Nothing says summer quite like an outside party. Whether you’re in a backyard, on a crowded deck, or in a park, gathering with friends and family to sip chilled beverages while you chat and nosh are what summer is all about. Whatever your outdoor area, it’s great if your party occurs on a hot day, but in the Bay Area, sweaters may also be in order. The one element that is essential, however, is good food. So if you decide to throw a full barbecue or just serve appetizers, food is a crucial element to any successful bash.
I recently threw a backyard party to celebrate the upcoming nuptials of two of our closest friends. It was technically dubbed a “wine shower,” but we were lucky enough to also have a keg of freshly brewed ale, courtesy of the bride’s generous brother. With almost 50 people attending, I decided to serve a variety of small plates along with lots of cheese and charcuterie. A full dinner for that many people would have been overwhelming and too expensive, so we went with a nice selection of appetizers.
I wanted to take advantage of fruits and vegetables that are in season right now, while also providing foods that accented each other nicely. Just as important, however, was providing a selection of plates that would be easy to eat in a backyard setting. Following are some of the dishes I made. All were easy to prepare and went well with the wine and beer we served.
So whatever the occasion -- from a wedding shower or Labor Day party to just finding an excuse to hang out with family and friends -- I hope you enjoy your own outdoor summer party soon.
Grilled Zucchini, Fennel, Onion and Pepper Salad
In separate batches, either grill or broil sliced zucchini, fennel, red onion and red or orange peppers in some olive oil. Once the vegetables are barely browned and still al dente, place in a bowl and season with kosher or sea salt and a sprinkling of balsamic vinegar. You don’t want the vegetables to be too vinegary, so just add enough to flavor the dish.