By Nancy Caivano
We all know that June is "THE" wedding month, so I've prepared some welcome outdoor ideas just right for a Summer Bridal Luncheon or other festive occasion. Instead of making Pasta and Risotto the main courses, I've put them on the side, with some wonderful grilled dishes in the starring roles, and surrounded the meal with assorted colorful vegetables.
This menu would do well for a Bridal shower or an informal outdoor wedding. But please, don't limit it to a big event. You can take this entire menu and shape it into 2 or 3 smaller menus for all types of family outdoor entertaining. A festive Sunday barbecue perhaps, maybe a Father's Day party, or just having some friends over to relax and unwind.
From appetizers to dessert, you can mix and match these dishes any way you like. They're pretty flexible, and most have tasks that can be done ahead of time. In any dish that calls for grilled vegetables, for example, you can grill the vegetables the day before. This gives you a lot more free time the day of the event.
So let's get to the menu! We start with two terrific tomato dishes to really bring out that summertime feeling. First, Grilled Bruschetta is a wonderful twist on the everyday. The ripe tomatoes are grilled to bring out their sweetness, combined with a light vinaigrette and garlic oil, and placed on top of grilled Italian Bread with shaved Romano cheese. Or, start with Summer Tomato Soup—full of ripe tomatoes, aromatic vegetables, white wine, herbs and a hint of cream. Serve this versatile soup hot, warm or cold.
Our main courses vary, so tailor the menu to suit your tastes. Pick one entrée and a few sides for a small group, or make the entire menu for a larger group—these versatile recipes can easily be doubled or tripled.
First up is Grilled Orange Marinated Swordfish. Swordfish marinates in a lightly sweet orange vinaigrette, then is simply grilled to keep the clean taste of the swordfish along with the smoky flavor of the caramelized orange juice. I also have Grilled Chicken Breast Stuffed with Goat Cheese and Thyme Pesto, a fragrant dish, full of vibrant flavors. The chicken is pounded flat and stuffed with a mixture of soft, fresh goat cheese and a terrific thyme pesto, which makes a great change from the ordinary basil pesto. It gives the chicken a really zesty flavor.
Next, we have Balsamic Grilled Pork Chops with Grilled Tomato and Eggplant Compote. These aren't your everyday pork chops! They're marinated in a balsamic vinaigrette, then grilled and topped with a grilled vegetable compote made with eggplant, tomatoes, onions and garlic. (The compote also goes well with the chicken.) Lastly, a perfect vegetarian entrée, Grilled Eggplant, Potato and Portobello Mushroom Tart, which can be made ahead of time and reheated. The vegetables are grilled and layered in a hot pan, then topped with sautéed breadcrumbs, mixing up all sorts of flavors and textures.
To go along with these grilled entrées, I include five hearty salads. Pesto Pasta Salad coats pasta and vegetables in a fragrant pesto that goes with any or all of the entrées and is a refreshing alternative to heavy, mayonnaise laden pasta salads. Risotto Salad is a terrific change of pace from the everyday kind of salad. A basic risotto is made, then cooled and combined with aromatic vegetables and a light vinaigrette—the creamy rice contrasts with the crunchy veggies to make a great dish!
I came up with Toasted Corn Salad when I had a lot of corn and not much else for dinner one evening. The corn is removed from the cob and cooked over high heat until it is golden brown, bringing out the natural sweetness. It is mixed in a salad with romaine lettuce, tomatoes and olives in a light vinaigrette. Next up, a lovely, elegant Endive, Grilled Pear and Stilton Salad, in which Belgian endives, sweet, ripe grilled Bosc pears and fragrant Stilton cheese mingle with a sweet-spicy vinaigrette made of orange juice, port wine and star anise. Lastly, we have Spinach and Apple Salad with Butter Toasted Almonds, melding fresh spinach with tart Granny Smith apples, and sweet buttery almonds, anointed with an apple cider vinaigrette. (The pasta, risotto and pear salads can also be served warm.)
Round out the meal with Romano Cheese Rolls. These rolls go with just about any main course or side dish you can think of. The Romano cheese makes them fragrant and zesty, and they bake up crisp outside and tender inside.
No meal would be complete without dessert, and I have included two of them. Neither one is a wedding cake—that's too big a project for such a simple meal! Purchase a wedding cake for the wedding, but serve these desserts for a shower or other summer meal. Double Chocolate Ice Cream Cake layers two varieties of ice cream, whipped cream and toasted almonds between rich, dense double chocolate cake—an easy way to impress your guests! Or, try the fabulous Grilled Coconut Pound Cake with Kahlua Spiced Peaches and Coconut Whipped Cream. The pound cake—rich, sweet and fragrant with coconut and vanilla—is grilled to add a smoky note to the cake. The peaches marinate in coffee-flavored Kahlua, vanilla and sugar, creating a complex taste experience rounded out with a light coconut flavored whipped cream. This dessert is full of summer flavors and makes a beautiful presentation.
I hope that you have the opportunity to make some or all of these dishes. As a great change of pace from the same old burgers and hot dogs, they offer something for everyone—and even the kids will enjoy them!
This page created June 1999
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