Summer is a glorious time of year for outdoor entertaining, with sultry evenings encouraging relaxed and casual dinner parties by the ocean.
“It’s the most exciting time to cook with all of the fresh food that’s available, from seafood to fruit and vegetables,” says Katie Lee, cohost of Food Network’s The Kitchen, three-time cookbook author and star of Beach Bites with Katie Lee, a Cooking Channel series in which the self-proclaimed “beach bum” samples local fare from Mexico to the Caribbean.
Lee, who lives mostly in The Hamptons when she isn’t filming or traveling, is passionate about entertaining.
She believes the key to throwing a coastal summer dinner party is curating a menu with quality, flavorful and seasonal ingredients that are prepared simply – something she learned from her grandmother while growing up in West Virginia, and the inspiration for her most recent title, Endless Summer Cookbook.
To maximize time with guests, Lee suggests preparing cocktails and side dishes in advance. Instead of mixing drinks on demand, she fills pitchers with icy blueberry daiquiris or honeydew melon margaritas, incorporating sweet summer fruits.
She also likes to craft a few different salads, such as quinoa tabouli, Moroccan carrots or her lightning-fast cucumbers with sea salt and chili flakes.
For a main dish, Lee often serves a large piece of grilled fish like halibut with chopped cherry tomatoes, lemon zest, capers and basil. And for dessert, she suggests choosing something decadent and easy to make, such as pecan ice cream balls with hot fudge.
The talented cook favors a casual-elegant, eclectic dinner table setting to enhance the breezy summer ambience. “The Hamptons is fantastic for yard sale shopping. I pull together table collections with different napkin prints, fabrics, glasses and vases of different sizes and shapes,” Lee explains.
Though the look is mismatched, she recommends coordinating the color scheme, such as a palette of ocean blues and whites, and keeping flowers like hydrangeas and dinner plates monochromatic. “I find inspiration everywhere,” Lee says, invariably while watching a fiery sunset from a Sag Harbor beach, with a glass of rosé in hand and her beloved pug Fionula by her side.
Endless Summer Cookbook is published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang, RRP $29.95, available from barnesandnoble.com
TRY THESE DELICIOUS RECIPES
FROM KATIE LEE’S ENDLESS SUMMER COOKBOOK
HONEYDEW MARGARITAS | Serves 2
1/4 whole honeydew, seeded, peeled and cut into chunks (about 2 cups)
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon orange liqueur (such as Cointreau)
1/2 cup silver tequila
1 teaspoon light agave syrup
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
Put the honeydew in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a large cocktail shaker. Add the lime juice, orange liqueur, tequila and agave syrup. On a small plate, combine the sugar and salt. Rub the rims of two glasses with a lime wedge and dip the rims into the sugar mixture to adhere. Add a handful of ice cubes to the shaker and shake until cold. Fill the sugar-rimmed glasses with ice, strain the cold margaritas into them and serve.
GREEN AND WAX BEAN SALAD | Serves 4-6
8 ounces green beans
8 ounces wax beans
4 ounces blue cheese (or goat cheese), crumbled
¼ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup candied walnuts
1 tablespoon fresh chives, minced
6 slices turkey bacon, cooked, cooled and cut into ¼-inch pieces
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon white vinegar or champagne vinegar
1 shallot, minced
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Prepare an ice-water bath. Blanch the green beans until crisp-tender. Immediately transfer to the ice water to stop the cooking. Repeat with the wax beans. Drain the blanched beans thoroughly. In a large bowl, combine the beans, cheese, cranberries, walnuts, chives and bacon. In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard and vinegar. Add the shallot. Whisk in the oil until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the dressing to the salad and toss to coat. Season with more pepper and serve at room temperature.
MOROCCAN CARROTS | Serves 4
3 large carrots, peeled
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon sweet paprika
Pinch of ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground cayenne
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 small clove garlic, grated or very finely minced
½ cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Using a mandolin slicer or very sharp knife, very thinly slice the carrots on the diagonal about 1/16-inch thick and put them in a bowl. Put the cumin, paprika, cinnamon and cayenne in a small dry skillet over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the spices are fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the oil and swirl the pan to mix. Add the lemon juice and swirl the pan; when the mixture begins to bubble, add the garlic and cook, swirling the pan, for 15 to 20 seconds, until the dressing is very hot. Pour the hot dressing over the carrots and toss with a large spatula until the carrots are evenly coated and have absorbed the dressing. Add the parsley, season with salt and pepper and toss until combined. Serve at room temperature, with harissa, or refrigerate until ready to serve.
Image Credits: Photo by Lucy Schaeffer.