Easy does it summer entertaining

Monday, 5 August 2013 | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Having dinner guests is so much easier in the summer: you can light up the barbecue, sit outside, and generally, get away with a more casual (read imperfect!) atmosphere. When it comes to summer entertaining, everyone needs a few go-to recipes that are crowd-pleasers and easy to throw together. Here are a few of mine:

rose-lemonadeRose’s Vodka Cocktail

Serves 1

This “recipe” is my own.  Rose lemonade has quite a unique flavor, as it has ginger and rose extract in it. I think it makes for a refreshing pre-dinner cocktail.

1 bottle of Rose’s Lemonade
2 ounces vodka
Mint, optional

Put ice in your glass, add the two ounces of vodka and top up with Rose’s lemonade.  (One bottle will be enough for 2 to 3 drinks.) Garnish with mint if you’re so inclined. 

New Potato Salad with Basil and Sun-dried Tomatoes

Serves 8

Adapted from “Five Star Food: Recipes to Delight Your Family and Amaze Your Friends” from the Vancouver Sun Test Kitchen. I like this potato salad because it’s not mayonnaise-based, so it’s a lot lighter, fresher, and healthier.

2 ½ pounds new potatoes
¼ cut of oil from a jar of sun-dried tomatoes
6 T vegetable oil
6 T white wine vinegar
2 t Dijon mustard
2 crushed garlic cloves
¼ cup slivered fresh basil
¼ cup slivered and drained sun dried tomatoes
½ cup grated Asiago cheese

Wash the potatoes and boil them in salted water until they’re cooked and drain.  (Keep them a touch firm as they’ll fall apart when tossed if overcooked.)  When they’re cool, you can cut them in half.  I like to keep the skin on for colour and texture.

For the dressing, mix the oils, vinegar, mustard, garlic together with a whisk until well blended. Add to the potatoes and mix. Gently toss in the basil, sundried tomatoes and cheese.

I love cheese in salads and Asiago works well here.  But you can also replace it with sliced green onions and celery, which is what the original recipe calls for. 


Rum Ribs

Serves about 6

Another one adapted from “Five Star Food: Recipes to Delight Your Family and Amaze Your Friends” from the Vancouver Sun Test Kitchen. This isn’t technically a “summer” recipe, but it’s a great one for entertaining because it’s insanely easy and delicious.

4 pounds of pork spareribs
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup chili sauce
¼ cup ketchup
½ cup dark rum
¼ cup soy sauce
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1 t dry mustard
2 crushed garlic cloves
Pepper to taste

Line your roasting pan with a double thickness of foil. (This is the best tip. Really cuts down on your cleaning time.) Cut the ribs into serving size pieces and put them in the pan, covering with more foil. Bake at about 350 for 45-50 minutes. Unwrap the ribs and if there is a lot of liquid, pour it off.

Mix together the other ingredients and pour half the sauce over the ribs, making sure they’re all well coated. Bake for another 1 ½ hours or until the meat is tender. Turn the ribs every once in a while and baste with the remaining sauce.

I like to the crank the heat for the last 15 minutes or so (say to 400 or 425) so that the ribs get a bit crispier on the outside.

This recipe is a bit spicy so if you like less heat, cut down on the chili sauce.

Cajun Rub

Adapted from “How to Grill” By Steven Raichlen.

This rub is so easy to make, keeps forever and adds spice to any kind of meat. I use it when barbecuing or even when grilling chicken on my George Foreman grill. No oil needed.

¼ coarse salt
¼ sweet paprika
1 T garlic flakes
1 T onion flakes
1 T dried thyme
1 T black pepper
2 t white pepper
1 to 2 t cayenne pepper (depending on how spicy you like it. I went for 2.)
1 t ground bay leaf

Mix it all up and store in an air-tight container. The recipe says it can keep up to 6 months but I’ve kept batches for, well, a lot longer! (And yeah yeah, I should probably refresh my spices too.)

When using it, just cover both sides of the meat with a healthy dose or rub. Easy peasy.

Red Raspberry Pie

Adapted from “The Silver Palate Cookbook” By Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins.

Raspberries are my favourite fruit, so I really freakin’ love this pie. The key here is getting really ripe, sweet raspberries. You can make your own pie crust, or if you’re kind of lazy (or hate making dough, like I do) buy it pre-made.

4 cups of raspberries
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup crème de cassis
4 T cornstarch
1 T lemon juice
pinch of salt
Pie crust or make your own pie dough
2 T butter

Preheat the oven to 425F. Toss the raspberries and the sugar in a bowl. Mix/whisk cassis and cornstarch in another bowl until the lumps are gone. Stir the cassis/cornstarch in with the raspberries, add the lemon juice and salt and mix gently.

Pour this mixture in the piecrust. If you make your own and have dough left over, cut it into strips and place it over the berries in the criss-cross lattice pattern and tidy up the edges.

Bake it on the middle rack for 15 minutes. Then lower the heat to 350 and bake for another 30-40 minutes, until the crust is golden and the berry mixture is bubbling.

I like to serve this with vanilla ice cream.

Have any go-to recipes for summer entertaining? Please do pass them along!

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