Question: Dear Pamela, I’m sweating the guest list for this first holiday weekend of the summer. I’ve got families meeting for the first time, feuding friends, vegetarians and meat eaters! How can I cook and prepare to toast the unofficial start of summer with delicious recipes that allow for the most time with my loony mix of guests?
Answer: A toast, dearie, to you. I feel for you! Summer is the season I have solutions so you can make all your guests happy and still be full of perkiness entire weekend! Let me help you cool things off!
Recipe for Disaster?
One Memorial Day weekend I remember was the summer after my first wedding, We rented a house in Amagansett with my husband’s parents (a bad idea after only being married for just a few months). And it rained the entire weekend!
We had no privacy in the house, but at least we could cook! Blueberry pancakes for breakfast, pasta with pesto for lunch, and BBQ steaks for dinner. It’s not as much fun to barbecue in the rain, but we did it! And we drank…and drank…and drank! We had Bloody Marys for breakfast, beer for lunch, then cocktails and wine with dinner. In the end, we were one happy family!
I suggest you have plenty of water while you drink sensibly with your guests, because the last thing you want is to be stuck together while hungover! Here are some other tools to pack in your arsenal no matter the weather.
Now, let’s all pray for sun!
1. A Little Pink in Your Drink: Cool Summer Cocktails and Mocktails
What’s a party without some refreshing adult beverages? Or some iced tea? Both of these recipes not only taste amazing, but look gorgeous! Whether you want the booze or not, they’re the perfect complement to your summer kickoff!
For the watermelon margarita, you can easily adjust the recipe to make a large pitcher of this and just shake over ice–or blend if you’d like a frozen version.
Mint Simple Syrup
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup freshly chopped mint leaves
Fresh Watermelon Margaritas
- 1/2 small ripe watermelon
- 4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 2 ounces premium silver tequila, my favorite is Maestro Dobel Diamante
- 1 ounce mint simple syrup (optional)
- 2 sea salt for rim garnish (optional)
- 2 lime wedges for garnish (optional)
Mint Simple Syrup
- Combine sugar, water and mint leaves in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and stir until sugar dissolves, about a minute or two. Remove from heat and let cool.
- Strain syrup and discard mint leaves. Pour into a jar or squeeze bottle.
- May be stored in your refrigerator for up to a month.
Fresh Watermelon Margaritas
- Cut your watermelon into cubes and place into blender or vitamix. Puree until smooth. This should yield about 1-2 cups of juice. You may choose to strain the juice if you're using a standard blender, but that's optional.
- For the margaritas, you simply add ice to your cocktail shaker and combine the liquid ingredients. Shake with vigor and taste a sample before you pour into glasses to see if you would like to adjust any ingredients.
- Rim your glasses with salt if you'd like, add ice to each and pour your margaritas. Top with a lime wedge and serve!
For the Hibiscus Tea, you may find it’s easier to get tea bags at your local store, which will work the same–just make sure there’s nothing in it other than the dried flowers themselves.
- 1 cup dried hibiscus flowers
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
- 6 cups cold water
- 2 mint simple syrup (optional)
- 2 mint leaves for garnish (optional)
- In a large bale jar or pitcher, combine the hibiscus, cinnamon sticks, ginger and cold water. Refrigerate and let steep for a minimum of 2 hours, and up to 12.
- Strain the tea and pour over ice. Add simple syrup to taste and stir. Top with mint leaves and enjoy!
- Brewed tea may be stored in your refrigerator for up to a week.
2. Boost Your Bar: A Summer Simple Syrup for Summer
You’ll notice we include a homemade mint simple syrup for both beverages. This is a great thing to have on hand. Grab some squeeze bottles and you can add to any summer drink that needs a little sweetness! It’ll store in your fridge for up to a month.
3. Summer Sustainability: Appetizer Edition
Depending on the size of your party, you may find yourself with leftover watermelon! Sure, you could simply cut it up and toss it on a plate, but you could impress your guests with some of that mint syrup, a few toothpicks, and a little feta cheese for one of my 3 simple appetizers.
4. Protein Power: Respect Your Main Dish
Want to keep it simple with some steak? I’ve got both French and Argentine inspirations for you. Dare to try something less expected? Try my lamb or spicy duck recipes. And if you’d like to keep it light, try some fish. There’s my all time favorite sea bass or my friend, Lourdes Castro’s shrimp.
5. Vegetable Delight: Make Mom Proud!
Vegetables are important for side dishes, but in 2018, it’s likely you’ll need to accommodate a vegetarian or two at your party. Don’t make the mistake of expecting a salad to do the trick! Everything is great with a little fire–even the produce! I’ve got a great grilled pizza recipe and it’s not summer if there’s no corn.
Happy Memorial Day to All!
May you have a wonderful time with your family and friends, and let us all remember the fallen who’ve fought for our freedoms. Cheers to the brave men and women who put their lives on the line for us every day!
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