A Make-Ahead, Room-Temp Menu for Entertaining

I had such fantasies when we invited our friends Todd and Anne for dinner. It wasn’t a special occasion dinner — only a sort of a “last gasp of summer” kind of night since both our families are going our separate ways for the rest of the month and the next time we see them we’ll be all busy with things like teacher conferences and homework supervising. I thought the occasion offered the perfect excuse to experiment with all those recipes I had been dog-earring and bookmarking for the past few weeks. Plus, The Sprouted Kitchen had just landed on my doorstep and I loved what I saw — whole grains and the most inspiring vegetable-heavy dinners that take advantage of beautiful, gem-like, peak-season summer produce. (These three weeks are the ones I look forward to all year long and to waste a single August eating opportunity is a crime!) I drew up a menu for Tuesday night, the night they were coming over. There were beet slaws and buttermilk dressings. Exotic grains and chilled soups. Yes, this would be one to remember.

But there I was on Tuesday afternoon, a few hours from dinner with no time to shop, still looking at the line-up which was not so much inspiring as it was taunting. Various assignments and appointments had conspired against my Fantasy Summer Menu and so instead of sniffing melons at the market (as I had imagined I would be doing), I found myself in what is increasingly becoming my default position: Standing in front of refrigerator scratching my head. Luckily it was only Tuesday so we still had a lot of food from our weekend shop. And luckily I had my Big Feel-Good Batch of Barley that I could transform to something nice in minutes. The rest of the menu holes I filled in with dishes that were the opposite of brand new, i.e. dishes I had been making for the past fifteen summers. But as soon as Todd and Anne and their kids arrived and sat down to the meal,  I was reminded why the dishes have lasted fifteen summers — because they work! And they’re delicious! I totally forgot — when produce is this good, you don’t have to perform any culinary acrobatics to make a successful meal. You don’t have to outshine yourself just for the sake of it! You just keep it simple and let the food do the talking.

A Summer Menu
It worked out well because Grandma Jody’s Chicken is just as good at room temperature as it is hot from the skillet so I could make it an hour or so ahead of time and leave on the counter tented with foil. When the doorbell rang, everything on the menu was ready to go — except the gin and tonics.

Starters: Baguette slices, figs, parmesan, ricotta mixed with lemon zest, thyme, and honey. Gin and Tonics.

Dinner: Grandma Jody’s Chicken with Arugula and Heirloom Tomatoes (page 13, Dinner: A Love Story), Bacon-Corn Hash (page 29), Herbed Barley Salad (page 245)

Wine: A beautiful Italian Sauvignon Blanc, a gift from my babysitter Ali who had just spent the month in Florence.

Dessert: Emily’s Peach-Blueberry Cobbler and Cold Watermelon

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I am bookmarking this for late September when summer FINALLY hits around my part of the country. At this moment I am watching fog whip through my street and honestly, sausage lentil stew is sounding pretty good for tonight. Your menu looks absolutely delicious and right up our alley!


The menu you ended up with is nothing to sneeze at, no need to get fussy with chilled soups and whatnot

Amy G

HOW did you know that I was just dithering around about what to make for guests tomorrow night! It’s still between this and the maque choux.

You rock.


That plate looks amazing and your starter sounds good enough to have for dinner by itself!

lyn eisenhauer

So, I should reference pgs 13, 29, 245 for recipes . . . Hmmm.

Where might they be? Oh! I have to buy the book.

Love checking into your blog for easy, inexpensive (mostly) recipes that appeal to many, but I HONESTLY can’t afford to buy the book, as I am unemployed. I wonder how others are doing it.

So, I guess I’m just going to be missing out more and more. Seems unfair. Many other successful bloggers promote their books as aggressively on their sites, but they continue to share their recipes.

Overall, following many blogs from early inception to success has always been a losing proposition for me, the reader. The daily posts dwindle to maybe once a week, then to every once in a while. And soon the reason why I followed a blog is gone. I don’t congratulate your success, but it’s a losing proposition to me.


This looks delicious! I’ve been reading your blog since it was first mentioned in Bon Appetit. I love your recipes, but I keep coming back for the stories and the writing and the humor.

@lyn eisenhauer, I don’t yet have the book either… but I think it’s sad that you feel so slighted. Jenny (and Andy) have provided countless recipes asking nothing in return, and it’s obvious they do so because they have a passion for the kind of cooking that brings people together– a zest for life. Send me an email and I’ll buy a copy for you. The economy has hurt many, but it’s especially times like these to embrace blogs like this, that get to the heart of what’s really important anyway. Somehow I don’t think getting published means the end of this blog.



Hi Jenny,

Quick question: I’ve made these once before and loved them. I would appreciate your advice on one issue: though I did not crowd the pan, they were slightly greasy. Was the oil not hot enough? Did I not pound them thin enough? What would you recommend?

Thank you! So happy to have the book in my hands, finally.


Made these Saturday night – substituting Panko for the cornflakes. When asked how she liked her chicken, my 4 yr old gave the thumbs up sign which happens to be the highest ranking attainable in her world.