Ah, summer. The time when you can invite loads of friends over with the easiest entertaining plan – throwing food on a grill, or bringing sides for the friend that has outdoor space. If you’re the one hosting, soak up this time, because it should be the easiest entertaining season of the year, says Susan Spungen, author of “What’s a Hostess to Do?” and whose culinary past includes working on films like “Eat, Pray, Love.” “Summer is just the time to really have fun and not work too hard, and everything should be easy – the food, the mood, everything,” she tells us. She gave us a few tips to make hosting look, and feel, easy.
What are things you can do in summer while entertaining that you could never do otherwise?
For one thing, it’s just a lot easier because first of all, you can entertain outside, which makes cleanup very easy. You don’t have to mess up your house, and you can use more disposables. All of the easy things are more acceptable in the summer, in a more casual setting, and there’s so many nice options not only for paper, but melamine plates and glasses that you can get now. Melamine, it’s not so heavy, it’s not breakable, so you can bring it on a picnic. It’s a little bit nicer than paper plates. Also, the cooking is so much easier. An acceptable course is corn on the cob – not only acceptable, but delicious, and how much easier can you get than that? You can get a simple compound butter, like a basil butter, and put that on corn, and it becomes something really special.
What advice would you give people hoping to have people over and grill for a classy affair?
Instead of just burgers and hot dogs, that would be the easy and typical things, but there are so many other delicious things that you can grill. … Things that can cook quickly, like fish, are perfect for kabobs. I always really like doing butterflied leg of lamb, which is a little bit more unusual but delicious. It feeds a lot of people. Another nice thing, it’s really good on the grill because you can marinate it all day, or even two days. It cooks really good and crusty on the grill, and because it has different thicknesses, you kind of have something for everyone. You’ve got medium, medium rare, all in the same thing.
You’re having people over Friday night. What’s your go-to plan for a quick get together?
A nice bottle of rose, and if it’s really a last-minute thing, I think a pasta can be a wonderful thing. Just toss all the best things from the farmer’s market. I made something the other night, I impressed myself, it was so delicious. Everything I got in one farm share – peas, baby zucchinis, corn, and I made some caramelized onions and just tossed the whole thing with some goat cheese which melts into a sauce. It was absolutely divine. It was really easy.
Tips for summertime hosting
Use fresh flowers for decorating. “I don’t think you have to go crazy with the decorating,” Spungen says. Instead, pick up some very simple flowers from a farm stand or farmer’s market on the way home.
Spread snacks around the party. Guests tend to congregate wherever the snacks are, so put some dishes of nuts and other small bites in spaces around where you want your guests to gather – and meet each other.
Use citranella torches to keep bugs away and create a cozy setting. “I also really love the atmosphere that the little torches, the flames, give to a party. It’s like having giant candles all around you. It creates a nice, beautiful glow, and it keeps the bugs away at the same time.”
Skip the Pinterest-inspired centerpiece effort and simply use fruit. Fill a bowl with fruits you picked up at the farmer’s market, such as apricots or cherries. Conveniently, this also doubles as dessert.
Serve daquiries with frozen fruit. This is a time saver if you’re rushing home to host after work. It also allows you to skip some of the ice, and the color won’t brown like fresh fruit.
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