One of my favorite things about summer is without a doubt the food! So many delicious foods are in season, it’s hard to get enough. Then there are dinner parties, brunches, farmers markets, wine tastings, and so many good times with friends revolving around eating. If you want to impress your friends this summer, or dabble in the kitchen with your in-season produce, I challenge you to use these tips for your next backyard party.
Go to your local farmers market, or Pick Your Own farm, and stock up on your favorite produce.
Right now, I’m a little star-struck by peaches. They are so juicy, especially when they are in season (right now!). The best tasting produce you will find is local, as local farmers tend to use less preserving techniques since their produce does not have to travel cross-country. They tend to pick produce at their ripest, when larger farms may pick before ripening. Local farms are usually growing and selling whats in season, therefore you don’t really have to do so much research on seasonally grown foods if you’re not already sure.
Grow & Pick Seasonal herbs.
If you haven’t heard already, what grows together goes together. Peaches enjoy warm weather, ripening during the summer in most parts of the country. As herbs such as basil are also at their peak, peaches and basil are really outstanding together. Some other summer herbs that go great with summer foods include chives, dill, coriander/cilantro, mint, fennel, parsley, and more! It’s no wonder we see these herbs in most summer pasta or potato salads.
Find Complimentary Fats and Proteins
To be honest, this will never be hard! There is such a variety of dairy, nuts, and oils that really tie together any herb & produce combo. Olive oil is a great addition to any combo- and certain dairy products really add a wow factor to any dish. For my peaches smorgasbord, I chose feta-but I’m sure brie or goat cheese would have suited just as well. For some dishes, you can make a dip or sauce-such as tzatziki.
Find Your Starch
Personally, an open-facing sandwich is a great starter for any meal in the summer. You can do so much with an open sandwich or flatbread, and the best part is you can incorporate this into other dishes.
Combine Your Ingredients-And Try to Avoid Adding Salt
Bruschetta is so popular in the summer as tomatoes and basil are as ripe as ever. But how many dishes incorporate the same ingredients? Tomato fresca, spiralized zucchini noodles, pastas, dips, morning egg breakfast dishes, grain salads, all can taste amazing with basil, tomato, and mozzarella! Once you find your ingredients that click, see what you can add them to.
The reason why I recommend trying to avoid adding salt is not just for health reasons-it is because salt as a flavoring is used in excess when there is no flavor to begin with. Although it is a wonderful preservative, and can help improve a dish, strive not to add it. Becoming less dependent on it for flavor, will challenge you to pair foods and herbs together better, teaching yourself so much about pairing.
Stock up, add to everything
Yes, usually when I find ingredients that really taste awesome together, I just keep a Tupperware full of it in the fridge and see what I can add them to. The peach, prosciutto, feta, arugula combo not only made a great salad, but it was even better as a flatbread, and INCREDIBLE as a salsa/dip.
I hope this provided some good advice on how to make a great spread. Although I know it is somewhat broad, the reason why is because in my opinion, delicious food is only somewhat reliant on technique. Delicious food is heavily dependent on combining flavors. Flavors which come from food. When following a delicious recipe, I challenge yourself to look at the ingredients combined and why. Observe how they taste together, and how they can taste alone or in other dishes. This will make the world of a difference in your culinary journey.