So my husband and son made us the most amazing patio for entertaining a few years ago. We entertain pretty regularly whether it is a last minute, hey come on over for a glass of wine a cold beer or maybe some of my yummy Cosmo’s. We put out several different kinds of cheese, some sort of salami/ham and our favorite onion crackers. We also tend to grill up some sausage or pepperoni and slice it up for everyone to share. I think I always have on hand the ingredients for my Caprese salad which everyone loves so that is another staple at my house.
For larger gatherings; Birthday’s, Graduations, Holidays or a Going away party (daughter moving to Japan) with a few weeks to plan I love making Potato Salad, Pasta Salad, Boston Baked Beans to name a few. I do have a few tricks I would like to share. I have some chafing dishes that I put out and always have a hot one going for the beans and cooked meat but I also put ice in the bottom tray of one or more of them to keep my salads cold, it works out pretty slick, you do have to replenish the ice occasionally but at least you know no one will get sick from them sitting out for a bit. Also another trick I love is to take one of the college sized refrigerators we have and I put it out by the grill (someday my outdoor kitchen dream will become a reality) I keep all the meat we are going to be cooking as well as the cheese, onions, tomatoes, pickles, condiments etc. in it. I can put things out there a day or so ahead; it not only saves a lot of running back and forth to the kitchen fridge the day of; it also saves room in my kitchen fridge for the salads.
I do ask that people bring an App, Side or Dessert to share and hope for the best weather. Everyone has their own staples they turn to for BBQ’s so I love to see what people bring and it is always a variety. It is always nice to try others; you never know when you might want to ask for the recipe.
I do have a very funny story that I have told many times over the years. This is one recipe you probably won’t be asking for. The first time my husband met one of my now very good friends I will call her PN we were at my still very dear friend KP’s house having a BBQ. The 3 of us girls were in the kitchen, the table had all the salads and fixings set up and my husband was making his plate. He put some potato salad and pasta salad on his plate, he tasted one of them and proclaimed “ah that taste like dirt” I swear PN and KP whipped their heads around asking which one so fast my husband stopped in his tracks. I looked pointed at him and said with my ‘don’t you dare’ voices. “Don’t say a word” he proceeded to walk to the ranch dressing and doused PN’s pasta salad. She was like “it was mine” we laughed SO hard and still do to this day. For a short while she was trying to salvage her “dirt salad” but thankfully she has moved on to yummier pasta salads. By the way it had dill in it which in my opinion is why it tasted a little too earthy. Dill is one of those herbs you need to use sparingly or you could end up with dirt salad.
Easiest Potato Salad Several Potatoes of your choice – red skinned I leave on the skin, others I peel 2-3 Hard Boiled Eggs cooked and peeled 2 Celery Stalks Extra Zesty Italian Dressing Mayo Chives or Scallions I boil the potatoes whole and slice up after cooked; still warm I put the cut up potatoes in a zip loc bag and add the Italian dressing; just enough to make sure a small amount of dressing gets on all the potatoes. Once cooled I put add everything to a large serving bowl and mix well.
Fresh Mozzarella Slicing Tomatoes 3-4 Leaves of Fresh Basil 1-2 Cloves minced Garlic ¼ Cup Olive Oil Kosher Salt & Fresh ground Black Pepper French Baguette Slice and bake crostini size pieces of the baguette – no need to add anything to them, make sure they are slightly browned, try not to go too far with them, they are still fine crunchy but I like them slightly chewy for this Slice the same amount of tomatoes and mozzarella as well as the crostini’s to end up with the same number of pieces. As little or as many as you like, depends on number of quests and what else you are serving. in a bowl or 1 cup measuring cup put the olive oil, minced garlic and chopped basil, let it sit a little bit for better overall flavor I stack the mozzarella and tomato on a platter/plate; salt and pepper them then drizzle the yummy oil you made over all of them.
You can serve this alongside the crostini’s for small gatherings where everyone is sitting down. I prefer for large parties where people are walking around to take the already seasoned mozzarella/tomato’s and take a large platter covered with crostini’s and top with a slice of yummy mozzarella and tomato slices and then you can grab one and keep walking. Enjoy!