So as you know, we moved a few months ago.
And you also probably know that we moved into a house without a kitchen.
And even when they took my temporary sink away, I was able to whip up some of these.
Visits from friends – and some delicious home cooked meals – helped ease this major transition, but I will not deny that having a kitchen again has been a true delight.
I couldn’t wait to jump in and have people over again – it had been a while and I was craving “normal”. But life has gotten busier, then Noah dislocated his elbow, and I thought for a moment about retreating again. Constructing a dinner party suddenly felt above even this confident cook’s pay grade.
But I SO wanted to push through. And I decided that if I could create a “seasonal” entertaining menu – one that would be a crowd-pleaser (and serve a crowd if needed), have mostly make-in-advance components, and easily adapt to dietary needs – I’d feel much more confident about diving back in.
Fortunately for me, Mike is one of those easy eaters who doesn’t mind having the same thing over and over again – so I didn’t have to worry about boredom setting in for him.
And lo, my “summer menu” was born.
I immediately chose to make these ribs the star of the menu. I’ve been making them for about 15 years and they NEVER fail to fly off the plate, with a sauce so good that you will literally want to put it on everything (I swear I’ve seen Mike spooning it over ice cream). Click here for my secret for the best – and easiest – way to make foolproof ribs.
I then added in these garlic knots because I don’t know that I have ever made anything easier or that people love more. I mean, garlic knots – are you going to argue with that???
And since I had just whipped up this dessert – to raves from all – I knew that it would be the perfect ending to any dinner party. Four ingredients, no-bake and do-ahead ease put this at the top of the list for a perfect summertime dessert (for a bigger group I always turn to my beloved roulade).
But I was missing a side.
For summer serving, I lean heavily on a variation of a corn-tomato-feta salad. But it’s best prepared just before serving, and I wanted something more akin to a pasta salad – preferably one that was stepped up a bit and easily adaptable.
And then I remembered this:
I started making this dish almost 20 years ago, and I have to say it has never gone out of style. Easy, feeds a crowd and keeps well for days. And talk about adaptable! There’s almost no ingredient that wouldn’t work here. I’m including my adaptation but feel free to switch up and add in whatever you like!
I’ve served this “summer menu” up a few times already – taking out the pine nuts (for an allergy) on one occasion, and adding in a large caprese salad (for a vegetarian) on another.
And it’s worked beautifully. I’ve enjoyed my guests, actually sat down to eat, and had zero stress.
For a smaller group I’ve turned to my tried-and-true steak and pasta salad, which – even all these years later – never grows old.
So, thoughts? Do you, or would you, create a “seasonal” menu? Would love to know your tips for stress-free entertaining, as well as any menu ideas that you love!
adapted from Epicurious
1/3 cup sliced and drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
2 minced garlic cloves
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 box (16 ounces) orzo
1 cup finely chopped radicchio
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
1/2 cup thinly sliced basil
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/2 cup crumbled feta
Place sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, oil and vinegar in a serving bowl. Cook orzo till tender but firm; drain well and let cool slightly. Add to the serving bowl and toss well to combine (can be made the day before; cover and refrigerate).
A few hours before serving add the radicchio, pine nuts, basil, parmesan and feta to bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper and toss well to combine. Keep at room temperature for serving.
This delicious recipe brought to you by Sheri Silver
Stay tuned for my “fall menu”! And get more dinner inspiration on Pinterest!