A Conscious Guide to Simple Summer Entertaining
Thursday, May 24, 2012 • 1:19pm
“Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.”
— M. F. K. Fisher
People often tell me that they love to have guests come to their home, especially in the summer, and they ask for ways to keep the cooking super easy. You know that I love to cook and when I have guests, I want to feed them well, enjoy great food and spend time with them. I don’t want to spend all my time cooking. Nothing is worse than having your guests say good-bye, thank you, everything was delicious and you feel like you haven’t spent time with anyone. Let’s be honest, there is not a lot of joy in that for you.
Today, let’s look at some simple ways that you can have guests come to your home for a nice summer meal and not spend all of your time as the cook.
Hamburgers and hot dogs scream summer BBQ to many people and sometimes that’s fine. If you want this kind of meal, check out my previous article on ways to choose the best ingredients for it. Sometimes, I like something a little more interesting and truth be told, I don’t think that burgers and dogs are the easiest meal to make for a crowd because it can keep you tied to the grill. As always, great ingredients make great meals. Here are a few other options.
Serve food that doesn’t need to be piping hot: Food that tastes good at room temperature is a great idea for a summer lunch or dinner party. Make a potato salad in advance, using organic red skins, gold potatoes or anything other than a russet (standard baking potato) that is available at your Farmers’ market. Cut them into bite size pieces and cook in salted water until tender. Drain and toss them while warm with a dressing made from Dijon mustard, extra virgin olive oil, lots of fresh dill, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add a bit a diced sweet onion for flavor and texture. Grill a marinated flank steak and/or some marinated boneless chicken (I prefer thighs to breasts, I think they have more flavor) before your guests arrive, slice it up and put the meat on a platter. Serve it all with a big green salad or some grilled asparagus.
Let Your Guests Make their Own Tacos: This is so much fun in the summer and a big crowd pleaser. Grill boneless chicken and/or fish (see the seasoning I like in the recipe section below). I like these ingredients to be warm for tacos so you will have a little to do while your guests are here. Warm up some organic corn tortillas. Slice the protein. Everything else should be done in advance. Serve with lots of fresh guacamole (you can never have too much) that you make just before your guests arrive and shredded cabbage dressed lightly with extra virgin olive oil, vinegar of your choice (I like apple cider vinegar here) or fresh lime juice, sea salt and freshly ground pepper. To make guacamole for a crowd, I rely on my food processor for help. I put onion, garlic, jalapeno and cilantro in there and pulse it until it’s finely chopped. It takes just a few seconds compared to the time chopping by hand would require. I then mash my avocados by hand, mix it all together in a bowl and season it with fresh lime juice and sea salt. Rice and beans, a bean salad or corn on the cob, if you can find it Non-GMO, work well as a side dish. Feel free to add Margaritas, Sangria and/or some good beer.
Grilled flatbreads and a big salad: I actually used to make this most Friday nights at my house and I loved to play around with different toppings. I used a whole wheat lavash as my crust and the product is no longer available so I will be trying out different options this season. I may opt for a pizza crust if I can get the one that I want. Whatever crust you choose to use, be sure to check the ingredients and avoid anything that you’re unsure about. I have been told that these flatbreads are “crazy delicious”, especially the ones made with mushrooms, tallegio cheese and truffle honey. You can serve them with a basic arugula salad, dressed with nextra virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice and sea salt or go for arugula with chunks of watermelon, feta and a small amount mint or basil for a refreshing summer version. Dress this one with extra virgin olive oil and good balsamic or saba, the flavor combo is perfect. Open a nice bottle of wine and you have a gr eat simple meal.
These are just some ideas to get you started thinking about ways to enjoy summer meals with friends or even an easy summer meal for your family. If you’d like to learn more about ways to help you create freedom to enjoy eating send me an email at Randy@TheConsciousPlate.com and we can set up a time to talk.
Grilled Fish Tacos
There is a lot of flavor and texture in these tacos. Soft tacos are a great way to cut down on the portion size of your meat without even noticing but if you’re not into the carbs for whatever reason, just eat the components on a plate without the tortillas and it’s still a beautiful meal. Don’t be frightened by the number of ingredient, it’s really easy to make. I like to use corn tortillas and layer guacamole, fish and shredded cabbage but use your imagination and vary the recipe to make your own creation.
In a Blender
1 garlic clove
½ a Serrano or Jalapeno pepper with seeds and ribs (more if you like more heat)
2 teaspoons of cumin
2 teaspoons of chili powder
2 teaspoon of ground New Mexico Chili Pepper (or 1 more each of above 2)
A generous pinch of Sea salt
Juice of ½ orange or 1 teaspoon of honey
Juice of ½ lime
2-3 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 lb of Halibut or Mahi Fillet (you can substitute chicken if you’d like).
8 or more Organic Corn Tortillas (or tortillas of your choice), wrapped in foil and warmed on the grill for a few minutes
Pour the marinade over the fish and refrigerate for 1-2 hours in the refrigerator.
Heat the grill to high and place a grill top on the grill. Place the fish flesh side down on the grill and reduce heat to medium. After about 5 minutes, try to lift the fish (I like to oil my spatula because fish often sticks), if it’s ready to turn, it will lift fairly easily. If not, give it a bit more time. Turn the fish and cook for a few minutes on other side until the fish is tender but still slightly opaque. Remove the fish from the grill and flake into big pieces to put into the taco with Guacamole and cabbage. (layer guacamole, fish, slaw).
½ head red or green cabbage shredded
½ teaspoon or more to taste of apple cider vinegar or fresh lime juice
Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt to taste
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and toss.
In my experience, you can never have too much guacamole at a party. Here’s a guide to making delicious guacamole. Feel free to vary the amount of heat, citrus or any of the ingredients. Also, it’s your choice how large or small you want the added ingredients.
At least ½ an Avocado per person
Diced onion to taste (preferable a sweet or red onion)
Pressed or minced garlic to taste (optional)
Combine all ingredients, except the avocado, lime and salt a bowl. Cut avocados in half and scoop them out with a spoon. Place them in the bowl with the other ingredients and mash them to desired consistency. Season with lime and salt.
Randy Rabney is the founder of TheConsciousPlate.com and the author of “Delicious For Life: Your Everyday Guide to Making Quick & Healthy Meals. Drawing on her experience as a board certified health counselor, trained chef, food lover and parent, she offers a variety of signature programs, both virtually and in person, where participants learn the key secrets to finally changing their relationship with food so they can easily and enjoyably shop, cook, eat and maintain a healthy weight! She is a firm believer that healthy eating does not mean deprivation.
Following a personal health crisis, Randy became aware of the impact of what we eat on our health and the importance of choosing wholesome ingredients. She is a graduate of the Natural Gourmet Institute for Food and Health as well as the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, both in NYC, has cooked in the kitchen of the Golden Door Spa in CA and has taught classes at Whole Foods Market.
The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of TheAlternativePress.com or anyone who works for TheAlternativePress.com. TheAlternativePress.com is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.