It’s hard to believe that July is winding down already, but then again so much of it passed by in a blur. I’m grateful that we’re still slightly less scheduled for August (just one weekend trip planned) but instead I’m taking on the rather enormous task of pulling together a 35th birthday party for Michael just under a month from now. We’re not new to hosting larger affairs–back in New Haven we hosted an annual Hall Benedict Food and Wine Classic every fall–but it’s frankly been a long time since we’ve been host to more than four or five people at a time and frankly, I’m a little scared. The only way to handle this (at least for me) is to make a ton of lists, so I now have a Google Sheet spreadsheet populated with everything from menu ideas to guest lists and timelines so I can figure out what I’m going to do on the days leading up to the big day.
Because I still like the sensation of crossing off paper lists, though, I will inevitably also have a notepad riddled with various lists and sub-lists on Post-its, and the likelihood of me writing things down that I’ve already done so I can have the sensation of crossing it off will easily be 100%.
Decor will be easy: since most people coming haven’t seen our place yet, I don’t feel the need to festoon it with balloons and the like, but I may make a sign:
In terms of the food, I’m working on a menu that can appeal to a lot of palates but won’t drive me nuts in terms of prep. Anything that can be made ahead (and the better for it) will be, and I’m trying to think of things that won’t require heavy usage of the oven (as it will get warm enough as it is with all of the people we’re inviting). On that (tentative, changes likely) list so far: crudites with hummus, pork belly rillette, gazpacho two ways, and charred tomato herb salad. I want to make a cava sangria and maybe infuse either some gin or vodka to be paired with soda water or tonic, and I’ll buy the desserts because one must draw the line somewhere, and even Ina knows that buying dessert items is A-OK, so long as they are good.
So here’s my question for all of you out there: What do you like to eat when you’re at a summer party? Please bear in mind that this will be 100% indoors so it’s not going to be a traditional cookout or anything like that, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on what makes a swell summertime soiree.
As an appreciation for your input, I offer you this dinner assembly. It’s too easy to be considered a recipe, but there is a fresh sauce, and heat is involved, so you technically are cooking. It gets its inspiration from a recipe back from Giada DeLaurentiis’s Everyday Italian days–the original is a ravioli Caprese in which a ricotta and chicken-stuffed ravioli is dressed in a sauce of lemon juice, zest, olive oil, and fresh basil. I took out the dough and the ricotta and left the chicken with the olive oil sauce, and it worked–it’s light, refreshing, and most importantly, really easy to prepare after a long commute. I had a few balls of little mozzarella di bufula from the weekend’s meals that I threw in the bowl here to use them up, but they do make a nice addition (and help serve as a nice callback to the original dish). Paired with a salad it’s a nice, simple, minimal-cook weeknight meal for the summer, so it’s definitely worth making if the fixings are easy to acquire.
Chicken Thighs in a Lemon-Basil Sauce
inspired in part by Giada DeLaurentiis
- 3.5 lbs boneless chicken thighs
- Zest and juice to 2-3 lemons (depending on how juicy the lemons are)
- 12 basil leaves, chiffonade
- 2/3 cup olive oil
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Fresh ground pepper, to taste
Make the sauce: In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice and zest along with the basil and olive oil and whisk with a fork; season with salt and pepper and set aside.
Make the chicken: Season the chicken liberally with the kosher salt and pepper, and grill either on a grill pan, grill, or Griddler on medium heat until the chicken reads a temperature of 165 degrees. Let rest for a few minutes, and then serve in bowls or plates with the sauce drizzled over top.