Coming up with dream menus is part of what makes my job so much fun. Imagining a table, the guests, the flowers, colors, time of year and what might be a fun, inspired meal that will surely make the night memorable is all part of the process.
Sometimes, I pore over cookbooks on the floor at Barnes & Noble or my favorite shop, Kitchen Arts and Letters on the Upper East Side, to look at photos, recipes, techniques and, really, to feel transported. Walking around the market is another way to get spontaneously excited about cooking for your family and friends.
Just yesterday, I visited The Riverdale Y’s Sunday Market and found beautiful local apricots, sour cherries, plums, Thumbelina carrots and radishes of all shapes and sizes. Though the market is small, you can surely make an inspired meal from start to finish with all of the beautiful produce the farms have to offer.
Here are some summer menu ideas to get you excited this season. You can look up your favorite recipes, but this guide will take some of the drama and time out of your menu planning.
Here are three different ways to do chicken, potatoes, corn and tomatoes this summer!
Fried chicken dinner
Set-up: Buy a paper red-and-white checked tablecloth. Set the table with paper plates and mason jars for drinking. Serve the meal family style in plastic or bowls lined with parchment paper or sturdy napkins!
For dinner: Lemonade, buttermilk fried chicken, jars of assorted pickles like green beans, carrots, okra, cucumber, hot sauce, mashed potatoes, boiled corn on the cob, sliced heirloom tomatoes and red onions with steak sauce.
The upside: No grill is needed! Perfect for a city apartment!
Set-up: Buy a colorful tablecloth. Set up the table with wine glasses. Decorate the table with wild flowers of all different colors and use ceramic plates and bowls to serve.
For dinner: Micheladas or Sangria, pulled chicken with corn tortillas, tomatillo salsa, Mexican grilled corn, spicy grilled baby blue potatoes with cilantro and lime, cherry tomato and avocado salad with white onions, peaches, and toasted pepita seeds.
The upside: Make the sangria, salsa and pulled chicken one day ahead and grill the rest!
Line a table with butcher paper and set with small water glasses and sunflowers. Write down people’s names at their place settings.
For dinner: Serve chianti in bottles around the table for people to pour on their own. Rosemary and lemon grilled whole chicken, roasted potatoes, crostini of whipped ricotta and charred raw corn, tomatoes with basil, sea salt and olive oil.
The upside: Simple flavors are usually crowd pleasers!