Thank the good lord for the fruits of summer.
When I’m planning a dinner for friends, I nearly always start from the main and back my way into the sides. This last weekend, wrought with indecision over my protein, I found myself still on my couch deciding on what to cook for a group of 8 that evening at 4 p.m.
As someone that likes to do all of the work in the kitchen himself, and tends choose somewhat overcomplicated and challenging dishes to cook when I’m trying to show off for my friends, I was on the verge of freaking out. I had 3.5 hours to figure out what to make, go to the store, and then prepare and serve four dishes for 8 people.
After finally settling on some Malaysian-ish marinated steak and chicken kabobs, I had to fly out the door with little else planned, hoping I figured something out. Armed with a pitifully short shopping list, only one recipe in my head, and very little time, I knew that my sides should be light, seasonal, and easy to whip together in a pinch. I hoped that inspiration would hit me at the store.
What follows aren’t really recipes as much as a collection of largely unmeasured ingredients haphazardly thrown together with surprisingly delicious results.
Heirloom Tomato and Avocado Bruschetta
As I began my Supermarket Sweep through Whole Foods, I immediately spotted the alluring display of heirloom tomatoes and decided that a bruschetta was in order. I grabbed what I think were a few Georgia Streaks (yellow with orange streaks), Brandywines (large, red, uber-tomatoey), and Cherokee Purples (dark red and green skin, purple insides). I could have the specific cultivars wrong there, but I think it is close, and really just picked them because I thought they would look pretty together.
Next, with a lot of patience, I was able to dig up a pair of actually ripe avocados. On my way out, I snagged a loaf of rustic sourdough bread.
Olive oil and balsamic vinegar
Grilled sourdough bread.
Simply chop the tomatoes, toss with thinly sliced basil and a generous coating of olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Add balsamic to taste. Place one to two slices of ripe avocado on each piece of grilled bread, top with tomato mixture, and look like a hero. Total prep time: 20 minutes
Blackberry and fig summer salad
I was truly saved on this one, as an incoming phone call from my wife gave me my next idea: blackberry salad.
Ripe black mission figs
Toasted, sliced almonds
Not much to say here, since it is a salad. The route I went: Sweetly ask your wife/significant other/helper-who-dabbles-in-crafting to arrange everything for you so that it looks prettier than you would have made it. Serve with a simple vinaigrette.
Iced Blueberries with Sweet Cream
I don’t often redo recipes, but the iced blueberries with sweet cream from my Game of Thrones dinner are not only crack-like in their addictiveness, they are also very low impact when you are pressed with time. But, since I STILL haven’t contacted the authors for permission to reprint the recipe, I’ll sum it up. Throw some blueberries in the freezer for a few hours. While they are on ice, take heavy cream, some egg yolks, lots of sugar, and some vanilla extract and combine into a near-custard. (Time saving shortcut: buy a few cans of sweetened condensed milk, it will be almost as good). Pour over the frozen blueberries and serve for dessert.
All three of these “recipes” earned permanent dossier of quick dishes on the fly. Do you guys have any favorite “in a pinch” recipes that are also big crowd pleasers?
- By Jon Watson, Food & More blog