I’m about to share five of my favorite tips for easy entertaining, hoping they will entice you to purchase The Santa Monica Farmers’ Market Summer Entertaining E-Book, where you’ll find lots more great ways to simplify your summer food life. So let’s just call this post what it is: a shameless book promotion. But one that comes at the perfect moment to start you on a carefree season of outdoor cooking and eating.
I kicked off the season last weekend with a simple, beautiful meal in the garden: a hand-grated cold tomato soup (5 minutes, I swear!), penne with zucchini sauce, and grilled wild salmon (olive oil, sel gris, and black pepper) with a simple salad and a salsa verde, all accompanied by my favorite California rosé. It was a lovely reminder that with a little bit of organization and a trip to the farmers’ market, it’s easy enough to create a meal that lets the cook enjoy the party.
- Lighten up, it’s summer! It’s about relaxing with friends, not about Top Chef. Everyone’s in the same boat, wishing someone else would summon the nerve and pick up the phone. Let it be you.
- Keep it simple. Start with the most flavorful seasonal ingredients and 75% of preparing a meal is already done. Classic example: A simple salad of delicious tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with coarse salt. Summer Entertaining offers countless ways to vary this summer benchmark.
- Offer one surprising element. Turn those tomatoes into an “instant” cold soup using just a knife, bowl, and box grater. (Cut the tomatoes in half widthwise, scoop out the seeds, grate the cut sides on the large-hole side of a grater set in a bowl until you reach the skins. Season with salt, red wine vinegar, and olive oil). Serve the soup poolside in mugs. Everyone will think you’re brilliant.
- Yes, you can grill it. Figs, peaches, goat cheese wrapped in grape leaves, halibut or tuna loin, summer greens. You’d be surprised how many foods can be tossed on the grill.
- Make carefree dishes ahead. In the menu above, I made the soup, salad, pasta sauce, and salsa in a couple of hours before guests arrived. That left me with just three last-minute tasks—cooking the noodles, tossing the salad, and grilling the fish—to think about during our late afternoon in the garden. In Summer Entertaining, you’ll find three menus like this one that are designed to balance effort with ease. You’ll also find shopping lists and countdowns to help you master the art of carefree meals.