The key to effortless entertaining this season is keeping it easy and flavorful.
This time of year gives us a variety of fresh, colorful and delicious foods that can be relished alone, such as a juicy slice of cold watermelon, or be combined to provide what I like to call a “flavor party,” which is what my watermelon, tomato and feta salad tastes like to me. It also has a vibrant visual beauty.
This is when so many of us love to be outside during our hot days and sultry evenings to just hang out and enjoy food and friendship. It’s also a time of year when entertaining should be casual and I like to have some easy-to-put-together and make-ahead options on hand for poolside snacking or impromptu beach trips and picnics in the park.
Here are some recipes that bring into play some of that seasonal freshness with the brightness of lemon and lime, the sweetness of watermelon and peaches, and the unadulterated yumminess of lobster.
There’s also a refreshing adult beverage that is a go-to of mine and can be served in individual glass bottles, mason jars or pretty glasses. Lake Martin Lemonade, which is also called Beer Margarita by some, originated in Lake Martin, Alabama. It quickly became popular with area residents and visiting students from nearby Auburn University. You can make it by the pitcher or 2-gallon decanter. Just modify the ingredients and don’t add ice to the decanter, just to the glasses as you serve it. Add a fresh slice of lime to add zing.
Warning—this spiked lemonade can really sneak up on you after just two glasses, so be careful with consumption and be sure that children don’t confuse it with non-alcoholic lemonade by keeping it out of their reach.
Another summer staple is the classic New England Lobster Roll, which also can be made with our succulent Florida lobster. These are fairly simple to make. The key is to not overcook the lobster. So how do you get the perfect tender lobster? For every pound of lobster, steam for 7 minutes with 2 tablespoons of salt per quart of water. If you are doing just tails, steam them in the shell. When they are done, run them under cold water to stop cooking. If using live lobsters, boil them two to four at a time, depending on how large your pot is, and add 1 minute of cooking time per pound. Locally, Publix offers fresh and precooked frozen lobster or you can order for overnight delivery from mainelobsternow.com.
To save time, prepare the lobster salad the day before and quickly assemble the sandwiches as your guests arrive.
As an alternative to serving with the usual salty chips or French fries, substitute Anjou pear slices on the side, dressed with fresh lemon juice to prevent browning.
For the perfect seasonal dessert, I will go for something like a warm peach cobbler, just bursting with flavor, served in individual ramekins. Kick things up a notch by topping them with either organic vanilla ice cream or fat-free vanilla yogurt.
During this season of abundance, I hope you enjoy all the flavors the summer has to offer and take some time to kick back and relax.
Lake Martin Lemonade
1 (12-ounce) can frozen limeade concentrate
12 ounces Jose Cuervo or another brand of tequila
12 ounces diet Sprite (or tonic water)
12 ounces Corona Light beer
2 cups cold water
1 lime, cut into wedges
Mix limeade and tequila in a blender.
› Place in a large pitcher and add water, diet Sprite and beer and stir until well-blended.
› Taste and adjust with additional water if needed.
› When ready to enjoy, either serve in glass bottles placed in a tub of ice or use margarita glasses.
› Garnish with lime wedges.
Classic New England Lobster Roll
1 pound cooked lobster meat, cut into bite-size chunks
4 tablespoons melted butter
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup celery, finely chopped
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons green tops from a scallion, finely minced
1 teaspoon fresh parsley, chopped
1 dash hot sauce
Pinch of salt
Few grinds freshly ground black pepper
Split-top hot dog buns or other favorite roll
Place the cooked lobster meat in a large bowl. › In a smaller bowl, combine mayonnaise, lemon juice, celery, parsley and scallions, hot sauce and salt and pepper, and taste for seasoning. Once you have that to your liking, add the lobster and mix. › Brush both sides of rolls with butter and toast both sides in a skillet over medium heat until nicely browned. › Place Bibb lettuce on each bun and top with lobster salad. › Finish by topping with fresh chives.
Tomato Watermelon Salad
1 pint mixed cherry tomatoes, halved
1 small seedless watermelon, cut into 1 1/4-inch cubes
1 cup feta cheese, broken into large crumbles
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh basil
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Combine tomatoes and watermelon in a large, nonreactive bowl and add salt and toss gently to combine. › Let stand 5 to 10 minutes while you prepare the dressing. › Whisk together the oil and vinegar and season with salt and pepper to taste. › Add the cheese to the tomatoes and watermelon, then pour in dressing. › Add basil and toss gently to combine.
Easy Individual Peach Cobbler
2 cups fresh peaches, sliced
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Optional – ice cream or fat-free yogurt.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. › Melt the butter and pour into four 7-ounce ramekins, divided evenly. › Sprinkle the cinnamon over the butter. › Mix flour, sugar, milk and baking powder until combined. › Pour the batter over the melted butter, but do not stir it in. › Place the peach slices on top of the batter, divided evenly. › Place the four ramekins onto a baking sheet to catch any spillover. › Bake about 30 minutes or until golden brown. › Allow to cool about 15 minutes before serving. › If desired, top with vanilla ice cream or fat-free vanilla yogurt.