Sexy Summer Dinners: 5 Great Hot-Weather Meal Ideas
One of the best parts of the warm-weather season is the sultry evenings and the great summer dinners that go with them. Hot-weather meals need to make the most of outdoor cooking spaces, be reasonably easy to prepare, and have enough style to make your dinner party or backyard barbecue memorable. Here are some of my favorite menu plans to accomplish just that. (See also: Simple Summer Menus That Will Save You Money)
Pizza’s a favorite for many families, and a suitable food item for mixing it up with backyard dining as well. One of the easiest ways to prepare it on the barbecue is with a pizza grilling stone. This allows you to keep the crust from dipping through the grate and provides a smooth surface from which to remove the pizza once it’s fully cooked. It’s also one of my favorite grilling gifts to bring hosts who we stay with during summer travels. Because pizza is so versatile, you can really have fun with this at a small gathering by letting people choose their own toppings such as an alternative pizza sauce, veggies, or unusual types of cheese. Try this bulk dry mix recipe for pizza dough to save money, or a homemade gluten-free crust if you are watching your wheat.
Nothing celebrates summer like Caribbean food, which makes it an excellent menu choice for summer dinners. Caribbean recipes come from a part of the world that basically has summer all year round, making hot-weather meals a mainstay. So grill up some Jamaican jerk chicken and serve some spicy, low-fat Caribbean eggplant spread as a condiment or stylish-yet-healthy appetizer. Looking for an affordable side dish? Slice up some plantains on the diagonal and sauté them in a frying pan.
Fruit Salsa With Fish
I’m a huge fan of pairing firm, fresh-fruit salsas with fish for light summer dinners that are heavy on flavor. The tropical pico de gallo featured in this list of pineapple recipes certainly makes a statement, as does a simple mango and black bean salsa made with red onion, chopped jalapeno, cilantro, mango, black beans, and lime juice. If finding time to catch your own fish isn’t in the schedule, Sam’s Club has large bags of individually-frozen tilapia for less than two bucks per pound. Thawed, they cook easily in foil packets on the grill or in the toaster oven.
Hot weather meals and living in the desert go hand in hand. So fire up the grill for a round of shish taouk paired with a Lebanese black-eyed pea salad and a dollop of harissa. If you’re hoping to keep things a bit more vegetarian, try these Middle-East sandwiches or veggie kabobs basted with a sumac, olive oil, and lemon juice marinade. Toss in a side of flatbread and some hummus, and your dinner menu’s ready to roll.
There are a number of summer dinners you can prepare by firing up the rice cooker and pairing basmati or brown rice with other foods. For example, a beef-and-pepper stir fry or this recipe for kung pao shrimp with cashews are both suitable for serving company and can be prepared relatively quickly. For a self-serve backyard menu that will easily feed a crowd, use the largest rice cooker you can get your hands on, and whip up a giant batch of Indian black-eyed peas in a spicy Goan curry in your electric roaster. (You thought it was just for turkeys during the holidays, didn’t you?) Set the foods on a serving table and run an outdoor extension cord to your power supply. Serve with fresh topping selections such as chopped green onions, diced fresh tomatoes, chopped cilantro, and grated coconut.
Serving hot-weather meals doesn’t have to mean hum-drum. With these stylish summer dinners, you’ll have a satisfied crowd using meal plans that won’t break the bank.
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