Summer is here and the feeling is… that I am entertaining inside. It is pouring rain. Well, actually, it has been raining for a week now and the thought of a “cold” menu is already sending shivers up my spine. I feel like lighting the fireplaces and putting on a turtleneck sweater! Alas not yet.
Summer entertaining is all about ease, yes, for the host as well as the guests. Light meals with plenty of seasonal vegetables and light dressings, lots of lower alcoholic beverages to drink like prosecco or rosé, and fruity desserts keep the mood airy and refreshing.
Late summer entertaining is an augury for fall. And even though I want summer to last forever, these rainy days become a welcome break from scorching outdoor activities. I am ready for an afternoon of binge-watching TV. On days like these comfort food is what I crave, and there is nothing as comforting as a plate of creamy pasta. Sometimes one needs to indulge.
And, to break the monotony of rainy days I am inviting a few friends for dinner.
I also have to admit that I am in no mood for hours of cooking. Yes, I want dinner to be delicious, but summer ennui has set in me; frankly, the least effort the better. Relaying on my local grocery store allows me to serve what I call a fifty/fifty meal and still feel like I have made a huge effort.
A fifty/fifty meal is a full menu where half is made from scratch giving the flavors and aromas of a home-cooked meal and combining it with high-end store-bought products. Flavor and style with half the effort. I say, brilliant!
Before dinner, I am serving sliced charcuterie, olives, and chunks of parmesan cheese with warm pita bread. With this, I am making Tinto de Verano, my nod to Spain. This delicious mixture of red wine and lemon soda is a wonderfully refreshing summer drink. Serve it in a large cider glasses with a couple of lime wedges and lots of ice.
Effort: open charcuterie packages and decorate a tray. Warm up the pita bread. Mix the drinks.
The first course is ripe heirloom tomatoes with blue and goat cheese crumbles. Simply drizzled with a touch of olive oil. The mixture of creamy goat cheese and flavorful blue is wonderful, and of course, heirloom tomatoes are full of flavor and umami.
Effort: slice tomatoes and crumble the cheeses unless you have bought them already crumbled, in which case, spooning the cheeses over the tomatoes is all you have to do.
For the main course, truffle and porcini mushroom ravioli are coated with a favorite Mushroom Sauce made with sherry, and a touch of cream. I can make the sauce in the morning and warm it up before serving it over the ravioli. As Ina Garten would say “How easy is this?” (Have you watched Tom Hearn mimic Ina? You must. He is totally hilarious!)
Effort: Make the Mushroom Sauce (recipe below) and cook the ravioli.
A simple green arugula salad alongside adds crunch and color. I dress the salad with olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, sea salt, and pepper. Add slivers of lemon rind to the salad. A fantastic way to add even more depth of flavor to the salad; easily done with your vegetable peeler.
I make the salad dressing in the bottom of the serving bowl, add the lettuce and then leave it be to toss before serving. That way, I am not fiddling with whisks or splatter while dressed for dinner!
Effort: Make the salad dressing and the slivers of lemon rind.
For dessert, vanilla ice cream and hot chocolate sauce. Not unique or different but certainly festive and comforting... For the perfect texture, take the ice cream out of the freezer while you are having dinner and warm up the chocolate sauce in the microwave for 30 seconds. Then scoop into pretty bowls and drizzle the hot chocolate on top. Serve as is or with cookies…
I am setting the table with lots of white and touches of silver and tortoise to keep it serene and seasonal. Flowers from the garden in peach, white and pink add color, and the colorful napkins with a touch of green meld it all together.
Palm fronds add height and architectural interest to the table, mantel, and sideboard.
Easy does not mean unprepared, it means that there are no difficult cooking techniques and that I am not spending two hours stirring something over a hot stove. However, as always, I have everything ready before guests arrive: the table set, bread toasted, water in glasses, wine chilled, and food ready for a last-minute toss or a quick heat.
And with all of this, I leave you. I am going back to watch the end of the show. Recipes behind the pay-wall. Please consider subscribing.
The Serial Hostess
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