How to Throw a Great Summer Barbecue
Barbecue season is finally here! For me, the return of the warmer weather means happy days with friends and family, and especially eating and entertaining al fresco. But taking it outside also involves a little extra planning – there’s no point in wasting leisurely summer days running back and forth between the kitchen and backyard.
Since I’m an experienced – and joyfully impromptu – barbecue host, I thought I would share a few quick tips on how to throw (seemingly) effortless casual get-togethers.
At the start of the season, stock up on everything you’ll need. While I’m not a fan of disposables, I do keep a stash of brightly colored recyclable paper plates and cups, fun paper napkins, and plastic cutlery around.
Accessorize. This is the easiest and most cost-efficient way to take outdoor dining to the next level. Lots of discount stores carry a bounty of adorable treasures that can really elevate the decor. Put cutlery out in little metal buckets, use cute salt & pepper shakers, and hang lanterns up for ambiance as the sun goes down. Make everything perfect by stringing fairy lights around your windows or gazebo. The effect is almost magical.
Keep your freezer and pantry stocked. When meat and chicken go on sale, I buy extra and freeze it for later. I’ll even make my famous homemade burgers and freeze those too. That way I’m always ready to go, especially because I always have backup of staple items and our favourite condiments and sauces.
Make a list of what you want to serve and prepare what you can ahead of time. When I’m entertaining I know planning ahead means I have more time to enjoy my guests. The super-fast and simple salad below takes 20 minutes to prepare and tastes even better the next day.
Make them happy. Get the party started with some drinks and snacks. Use a cooler or large bucket filled with ice to keep the drinks handy. Prepare some of your favourite no-cook snacks to keep appetites at bay. We love to set out a cheese platter and some chips, salsa and guacamole. My Whirlpool® FreshStor Refrigerated Drawer means that those appies are right at hand when my friends arrive.
Buy what you can. There’s no shame in purchasing prepared food to serve alongside your homemade nutritious specialties. For example, I always splurge on a veggie platter. The flexible storage in my Whirlpool fridge means that even the oddest shaped items, like trays of burgers or a watermelon, will fit alongside jars of artisan pickles perfectly.
The most important part of a barbecue is the food, obviously. But that doesn’t mean it has to be an elaborate feast.
Keep it simple. When it’s sunny out everyone is happy with light and summer fresh flavours. A gorgeous platter of tomatoes, basil, and bocconcini is so delicious and much easier to make than an elaborate side dish.
Have a theme. I like to build my menu around a specific focus. Southern barbecue means yummy, sticky marinated chicken and ribs with potato salad and coleslaw. Love Mexican? How about grilled fajitas with all the fixings? Maybe it’s the perfect day for a burger bar or a trio of gourmet sausages. Dreaming of Greece? Think chicken or pork Souvlaki, tzatziki and this quinoa salad. Add a few sides and some great bread and you’re ready to go.
All that’s left to do is laying out the food and relaxing. One more tip: I always ask my guests to bring the dessert. By then, I’ll be off duty.
Mediterranean Inspired Quinoa Salad
1 cup tri-colour quinoa, prepared according to package directions
2 cups diced English cucumber
1 yellow pepper, diced
1 cup grape tomatoes, quartered
1 cup hearts of palm, sliced in ¼ inch rounds
1 avocado, diced
¼ cup pitted kalmata olives, very coarsely chopped (optional)
3 green onions (scallions), thinly sliced
¼ cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 cup herb & garlic feta, crumbled
freshly ground black pepper
2-3 tbsp olive oil
juice of half a lemon
2-3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
Cook quinoa according to package directions and let cool until just warm. In the meantime, prepare all of the vegetables. Toss everything together in large bowl. Do not use salt as the feta and olives are salty. Drizzle dressing ingredients over top and mix thoroughly to combine.