Warm-weather entertaining is a breeze when you cook outdoors. A barbecue featuring burgers or your famous chicken legs basted with a bodacious sauce provide an anchor for a fun evening with good food. If you’ve invited family, neighbors and children, create an array of appetizers that appeal to a variety of palates and age groups and that don’t require hours slaving in the kitchen.
Sliced tomatoes topped with basil and mozzarella then drizzled with a vinaigrette are quick to assemble and disappear quickly. For a kid-friendly twist, thread grape or cherry tomatoes, basil and mozzarella on small skewers. Remind children to sit down while they eat them, so they won't trip or fall down and hurt themselves while the picks are in their mouths. Bruschetta makes good use of summer vegetables available on sale. Tiny shrimp tossed in a lime-chile marinade provides a spicy alternative to the same-old shrimp and cocktail sauce, but go easy on the chile if children are on the invite list.
Traditional deviled eggs are yummy, but stuffed with a Dijon-crab mixture, they become divine. If avocado are plentiful and affordable, whip up a hand-hacked guacamole at the table and impress your guests with your culinary prowess; serve with warmed tortilla chips drizzled with lime juice. Roasted new potatoes hollowed and filled with sour cream and caviar are a classic combination, but if caviar isn’t in the budget, stuff them instead with an herbed cream cheese. If you have any cream cheese left over, stuff it into snow peas.
Use Your Grill
Instead of new potatoes or snow peas, use the herbed cream cheese to stuff bite-sized grilled peppers. The bruschetta you prepared for your appetizer table is elevated when the bread is grilled before toppings are added. Grilled peach halves drizzled with a buttered-pecan sauce add a signature twist to standard barbecue fare. Nachos placed on the grill for 20 to 30 seconds become smoky treats.
When you entertain, spend more time with your guests and less of it in the kitchen. Do as much preparation and assembly before your gathering as possible. Inexpensive glass votive holders are interesting containers for gazpacho or a cold potato soup made several days prior. Simple ranch dips mixed even two days before can be spooned into hollowed cabbages and bell peppers right before your guests arrive. Refrigerated, cooked ravioli can be tossed with a chunky, summer tomato sauce right before pouring onto a platter and using toothpicks as eating utensils.
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