Putting off that summer barbecue? It really doesn’t have to be as difficult as people make it out to be. Here are some helpful ideas to simplify what seems to be just a big ordeal. The key is organization. Everything can be broken down into logical categories. I use lists, lots of lists. They come with me everywhere I go. Start your party list right now! Scroll down for some easy tips and tricks for hosting a last minute summer party:
Food: Choose simple items which can be prepared ahead of time or purchased, i.e.:
• serve an antipasti with grilled veggies, cheeses, meats, olives, dips and crostini with aged balsamic and olive oil for dipping sauces.
• or a middle-eastern platter with hummus, baba ghanoush, stuffed grape leaves, yogurt cuke dip, feta or string cheese, olives and pita triangles and/or cracker bread. All of these can be purchased at one Middle-eastern market. In Massachusetts, there are several popular ones in Watertown. One is Eastern Lemejun Bakers. My favorite is Sevans Bakery.
• For protein, I love baby back ribs for their ease of preparation and do ahead feasibility. I buy racks of them on sale and store them in the freezer for such occasions. This recipe of mine is a great stand-by. A simple dry rub, long roast and a quick few minutes on the grill!
Susan’s Baby Back Ribs
Baby back ribs- dry rub below is for 4 racks
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 tablespoon granulated garlic
- 1 tablespoon granulated onion
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon white pepper
- Yield: About 9 tablespoons, enough for 4 racks
- A bottle or preparation of your favorite barbecue sauce
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Place ribs in large enough pyrex dish or cookie sheet with sides. Use hands to rub the mixture all over your ribs. Place in oven and slow cook for 5 hours.
When ready to serve, you can serve them as is, or slather your favorite bar-b-q sauce on them and grill just for a few minutes on each side. Make sure your grill is not set on high.
• Try adding some fun, summery composed salads like a beet and goat cheese salad or take advantage of the best corn of the season and do a pan fried roasted corn salad (see below).
Beet and Goat Cheese Salad- Serves 6
- 1.5 lbs. red beets (3 medium)
- 1.5 lbs. yellow or orange beets (3 medium); red may be substituted
- 1 T. plus 1 t. olive oil
- Kosher salt
- 4 T. EVOO
- 4 t. aged balsamic vinegar
- 6 ounces fresh soft goat cheese
- Fleur de sel or Kosher salt
- Four-Pepper mix or freshly ground pepper
- Baby greens- 1 package
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash beets and cut ends off. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with the kosher salt. Wrap individually in aluminum foil and place on cookie or baking sheet for anywhere from 75-90 minutes. While still warm, run the beets under water while removing the skins. Cut into wedges. In a large bowl, toss them with the EVOO and balsamic vinegar.
Scoop the goat cheese into the middle of a large serving platter.
Arrange the baby greens around the goat cheese.
Arrange the beets with their vinaigrette on top of the greens. Sprinkle with fleur de sel and four pepper mix and serve!
Roasted Corn Salad
- 8 ears of freshly shucked corn or 1 large bag frozen white shoepeg corn (thawed slightly)
- 1 T. or more to taste of cumin
- 2 T. vegetable oil or peanut oil
- 1 jalopeno- chopped fine
- ½ red bell pepper diced
- ½ c. chopped cilantro
- ½ c. red onion
- ½ lime- juice from
- kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Heat large pan on med. high. Add oil. Heat. Add corn and sauté while turning for 1 minute. Add cumin. Continue to sauté until corn starts to turn a nice golden brown
Cool in fridge.
Add remaining ingredients and toss to combine. Let flavors meld and serve.
• Add a big platter piled high with baby arugula, squeeze of lemon juice, drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, a sprinkle of kosher salt and pepper, some shaved imported Pecorino Romano cheese. Have these ingredients out and ready to throw together and top with some amazing well-seasoned sliced medium-rare rib-eye steak. So easy and absolutely amazing. Accompany with some Iggy’s breads or other local fresh baked breads.
• Dessert: I am not a big dessert person. I admit it, o.k.? I either delegate this to my guests, or it’s ice cream sundaes with fun toppings, or maybe some store bought pies, brownies and/or cookies. No cheating here. I will make a special trip to a farm for a freshly baked one. No chain store desserts for my friends.
• Place all of your serving platters and bowls out along with appropriate serving pieces and label each one.
• Make sure if it’s a crowd of 40 for example, that you put the appropriate sized bowl or platter out. If it is a bowl that only serves a family of 4, you will either be running back and forth to the kitchen OR even worse, you don’t refill the bowl and your guests go hungry.
• To keep things real simple, I always recommend just serving wine, beer, soft drinks and water. People don’t expect to be served mixed drinks. There’s no need to spend more than $10-$15 per bottle on wine. There are many great inexpensive wines out there. You might have to start keeping a list of some nice ones and keep it in the car.
• Ice- 1 lb. per person for icing down tubs and icing drinks. Icing down beer and wine only takes half an hour to forty five minutes so buy the ice in bags an hour before guests arrive. Place drink ice in a bowl with an ice scoop or large serving spoon.
• Have a separate small tub for kids drinks. Individual sized small juice boxes and small waters are best. Less mess and kids tend to get distracted so you want to keep them small.
• Glassware and cocktail naps: I prefer glass, but some occasions call for plastic. It’s your call and it mostly depends on how fancy you want to get. Two real glasses per person are all you need; more if you’re doing mixed drinks.
• Whenever I’m out shopping, I always pick up cute cocktail napkins so I always have them available for spontaneous get-togethers.
• All of this can go on, or near a table that you’ve deemed the bar table. I have a 4 foot fold-up one in my garage for just this purpose. Throw a cute linen over it and your bar is all set. Make sure your linen covers the ugly fold up legs. That’s my only pet peeve. If the table has nice wooden legs, show them off!
• Cut some flowers from your garden and place in a fun vase for the dinner/outdoor table. Have some festive and colorful tablecloths on hand for your outdoor table.
• Have some inexpensive games from a craft store for the kids to play with. Water balloons, make your own paper airplanes. It will keep them busy while the adults have their adult time.
• When your guests ask you what to bring, be specific! Kid friendly dessert, an hors d’oeuvre, 3 bottles of wine, 4 bags of ice. Delegate, delegate, delegate!
• Make sure your gas tank on the grill is full. Or, that charcoal is purchased.
• Don’t play YOUR favorite music. Ask your guests what they enjoy. After all, why torture them with your favorite 70′s rock band lyrics.
I hope this helps you to fulfill that goal of having a summer party before the cold weather sets in. We’re only on this planet for so long. Create a memorable moment and invite your friends over… And, remember, Keep It Simple!
Susan Lane Events does full service event planning, consultation, and offers catering/staffing services. Susan can be reached at (508) 783-1663.