Summer entertaining should involve as little work as possible: The last thing anybody wants to do in the summer is work up a sweat in the kitchen. And even though barbecue is always a good fallback, there are days in Texas when it’s so hot that the idea of standing next to a flaming grill doesn’t sound like anybody’s idea of a good time.
To the rescue: The chefs who make all the great dishes in our prepared-foods market and bakery. It’s like having your own personal caterer. (Except they won’t come home with you and do the dishes.) Here are some ideas for a cool, casual summer brunch, lunch and dinner, fit for company.
Brunch: Real men do eat quiche, especially if they don’t have to make it themselves. I’d pick our quiche Lorraine, with bacon and Swiss cheese, but we also make spinach/mushroom and plain cheese, baked fresh every day. Then throw together a fruit bowl (we have pre-cut fruit in the produce department and in the chef case), and make a bread or pastry basket. (I like mixing savory and sweet flavors, like mini croissants, jalapeno cheese bread, and plain scones, with white-chocolate apricot bread and pecan-apple-raisin bread). You can finish things off with fresh-squeezed orange, for mimosas or to serve plain, but I would go to produce and choose one of the juice bar’s newest concoctions: Mojito lemonade, with lots of muddled fresh mint.
Lunch: Borrow from the Italians and put together an antipasto platter – Italian salamis and prosciutto, cheese, flatbread or crackers, melon, and marinated vegetables. (The olive bar has several olive mixes, plus a traditional antipasti vegetable mix, with marinated mushrooms, peppers, artichokes and olives.) For a smaller party, with under six guests, pick at least three kinds of meat, three cheeses and two sides. For more than 8 guests, serve four to five kinds of meat and cheese, and at least three sides. For planning, figure about ¼ to 1/3 pound of meat, and about 3 ounces of cheese, for each guest.
Dinner: A salad buffet is an easy go-to meal, and a light and cool idea for the hot evenings we’ve been having, especially if you’re dining on the patio. The trick is to serve some hearty, dressed-up salads in addition to simple fruit and green salads. Figure on about 8 to 12 ounces per guest, when it comes to things like pasta and chicken salad, and about 8 ounces fruit salad OR green salad. I like the black quinoa/edamame salad; our broccoli slaw with golden raisins; the shrimp remoulade; chicken-apricot; and the grape-walnut-blue cheese salad. And to drink? Again, visit produce and try their new jalapeno margarita juice.