My Summer Menu
June 10, 2013
The Spritzer Well now, your guests have arrived, you’ve fixed your hair, you’re wobbling on your new high heels, and it’s warm outside. What will you serve? One of the best drinks I’ve ever had: the Spritzer. Easy as pie, so no fussy lists of ingredients. Officially, the Spritzer is made with Aperol, but you can use Campari too. It’s less sweet, but sometimes that’s what you want. If you feel creative, please add fruit: I like raspberries in it, parts of peach, tiny balls of melon, or slices of grapefruit. A slice of orange will work terribly well too. You can even add a twig of tarragon if you feel utterly fancy. But without all of that fruit, it’s still a perfect way to start your summer evening.
A Savory Cake What to serve with cocktails when your guests have arrived? It’s most convenient to have something ready, so you don’t have to worry with fiddly crackers and spreads and all that stuff. BUT, most importantly, it has to be easy. You don’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen in the summer. This is one of my favorite things to make. It’s surprisingly delicious, it’s made in an instant, and it’ll serve a large group. It’s one of the most-made recipes from my new book, Home Made Summer, and I’m more than happy to share it with you here. Oh, and if you don’t have olives and feta, why not try another cheese — like goat cheese, Stilton, or cheddar — with roasted peppers, artichokes, or green herbs and toasted pine nuts? Sounds good, huh?
Yummy Salad Okay — your guests are getting hungry now. Time to move to the garden table. The sun is going down slowly, you’ve set the table, and you’re turning all your lanterns on. I suggest you make this Yummy Salad, with everything I like in it. The recipe is for about four people, but feel free to double it if you have more friends at your table. It’s sweet and savory at the same time, with lentils (my favorite legume in the world — make sure you get those tiny green ones from France called “du Puy”) and Roquefort, a stinky but noble French sheep cheese that has so much depth to its taste (if you think it’s too strong, replace it with Stilton or Gorgonzola). And, again, the recipe is terribly easy. It’s summer, so why the fuss?
Italian Chicken Stew When you’re entertaining, it’s always a good idea to have everything prepared up front so you can stay at the table with your friends instead of running frantically in and out of the kitchen. Make this dish just before your guests arrive so you can turn off the heat after having cocktails. Leave the lid on the pot whilst enjoying your starter; a Dutch oven will stay hot and keep the dish warm. Serve with anything you want — rice, pasta, polenta (grilled?), couscous. But a loaf of crispy sourdough bread might just be perfect, too! Everyone I know loves this simple dish. If you want to make it vegetarian, just leave out the chicken and add more mushrooms. If you can’t find chanterelles, don’t worry: any mushroom will work. The fun part of cooking is to be easy on yourself. Don’t stress out! Pour your gang a chilled light red wine and ENJOY!
Little Rhubarb Cobblers A warm dessert is often a good idea for a summer night. It can get chilly at the end of the evening, and you might have to run into the house to find cardigans or scarves for your guests (well, maybe only for the ladies). Make sure you have preheated the oven just before you start to finish off the main dish. You can make these cobblers up front and keep them in the fridge just until you pop them in the oven. Do this when you go back out to the garden to enjoy the Italian chicken with your guests. DON’T FORGET TO SET A TIMER! This will come in handy when you’re all caught up in a huge discussion at the dinner table and you’ve totally forgotten that the dessert is burning in the oven! Learn! It happened to me too often. This is one of my favorite desserts. And maybe just because it contains rhubarb! If you don’t like rhubarb or you can’t get your hands on it, use peaches, pineapple, or pears instead. Decrease the amount of sugar, though, when you prebake the fruit — rhubarb is far more sour. Serve the little rhubarb cobblers with sour cream, whipped cream, or ice cream: I leave that part up to you. That’s it! A summer dinner party is so simple, isn’t it? Easy as pie… eh, cobblers.