Summer Soiree

Take advantage of the great outdoors and throw a party with a menu of delicious and easy-to-prepare appetizers.

Summertime, and the hosting is easy.How’s that for a twist on the beloved song?

Whether you’re throwing a backyard barbecue, tropical luau or pool party, these recipes for Sriracha Deviled Eggs, Ricotta Dip with Hot Honey, Melon Prosciutto Skewers, Bacon Wrapped Jalapeño Poppers and Bruschetta with Goat Cheese, Cranberry and Walnuts can help make it effortless. They can easily be doubled or tripled, and you can always fill in with chicken tenders and chips and salsa.

While outdoor entertaining is beloved for its dreamy, sun-drenched atmosphere, it does present complications, like heat and bugs. I like to work in advance to make my outdoor space as clean, cozy and welcoming as I can. I use citronella torches to repel the bugs and try to beat the heat by maximizing shady areas, even putting up a tent if needed. I also make sure I take care of the “small” things, like being sure the pool floats inflate and that I restock serving pieces and napkins, which allows me to extend last-minute invitations without stressing out.

Whether you’re hosting the baseball all-stars or a multigenerational family, make your backyard the place to be with a lineup of fun for all ages. From old-school classics like croquet and badminton, have activities that help create priceless memories while enabling some friendly competition.

Make a big-batch cocktail and have a self-serve bar station. Pitchers of sangria are refreshing and pair well with many appetizers. Make sure you have sliced lemons, limes and oranges, along with club soda, tonic, sodas and a pitcher of lemonade with some fresh mint.

I recommend using shatterproof dishware and stemless wine glasses to help alleviate spills and breakage. For these appetizers, I asked Paula King, owner of Agapanthus in downtown Ocala, to share some “fun” dishware pieces. The brightly colored Italian Vietri Amalfitana plates and bowls did the trick, along with the luxury melamine Beatriz Ball VIDA Ocean White Oyster dip platter and The Queens’ Jewels Seashell glasses.

When I throw a summer soiree, I like to start around 4pm. I put on some nice background music and float candles in the pool later in the evening. As the party heads toward sunset and beyond, be sure to have your guests take photos that will capture the fun and the memories. OS

Sriracha Deviled Eggs

12 eggs
2 tablespoons mayonnaise, or less as desired
2 tablespoons Sriracha hot chili sauce, or more or less to taste
1/8 teaspoon dry mustard
1 pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 pinch smoked paprika, or to taste
Salt to taste

Place the eggs in a saucepan and cover with water (I like to add a tablespoon of baking soda to the water to help them peel more easily). > Bring them to a boil, then remove from heat and let stand in hot water for 15 minutes. > Remove the eggs and put them under cold running water and peel them. > Cut the eggs in half lengthwise and place the yolks in a small bowl. > Mash the yolks with a fork and stir in the mayonnaise, Sriracha sauce, dry mustard and cayenne pepper until smooth. > Season with salt. > Spoon the yolk mixture into a resealable plastic bag and snip off one corner. > Place the eggs on a serving platter and pipe some yolk mixture into each half. > Sprinkle with smoked paprika. > Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Bruschetta with Goat Cheese, Cranberry and Walnuts

1/2 loaf French bread sliced diagonally
1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese
1/3 cup sweetened dried cranberries
1/3 cup glazed walnuts
Olive oil

Arrange the cut bread on a baking sheet and lightly pour a bit of olive oil on each piece. > Bake at 375 degrees until crisp. > Spread some goat cheese on the toast and top each piece with cranberries and walnuts. > Serve as soon as possible.

Melon Prosciutto Skewers

1 cantaloupe
12 fresh basil leaves
8 ounces of mozzarella balls
12 slices prosciutto sliced in half vertically
Balsamic glaze for drizzling
Skewers for serving

Cut the cantaloupe in half and remove the seeds. > Use a melon baller to scoop out 24 balls. > To assemble, put one melon ball on the end of the skewer, then layer in basil leaf, mozzarella ball, prosciutto (folded to fit) and then end with a second piece of cantaloupe. > This should create 12 skewers. > Drizzle each skewer with balsamic glaze before serving.

Ricotta Dip with Hot Honey

15 ounces ricotta cheese
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for garnish
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup fresh oregano leaves, plus more for garnish
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Mikes Hot Honey 

Put the first eight ingredients in a food processor. > Whip until smooth, scraping down the sides once if needed. > Whip for 60 to 90 seconds more, or until very smooth and the garlic and oregano are well incorporated. > Spoon the dip into a serving bowl and use the back of a spoon to spread it around. > Use the spoon to create “valleys” on the surface. > Pour the hot honey over the top and drizzle with a bit of olive oil. > Shave some lemon zest and add that and more fresh oregano leaves on top. > Serve as soon as possible.

Bacon Wrapped Jalapeño Poppers

1 8-ounce block of cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups shredded pepper jack cheese
1 clove garlic, minced
12 jalapeno peppers
12 slices of bacon, cut in half
Kosher salt
Freshly cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 400°. > In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese, pepper jack cheese and garlic. > Season with salt and pepper. > Cut the jalapeños in half lengthwise, then use a spoon to remove the seeds and veins (you may want to wear gloves or be sure to wash hands thoroughly after this step. > Fill each half with some of the cheese mixture and wrap with a half slice of bacon. > Place on a baking sheet and bake until the bacon is crispy and the peppers are tender, about 35 to 40 minutes. > Serve as soon as possible.

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