldilocks, looking for the right chair to sit in. One that is not too hard, or not too soft. Just right. With experience it gets easier to identify that perfect state of ripeness and learn which store sells the best avocados.

Family Favorite Guacamole. How to make delicious guacamole. Start with the foundation recipe, then adjust the flavor with roasted tomatillos, or salsas for the perfect guacamole every time.

Living in New York, avocados travel long distances to reach our markets and usually are as hard as a granite counter top. Typically, when I buy avocados I let them rest on my window sill for 2 days before I use them. On occasion, they need more time, sometimes less. First, remove them from any bag, even the mesh bag, but especially a plastic one. Then place them in an area where they will get some sun and air circulation. Never put avocado in the refrigerator unless they are cut open. Check them daily and handle them carefully so they do not bruise.

My kitchen windows do not get a lot of direct sunlight, and two to three days usually is enough time. If your kitchen streams with sunshine all day, your avocados may take less time. None of the tricks, like putting them in a paper bag to quickly ripen avocados, work.  Time, warm air and sunlight are essential for ripening avocados.

Family Favorite Guacamole recipe

How to Make Guacamole Without a Recipe

When your avocados are ripe, begin making guacamole with the foundation ingredients, avocados, garlic, lime juice, pinch of salt, and minced cilantro. As you make guacamole remember this rule, start with less and add more if needed. It is a lot easier to add seasoning then take away. My preference for guacamole is create a nice balance of all the ingredients to enhance the flavor of the avocados without any one flavor coming on too strong. There are other traditional ingredients in guacamole like white onion or chopped tomatoes, but I prefer a smoother guacamole. Plus, I am not a big fan of raw onions. Feel free to add a couple of tablespoons of chopped white onions or tomatoes if you wish.

Once you get the foundation mixed together, taste and assess what the guacamole needs if anything. With perfect avocados it doesn’t take much to make good guacamole. Sometimes, the avocados lack some flavor and need some boosting. The easiest way to boost up the flavor is by adding a tablespoon of salsa, either tomato salsa or tomatillo salsa. Also, a small spoonful of mayonnaise helps make the guacamole creamy. Even a scant amount of Dijon mustard can offer the right amount of tang when the guacamole needs some acid to brighten it up. However, be careful not to add too much because you don’t want to taste the mustard or mayonnaise, these flavors should be in the background.

Family Favorite Guacamole recipe.

Extra Tidd-Bits for Boosting Guacamole Flavor

Just like adding a spoonful of salsa to your guacamole, you can achieve the same effect, if not better if you roast a tomatillo, jalapeño or serrano pepper, and garlic then add them to the guacamole. Personally, I love adding these roasted vegetables to guacamole, especially the garlic. The roasted garlic becomes sweet, and the harsh bite disappears. These roasted vegetables bring a slight tangy smokiness to the guacamole that just fits, like bacon and eggs.

Learn how to roast tomatillos and chili peppers by reading, Chicken Enchiladas with Roasted Tomatillo Sauce or White Chicken Chili.

A couple of years ago, I discovered how fresh fruit like strawberries is delicious with guacamole. Either serve strawberries on the side or chop some up and mix in the dip. You may need to add more salt and adjust the other seasoning, so taste and build the flavor as you go.

Family Favorite Guacamole recipe.

How Many Avocados?

3 avocados are a good place to start. It should make enough guacamole for 5-6 people. However, if your family is like my family it will disappear in less than 5 minutes and you will feel like you did not make enough. Avocados are expensive, at least in NY, so buy as many as is within reason. The most avocados I ever used to make guacamole are 6-7 avocados. It was for a decent size party of 15 or more people. However, if there are several appetizers in addition to the guacamole, there is no need to make so much.

Keep in mind, guacamole does not keep well. No matter how much lime juice is in the guacamole, eventually it turns gray from being exposed to the air. The oxidation also effects the flavor. Guacamole is a dip to serve right away and at room temperature.

Need more appetizers for your party? Try, Roasted Shrimp with Sriracha Cocktail Sauce and Deviled Eggs.

Print

Family Favorite Guacamole

The secret to delicious guacamole is using perfectly ripe avocados. Avocados are ripe when they are still firm but there is some give in the top and bottom of the fruit. I find it is best to buy avocados a couple of days in advance and let them ripen on a sunny windowsill. 

This is a foundation recipe to build your guacamole as you make it. Adjust any amount of your preferred seasonings to enhance the flavor of your avocados.  

This is not a recipe to make in advance. Guacamole is best served at room temperature and immediately after it is made. Serve with corn chips or some fruit like strawberries and vegetables such as jicama, carrots, cucumbers or bell peppers.

Course Appetizer
Cuisine Mexican
Prep Time 15 minutes
Author Ginger

Ingredients

  • 3 avocados
  • 1 -2 cloves garlic peeled and green germ removed
  • 1 lime
  • 1/2 tea Kosher Salt
  • 2 TBS chopped cilantro
  • 1 roasted jalapeño chili optional
  • 1 medium roasted tomatillo optional

Instructions

  1. Cut each avocado in half by holding the avocado in one hand and with the other hand make a slice with a 6-inch chef's knife though the top of the avocado towards the middle until you reach the pit inside. Rotate your knife around the perimeter of the avocado. Set down the knife and hold the avocado in both hands then twist the avocado halves in opposite directions until they separate. Pull apart the avocado halves. 

  2. Securely hold the avocado with the pit like it is resting in your palm and the pit is facing up. Make sure your fingers are away from the edge of the avocado. Carefully, but firmly, take your chef knife and hit the sharp edge of the blade in the center of the pit until the knife sticks. With the knife blade secure in the pit, twist your knife counter-clockwise to loosen the pit from the flesh. Lift your knife with the pit still attached and remove the pit from the flesh. Whack the side of your knife against the edge of your cutting board, or the rim of a garbage pail, to loosen the pit from the knife and falls off. Repeat until all the avocados are cut in half and pits removed.

  3. Use a soup spoon and scoop out the avocado flesh. Run the spoon around the inside edge of the avocado to loosen it free from the skin. Scoop out the avocado flesh and place it into a mixing bowl. Repeat until all the avocados are scooped out. 

  4. Mash the avocados with a fork until all the flesh is mixed together but still chunky. Add lime juice from half a lime. Stir to mix with your fork. 

  5. Mince or press the garlic and place into the mixing bowl. Add a pinch (less than 1/2 a teaspoon), of Kosher salt. and the cilantro to the avocados. Stir to mix. 

  6. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. Too bland add more salt or garlic. Needs more acid add more lime juice or tomatillos or salsa. Start with less and add more if needed.  

  7. Optional Ingredients:

    The roasted tomatillo, process in a food processor first then add it to the guacamole. 

    The chili peppers, remove the stem and scrape out the seeds and white pith according to how spicy you want the guacamole. 

    Instead of the roasted tomatillo or chilies, add a spoonful or salsa verde or tomato salsa.

    For extra creaminess, add a spoonful of mayonnaise. For extra tang, add a half teaspoon of Dijon mustard. 

    Sliced fresh grape tomatoes for garnish or in the dip. 


  8. Cover with plastic wrap until ready to serve. Best eaten immediately with corn chips or cut up vegetables and fruit. 

Family Favorite Guacamole. How to make delicious guacamole. Start with the foundation recipe, then adjust the flavor with roasted tomatillos, or salsas for the perfect guacamole every time.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

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