Although summer is synonymous with taking it easy, we usually hit the ground running in June with celebrations for graduates, followed by Father’s Day gatherings. At some point you will either be hosting or contributing to an event, so now is the time to pull out your tried-and-true recipes: the ones that can be made ahead, transported easily, held at room temperature and sure to please a crowd. Need a few more? Happy to share….
First, the grads. These are usually grazing events (versus sit-down meals) with people dropping by at different times throughout the celebration. You can expect the usual chips, dips, burgers and salads, so if you want to class it up a bit, try one of these easy make-ahead recipes.
Honey-Roasted Seed and Nut Clusters
Nuts are the ultimate finger food. The best combinations are salty, sweet and crunchy. One of my favorites is to mix mac nuts with chopped candied ginger and chunks of lightly toasted coconut. Here is another winner, at a more cost-effective price point. Recipe from “Martha Stewart’s Hors d’oeuvres Handbook;” makes 2-1/2 dozen clusters. Double the recipe for larger groups.
2/3 cup pine nuts
2/3 cup pumpkin seeds
2/3 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup sugar
4 teaspoons kosher salt
4 teaspoons honey
4 teaspoons dark corn syrup
2 teaspoons cooking oil
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a small bowl, combine first three ingredients and spread on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast in oven until golden, 10 to 15 minutes; set aside. In a small bowl, combine sugar and salt; set aside. In a small saucepan, combine remaining ingredients plus 2 tablespoons of water; bring to a boil. Stir in the toasted nuts and seeds. Cook, stirring, about 3 minutes. Stir in the reserved sugar-salt mixture. Spread entire mixture in an even half-inch thick layer onto a baking sheet; cool completely at room temperature. Use a metal spatula to break mixture into 1-inch clusters. Store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 5 days.
These two-bite-size vegetarian rounds are always a favorite with both kids and adults. Recipe from “Party Food” by Barbara Kafka; makes 24 pizzas.
7 or 8 cherry tomatoes
10 ounces store-bought refrigerated bread dough
1/4 cup olive oil
2/3 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, cut crosswise into thin chiffonade (strips)
Fresh ground pepper
1-1/4 cups grated mozzarella cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut tomatoes across into very thin slices; lay out on a double sheet of paper towels to drain for about 10 minutes. Roll dough into a sausage shape (about 18 inches long) and with a sharp knife, cut across into 24 equal pieces. With the top of your fingers, knead each piece into a small ball on a lightly floured surface. Roll out each ball to a 3-inch disk and place half inch apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Top each with 3 slices tomato, slightly overlapping. Brush tops with oil so that the edges of dough are also coated with oil. Scatter a little basil over tomatoes; lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with grated mozzarella. Bake in center of oven for 12 minutes; remove and cool slightly before serving or serve at room temperature.
On the third Sunday in June, we turn our attention to dads. Often that means a barbecue. A big, juicy tri-tip, accompanied by his favorite sides, never seems to get old (unless he’s converted to vegetarian) but you can add pizzazz with a little planning and a good marinade. Marinating the meat a day ahead makes for tender, juicy and flavorful beef. The word “marinade” comes from the Latin, “marinus,” which means “from the sea.” A marinade usually includes an acid such as citrus juice, vinegar or wine, an oil to keep the meat from drying out on the grill, plus seasonings. You can put the meat and marinade in a non-reactive bowl or in a plastic zip-lock bag set into a dish. Do this a day ahead, letting the meat marinate in the refrigerator overnight.
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons tequila (optional)
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons sesame seeds
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Place meat in a shallow nonreactive dish and pour marinade over. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate for 2 to 3 hours or overnight, turning meat occasionally. When ready to grill, discard marinade and cook meat as desired.
Grilled Pork Loin Roast
For something different to put on the barbecue, try a pork loin. Grilling adds a smoky flavor that brings out the sweetness of the pork. Recipe from “Bradley Ogden’s Breakfast, Lunch &Dinner”; each pork loin will make 4 to 6 servings so scale up as needed.
3 pounds bone-in pork loin roast
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
Bone and trim the pork roast. In a small bowl, combine fennel seed, thyme, garlic, mustard, olive oil, salt and pepper. Rub over the pieces of pork and let stand for 2 hours at room temperature or refrigerate overnight. Grill pork over a slow charcoal fire, turning two or three times to brown evenly. If it starts to burn before cooked through, move to one side of fire. Cook until a meat thermometer registers 140 degrees; remove to a warm platter and cover loosely with foil for 10 minutes.