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Aug 20, 2007 03:45 PM

HELP! Suggestions for Peak-of-Season Summer Party?

I'm throwing a birthday party for my husband in a couple weeks and am hitting a brick wall with ideas. He's no help at all with the menu beyond saying he would love everything to just be the peak of season. I live near several wonderful farmers markets, so accessibility should not be an issue.

It's for about 20 people, and the main dish(es) should be prepared on the gas grill

So far I'm contemplating:

Insalata caprese with heirloom tomatoes
Assorted grilled veggies (not sure which kind would be best right now, though)
Some kind of pasta or orzo salad
Strawberry tart
Vanilla ice cream with fresh peaches and champagne

I'd like to have some easy/elegant appetizers, a buffet of salads I can make in advance, some kind of mixed grill (wide open - seafood, beef, lamb, poultry, pork...) and maybe add a chocolatey dessert.

I'm pretty desperate for some ideas. Anything that screams "summer" would be a VERY welcome suggestion! Thanks...

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  1. Stuffed eggplant; stuffed zucchini, stuffed peppers - all easy to prepare in advance and serve at room temp.

    2 Replies
      1. re: Maya

        For stuffed vegetables. the basic idea is often: scoop out the inside of the veg, then saute that veggie flesh with mushrooms, onions, garlic. Then, using a spoon "stuff" the saute mix back into the vegetables "containers". Sprinkle with cheese, then bake for 35 min before you serve. This looks really pretty when you do it with an assortment of smallish summer squash and zucchini.

        Emme's recipe for stuffed eggplants looks great. Stuffed vegetables are pretty and festive and so few people take the trouble, that it's really appreciated.

        Also, I had an orzo greek salad from Whole Foods yesterday that was perfect. Orzo, torn basil (not finely chopped) 1/2 inch cubes of feta, sliced olives, diced cucumber and red bell pepper. I would dress this with a greek salad dressing.

    1. Corn on the cob is in season -- if you don't want to serve it hot, you could do a succotash salad with fresh limas and fresh corn -- when I make this dish I kind of just wing it, but here's a recipe from Epicurious for a grilled corn salad with lima beans, as an example:

      The tomato salad is a must -- here's a link to an EXCELLENT heirloom tomato salad (from Suzanne Goin of Lucques fame):

      Figs are also in season, as is basil. This recipe for a fig, mascarpone and pesto tart is delicious:

      People on this board have enjoyed the watermelon and feta salad from Nigella Lawson -- I personally haven't tried it, but a watermelon salad sounds pretty seasonal to me. Here's the recipe:

      Pretty much any veggies are good on the grill -- personally, I would see what looked good at the farmer's market and go with those varieties. When I grill veggies, I first salt and pepper them and then lightly brush with olive oil and either a little basalmic vinegar or a little soy sauce, depending on the other flavors on the menu.

      I might actually go with homemade peach ice cream instead of vanilla with a peach topping. Nothing screams summer more to me than fresh peach ice cream!

      Good luck with your party!

      2 Replies
      1. re: DanaB

        I'd love to do peach ice cream but I don't have an ice cream maker. Any suggestions for faking it? Someone told me in the past you can buy good vanilla ice cream, thaw it somewhat, and mash in fresh fruit...

        1. re: DanaB

          Took the words right from my fingertips...

          Figs stuffed w/ blue cheese and candied chopped walnuts.

          Corn on the Cob w/ Cilantro Lime Butter

          Ceviche (great in the summer, so cool and refreshing)


          Crab Cakes

          If you want to stuff eggplants, do Japanese eggplants; bake and cut in half, scoop pulp, then mash with tomatoes, ricotta, mozzarella, basil, oregano, and parsley, and mound into shells; return to grill, and then top with grated parmesan and cook til cheese melts and bubbles.

          Little cream cheese brownie bites for dessert or seven layer bars or poundcake and fruit w/ chocolate fondue

        2. Agua de sandia
          Plums, figs, peaches,wrapped in prosciutto and grilled
          Watermelon salad with red onions, mint, and feta
          Corn, arugula and goat cheese salad with red onions and vinagrette
          Grilled pork tenderloin with peach and chipotle salsa

          1. Any good easy and pretty appetizers to set out? The party starts at 3pm...

            2 Replies
            1. re: Maya

              Pretty as a whole tart, less pretty once it gets cut, but I really loved the way the oven drying concentrated all that is good about summer tomatoes. If I remember correctly, I think I cut back a little on the olive oil (probably about 3 T. instead of 5). For 20 people to each have a piece you would probably want to make 2 - I made it for a party with ~10 people and it was gone very quickly.

              Oven-dried tomato tart

              1. re: Maya

                I know it's overdone but this time of year prosciutto and melons are so good--you can't beat the sweetness of cantelope right now. You can do the watermelon and feta as an appetizer, too. You can use grilled polenta as a base and put anything good you find from the farmers market on it, drizzled w/ olive oil and balsamic vinegar, or something like this tomato and grilled polenta stack, w/ fresh basil sauce:


                Ooh, how many cliches foods did I hit above? But the reason they became cliche is that they're good when in season.

              2. I second, third, fourth suggestions for corn and tomato salads. This time of year I especially like beets from the farmer's market. I roast them with a little olive oil and salt pepper and then combine with raw, thin-sliced granny smith apple, teeny bit of red onion, maytag blue cheese, and oil & vinegar. mmmm

                The September issue of Bon Appetit has a recipe from Stella! in NOLA for a arugula, plum salad with goat cheese wrapped in prosciutto and a champagne vinaigrette that is DIVINE!

                For dessert I'd think of a parfait. See what looks good at the farmer's market. We still have blueberries and peaches here. A yummy parfait of peaches, blueberries, vanilla whipped creams with shaved chocolate blew my mind last week.

                I also enjoy smallish tomatoes, cherries, small plums halved, stuffed with roasted corn and crab. It's a lovely app and really easy to put together.