Summer is the time for get-togethers and cocktail parties. While having friends over on warm and sunny evenings is always fun, it can be a bit daunting when you find yourself strapped for time when guests plan to come over at the last minute. To help with that, Giada De Laurentiis has a plan. From a list of ingredients to keep on hand to a bunch of quick and easy recipes, here are Giada’s best last-minute party tips.
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1. Grilled Shrimp with Grilled Tomato Cocktail Sauce
Take this classic party starter outdoors and onto the grill. Grilled tomatoes, onions and lemons serve as the smoky base for a homemade cocktail sauce that’s blended with Worcestershire sauce, honey, horseradish and hot sauce until smooth. Whether you serve the sauce warm or at room temperature alongside simply charred shrimp, the dish is perfect for a crowd.
Pasta is most often the easiest party staple. It’s quick to prepare and can be amped up in a number of different ways — from using diverse types of pasta like tortellini or penne to using various sauces like pesto, cream or tomato. There’s a pasta for every mood. Still, having a warm and hearty main may not be the most ideal choice for a summer soiree. Luckily, pasta is also a dish that is wonderful when cold, and can be made into a healthy, light salad.
In this Spinach Artichoke Pasta Salad from Rachael Ray, tortellini is used to create a filling meal. The recipe allows the use of all kinds of this stuffed pasta, from chicken to prosciutto, but those going meatless can buy the mushroom-, cheese-, or spinach-filled kinds. Along with the pasta comes the addition of fresh spinach and artichokes to amp up the nutritional factor while the sun-dried tomatoes work perfectly for a salty touch. With a tangy dressing made from garlic, lemon zest, vinegar, ginger, olive oil and thyme, this cold salad is the perfect light summer staple.
Along with juicy tomatoes, tender zucchini and sweet blueberries, corn is among summer’s most-beloved produce, as it’s both easy to prepare and guaranteed to please even the pickiest eaters at the dinner table. While the classic preparation of boiling corn and rolling it in a stick of butter is a tried-and-true favorite, this seasonal vegetable can be dressed up to take on next-level tastes with the help of a few can-do recipes. Read on below to get five fresh-corn-based how-tos — the top picks for putting this summer staple to work from each co-host of The Kitchen.
Sunny’s Quick Corn and Pico Salad (pictured above) is a no-cook side dish that takes mere minutes to put together. After starting with store-bought pico de gallo, Sunny adds fresh corn, fragrant cumin and refreshing lime juice to balance the flavors.
I grew up in Macon County, Georgia. Central and South Georgia are well known for their peach crops in the summer. Summer means peach pie, peach jelly, pickled peaches, peach ice cream and peach cobbler. Macon County is adjacent to Peach County, home of “The Big Peach,” a 75-foot-tall peach mounted on a 100-foot-tall pole — a gigantic totem that makes it pretty clear that peaches are serious business in Georgia. So is July, as the temperatures often soar into the triple digits with a humidity that makes life a lot more comfortable when experienced at a slower pace.
Where do you think the expression “easy as pie” originated? Many cooks are scared of making pie — they don’t think it’s easy! Everyone loves pie, but making it can be intimidating. Even perfectly useful kitchen folk are rendered helpless when pie is mentioned. That’s where the cobbler saves the day. The really great part about a cobbler is that it can be made ahead and is equally delicious served warm, chilled or at room temperature. (Don’t limit yourself to only peaches for this simple and spectacular dessert. Other fruits include blueberry, blackberry, plum, cherry and apricot, depending on what is ripe in your part of the country.)
For this week’s Chopped Dinner Challenge, the chefs of Food Network Kitchen chose to feature the basket ingredient yellow miso paste. A rich Japanese staple used in marinades and soups, it has a distinctive umami flavor without being too overpowering. In this Grilled Caesar Salad with Yellow Miso (Dressing) recipe, the vegetables are grilled to accentuate the flavor of the miso, and the anchovies are omitted so that the miso really shines. It’s the perfect summer party appetizer or a light lunch.
When it comes to warm-weather produce, much is made of the importance of finding just-ripe fruits and vegetables for their natural sweetness and juicy insides. But that all changes when the spotlight is shined on one particular summer classic: fried green tomatoes. This Southern staple is best when made with firm, not-yet-ripe tomatoes — which are most often green — because they’re not packed with liquid yet. Traditional tomato sauce relies on ripe red tomatoes because they burst open with juices when cooked, but it’s those same juices that would render red tomatoes limp and the crumb coating soggy if they were fried.
As you peruse your gardens this summer or shop at farm stands and the supermarket, reach for green tomatoes and put them to work in the Neelys’ can-do recipe for Fried Green Tomatoes (pictured above). Ready to eat in only 30 minutes, this simple-to-make dish features slices of green tomato dunked in garlic powder-laced flour, a batter of milk and eggs, and finally panko with a pinch of cayenne for subtle heat. Fry them until they’re golden brown and crispy on the outside and serve a creamy, tangy buttermilk sauce alongside for deliciously easy dipping.
For years I never understood the allure of gazpacho (I can hear the collective gasp), but tomatoes and I have an interesting relationship. I’ll gladly eat them sliced with a bit of salt and a drizzle of olive oil all summer long. Cooked? No problem! I’ve never been a tomato juice person, though, and this is where gazpacho poses a problem. To my palate, it’s just chunky tomato juice with some seasonings and spices.
My thoughts, or shall I say tastes, regarding gazpacho changed a couple of summers ago when I paired it with watermelon. The watermelon added just enough sweetness to balance out the acidity. You can find my recipe for Smoky Watermelon Gazpacho here.
Making lunch shouldn’t have to be a long, arduous affair. For extra-busy days, you need something that can be prepared in a flash — and that’s where chickpeas come in. Bursting with protein and fiber, canned chickpeas are already cooked, so all you have to do is rinse and drain them to pack some nutrition into your meal.
In this Grilled Eggplant Chickpea Wraps recipe from the chefs of Food Network Kitchen, the chickpeas are paired with sauteed eggplants for a tangy twist on a Middle Eastern falafel. The mixture is topped with a creamy, garlic-based yogurt sauce and stuffed in a soft tortilla wrap. Top the dish with oregano, tomato, lettuce and cucumber. With this recipe, lunch is ready in 20 minutes flat, and with a side of salad or french fries, you could make it an easy weeknight dinner staple as well.
With summer in full force and grilling season officially underway, The Kitchen co-hosts dedicated an entire hour on this morning’s all-new episode to perhaps the ultimate grill-friendly meal: burgers. Family-friendly and endlessly versatile, hamburgers can feed a crowd and shine both in their simplest form and when dressed up with nontraditional toppings. Katie and Marcela offered a few of their takes on classic between-the-bun creations with Shrimp Burgers with Old Bay Mayo and Grilled Chicken Burgers with Pasilla Aioli, respectively, while Geoffrey, Katie and Sunny made next-level ketchups: Guachup, Spiced Peach Ketchup and Sunny’s Homemade Ketchup.
FN Dish wants to know: When it comes to firing up the grill and searing your ultimate burger, what do you reach for? Is your favorite patty one made of chicken or fish instead of beef, or do you prepare no-meat burgers? Are you a cheese purist and prefer cheddar or American, or do you reach for tangy goat or blue cheeses? Toppings: salty like bacon, or sweet like caramelized onions?
Vote in the poll below to tell FN Dish how you take your best burger (select all that apply).