As you know by now, I love to entertain. Last weekend I cooked a killer meal for a group of 14 friends.  As always, I planned ahead and worked most of the day to get as much prepared in advance as I could.  I’ve told you before that I do this in order to spend time with my friends or guests and not have to be stuck in the kitchen for the whole cocktail hour to get dinner on the table.  There is nothing worse than having a group of your buddies over and not seeing them because you’re stuck in the kitchen.  To stay super organized I always make myself a grid of all of the things I am serving on a blank piece of paper and check them off as I go. That evening I made two passed appetizers, a cheese board, salmon, steak and two salads. If you don’t stay organized, it won’t be as easy or as fun!

I started my day at a local farm where I got a bunch of fresh fruits, veggies and herbs.  I picked up local strawberries, corn, tomatoes, basil, etc. all of which went into this deliciously, seasonal meal.  I’m finding that friends seem to request and enjoy lighter food in general lately, but especially in the summer months.

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To start out the evening, I put out this unbelievable cheese board.  I like to have a good mix of cheeses including soft, hard, strong and mild. For this one, I used a Brie, a blue and one of my personal favorites, Petit Basque.  I garnished with a mix of crackers, local strawberries from the farm, Marcona Almonds and the best Lentil Crispbreads from East Hampton Gourmet (www.easthamptongourmetfood.com).  I like to make the cheeseboard look alive. By putting fruits, jams and a variety of crackers on the board it appears less bland and more exciting. Also, the fruits and jams pair really nicely with the cheese.

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Be sure to check back soon for my interview with Michael Cavaniola from my favorite Sag Harbor cheese shop, Cavaniolas (www.cavaniolas.com).  Michael is excellent at helping customers choose a good mix of cheeses that will pair well together and is going to show LivCooks readers how to create the perfect board.

With the cheese, I also served two passed hors d’oeuvres.  Prosciutto and Parmesan Crostini and Shrimp on a homemade potato chip.  As always, I chose things that could be made in advance and served at room temperature.

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We certainly couldn’t have a great cocktail hour without a LivCooks signature cocktail, so for this evening I chose a really simple one, a spicy vodka lemonade. Super simple and delicious on a summer night.

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For this type of dinner, I like to serve the main course dishes family style or in a small buffet.  This way everyone can pick what they like and how much they want to eat.  I also try to stick to four dishes.  I find that generally anything more than four can become quite overwhelming (no matter how much prep work is done!).  I kept it pretty simple with my  Lemon Salmon Cooked In Foil, grilled and sliced Ribeye, Liv’s Potato Salad and a version of my Caprese Salad using all different colored heirlooms fresh from the farm.

So, here it is…a summer dinner party at it’s best.

Hope you’ll try out these recipes and let me know what you think.  Also, don’t forget to post your LivCooks creations with #LivCooks.  I can’t wait to see you own your next summer dinner party!