The Occasion: Kickoff to the summer season of outdoor dinner parties - woo hoo!
Memorial Day weekend, party of 8, beautiful weather, and the bunnies managed not to eat every last one of our flowers so the yard and garden looked good. Our guests brought appetizers and dessert while we provided the main course and wine.
Aaahh! It was a delightful way to usher in Chicago’s favorite season, our reward for the long, hard winters.
This also represents a decent formula for your own summer parties. Make some/delegate some. Grill some/chill some. Keep the mood light and flexible – summertime is the perfect time to loosen up a little!
- Middle Eastern tapas, courtesy of Ellyn – Dolmeh, eggplant dip, hummus, tzatziki, carrots and pita chips
- Various cheeses, thanks to Shelley and Tara, paired with Ann’s Salted Olive Crisps
- Spicy Grilled Salmon with Tomatoes and Jalapeños
- Roasted Smashed Potatoes
- Green Bean Salad with Garlic-Basil Dressing
- Rustic bread from Hewn Bakery
- Passionfruit Mousse with Sauce, from Kathleen and Karen’s kitchen
- Fruit Salad, courtesy of Kirsten
Listed here it looks like a ton of food, but spread out over several hours it was actually perfect. Everyone left satisfied but not stuffed. They also departed with leftovers – ‘no one goes home empty-handed’ is our dinner party credo.
- Rosé of Cabernet Franc –Turnbull 2015
- French Chardonnay – Louis Latour Montagny Les Grande Roche 2014
- Cabernet Sauvignon – Cakebread Cellars Napa Valley 2009
Keep reading for recipes, photos, a playlist, and the rest of the story.
Before going any further let’s set the tone with a Summer Jazz playlist via Spotify.
It's perfect for your next dinner party!
(Thank you, simon.wood29)
The fish is grilled with minimal seasoning – olive oil, s&p, and I sprinkled on a little chopped fresh oregano. The flavor and heat comes from the bed of tomatoes served beneath the fish and the caramelized jalapeños on top.
The tomatoes/peppers are easy to prepare and can be done a few hours in advance. The fish is grilled during the party, taking only about 15 minutes.
The side dishes were also prepared in advance, at least partially. Green beans were blanched and chilled earlier in the day, then tossed with a tangy garlic-basil dressing just before serving.
The potatoes take a little bit of potschke-ing in advance but it’s oh so worth it. Boil the new potatoes until tender, then semi-mash them in preparation for roasting at high heat with lots of olive oil right before serving. So much crispy, potato-y goodness! Find the recipe from The Pioneer Woman’s website here.
Click on the photos to enlarge them and read the captions.
Recipe source: Food & Wine
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for rubbing the fish
- 10 jalapeños, thinly sliced crosswise and seeded
- 4 pounds ripe beefsteak tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped
- One 4 1/2-pound salmon fillet in one piece, with skin on (or use individual fillets)
- Freshly ground pepper
- In a large, deep skillet, heat 6 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the jalapeños in an even layer and cook over moderately low heat, without stirring, until softened, about 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the jalapeños to a plate.
- Add the chopped tomatoes to the skillet and cook over high heat until they release their juices, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the tomatoes to a large bowl.
- Boil the tomato juices over high heat until thickened, about 8 minutes, adding any accumulated juices from the bowl.
- Return the tomatoes to the skillet and season with salt.
- Meanwhile, light a grill. Spread out a double layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil that's 12 inches longer than the salmon fillet.
- Set the salmon in the center of the foil, skin side up, and rub it with olive oil. Using the short ends of the foil as handles, carefully set the salmon on the grill.
- Cook over moderate heat for 6 minutes.
- Transfer the salmon to a work surface. Carefully flip the salmon fillet onto a fresh double layer of foil so it is skin side down. Season with salt and pepper.
- Return the salmon to the grill and cook over low heat until the salmon is just opaque throughout, about 10 minutes longer.
- Spoon the tomatoes and their juices onto a long serving platter. Using 2 long spatulas, carefully slide the salmon filet onto the tomatoes, leaving the skin behind, if desired.
- Top the salmon with the jalapeños and serve.
Click the photos to enlarge them and read the captions.