We are nothing if not creatures of habit in my house, so when people come over for dinner in the summer, we generally fall back on the same rotation of old reliables — vongole, picnic chicken or steak or chops on the grill, surrounded by a ton of market salads and a cobbler for dessert — and save the more adventurous cooking for the day-to-day. But this summer, I’m determined to switch things up a bit, so I asked a few of my favorite food people what they’re into lately, and took some notes. (Warning: There will be rosé.) Here’s the round-up:
Sarah Copeland, author of Every Day is Saturday
In the summer, I always serve tacos–a big piece of pulled pork that’s been slow cooked in beer (ahead of time, naturally), plus rice and beans (above) for our considerable vegetarian crew. Then I spend most of my energy on the fixings: everything from pickled onions and vegetables, my potent and versatile green sauce (in my book), to a huge kale slaw that all squeeze into tortilla after tortilla without any flavor fatigue. This goes well with beer and rosé alike, and is a great all-in-one, no courses or running back in to the kitchen required. For dessert, an ice cream cake or semi-freddo pleases the masses and wins in the prep category since it can also be done ahead, giving you complete focus on great conversation, roaring bonfires and those flittering young souls gliding through summer with ultimate ease.
Leah Koenig, author of Little Book of Jewish Feasts
I love to make a gazpacho with sourdough croutons (in my book Modern Jewish Cooking) and a big salad nicoise with lots of swap-out protein options (hard boiled egg, tuna, baked tofu, marinated white beans) along with whatever vegetables are in season (I particularly love heirloom tomatoes, fresh sweet corn sliced off the cob, green beans, and boiled creamer potatoes). For dessert: homemade chocolate pudding topped with fresh berries, whipped cream, and shaved chocolate.
Odette Williams, author of Simple Cake
I don’t bother with starters, just a cheese plate and chippies and gin and tonics. Then I’ll grill a skirt steak, grilled, and serve sliced over a simple green salad with good sharp feta and drizzled with a chimichurri or whatever I have on hand, like chopped up green olives. I always want some comfort food on the table, so there will be homemade fries — usually baked — and for dessert: Individual meringues.
Bridget Sharp, professional caterer (and neighbor)
Tonight’s menu was, BBQ Chicken, Red Cabbage, Carrot & Cilantro Slaw, Black Beans, and Moro’s Saffron Rice, which is just so fragrant with its cardamom/cinnamon/saffron combo — I’m not one to hold on to recipes, but I’ve made this one a million times. (I usually skip the barberries. It is also perfect with grilled lamb chops!) As for dessert: I keep it simple and indulgent, like a brownie sundae or a heated up storebought pie, served with ice cream.
Adam Rapoport, editor in chief Bon Appetit
I go with the best, juiciest piece of protein I can find—could be a bone-in heritage breed pork chop, or maybe a dry-aged ribeye. Grilled till nice and crispy, but *never* over cooked. The juicer the better. Let the chops rest and then slice against the grain and serve on a platter with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of Maldon. A big farro salad. Cooked, al dente grains, tossed with a blizzard of fresh herbs (I love mint and flat leaf parsley), toasted chopped pistachios or almonds, a sharp cheese like feta or parm, and then something sweet and juicy like charred cherry tomatoes or scallions, and a bracing vinaigrette. And don’t forget to season the whole thing. Lots and lots of well-chilled rosé—obviously.
Elizabeth Minchilli, author The Italian Table
My go-to summer entertaining menu is basically the Italian version of tapas. Small shared plates which get called cicchetti in Venice, but in reality pop up all over Italy. The genius is that you can cook as much or as little as you feel like. My ‘no cook’ staple is to have a bowl full of small, cherry sized mozzarella balls that I’ve tossed with the fruitiest olive oil possible and a huge handful of chopped chives. Other staples are ricotta and mint filled zucchini rolls and deep fried sage leaves (recipes in my book). I usually start with a negroni and move into rosé from Puglia which I’m currently addicted to.
Dawn Perry, food director Real Simple
In the summer we generally fall back on a big, thick-cut rib-eye. We slice potatoes and onions and put them in a foil packet with olive oil, salt and pepper, and throw them right in the coals. If we have random vegetables in the crisper — eggplant is particularly awesome, but sweet potatoes or other whole onions are fun, too—we’ll throw them in the coals naked with no foil. We halve them when tender, drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper, squeeze lemon or shake of vinegar. That’s it! I mean, and maybe ice cream.
Catherine Newman, Ben & Birdy
If there’s enough cold, pink wine, pickled shrimp and crispy-shallot-garnished pickled eggs then the rest of the meal can come together or not, or be a random potluck, or not even exist at all, and it won’t matter. Also? if you’ve got outside space, don’t underestimate the fun combination of wine and a lawn game like Kubb.