The skies are clear, the sun is out and it’s a perfect day to entertain outdoors.
It’s all about having fun, even for the host or hostess. When full meals take too much time, energy, and money, think about serving hors d’oeuvres as the perfect small platter fill me ups. They won’t make your guests feel too bulky to enjoy water sports or anything else on the agenda. A little imagination will help you make your serving choices easy and still make a splash.
Simple, delicious, safe
Anika-Kafi Summers, nutrition education director at Eastern Market in Detroit, likes to use locally grown veggies.
“When I think about what is coming up right now, I think asparagus,” she said “It is a Michigan crop and you’ve gotta love Michigan crops. Oh, the things you can do with it.”
Her recipe for the spears doesn’t get any simpler. Start by clipping the asparagus at the stem at the point it snaps off easily. Put it in boiling water for less than a minute and shock it with ice in cold water to allow it to cool down quickly. Wrap it with prosciutto or cantaloupe. She likes to have both options for her meat and nonmeat eaters, alike. Another way to prepare asparagus, which happens to be Summers’ favorite go to, is to use a cast iron skillet or pan on the grill. Drizzle with olive oil or butter, add garlic, salt and pepper. Keep an eye out and don’t let it burn, which is easy to do when grilling.
“It’s fast, easy and so tasty,” says Summers.
Warm temperatures and the hot sun don’t mix well with some ingredients, like mayonnaise unless you can make sure they are refrigerated outside. So, think twice about serving potato salads and tuna salads. They shouldn’t be outside a refrigerator or cooler for long, especially if the temperature is 90 degrees or higher.
“You risk having a disaster with someone getting sick,” Summers said. She suggests substituting mayonnaise with a mustard base.
Sushi is another temperature sensitive entre that should be avoided outdoors, unless you plan to refrigerate soon after serving. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. Smoked salmon, on the other hand, travels well.
Summers also recommends staying clear of serving anything with eggs.
“Eggs are things you should keep inside your home,” she said. “Instead think of chick peas for a humus or three bean or five bean salads. They’re nutritious and filling, so you’re eating well and healthy.”
If you’re serving cheeses and meats make sure you put a container of ice underneath the platter and take it back into the house or into the cooler shortly after serving.
Here are some ideas to serve at your next outdoor gathering:
Caprese on a stick
1 (.6 ounce) package fresh basil leaves
1 (16 ounce) package small fresh mozzarella balls
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Thread a tomato half, a small piece of basil leaf, and a mozzarella ball onto toothpicks. Drizzle the olive oil over the tomato, cheese and basil, leaving the end of the toothpick clean. Add balsamic vinegar if you like. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Fruits and veggies—tasty, easy
As long as you have your sticks out, how about poking your favorites, from watermelon, to cantaloupe, grapes and pineapple? Or go the veggie way.
Muscles add a punch
Cooking and serving muscles in your backyard or on the beach adds pizzaz and it couldn’t be easier. Add the mussels to boiling water and cover to let steam. Cook for five minutes. Remove the lid and check to see if the mussels have opened. If they are still closed, add the lid back on and cook for another minute.
Grilled plantains are just as simple to prepare and make a big hit. Just heat a grill to high. Score plantain peels with a knife and peel them. Cut the plantains in half lengthwise and cook for five or seven minutes per side, basting with melted coconut oil as they cook.
Charcuterie boards—all the craze
They can be as simple or elaborate as you like. There are no rules, but most have cheese; meats, which is usually prosciutto, salami and pepperoni; something sweet, like chocolate or dried fruit; nuts and crackers, bread or bagel chips. Add olives, peppers, fresh fruit and other signature twists that makes it your own. If you decide to add smoked salmon, just remember to keep it covered in an airtight container to keep the bugs away.
Before you run out to get a charcuterie board, keep in mind you can use a wood cutting board, slate board, serving tray or any flat surface you have in your cupboards.
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