Gathering with friends on a lazy summer afternoon is one of life’s great pleasures. A table placed under the shade of a tree, layered with deliciously simple food that speaks to the season, encourages lingering of the best kind. Setting this table with high summer’s bounty—cherry tomatoes here, potted herbs there—creates a visual connection to the surroundings and the meal being served.
The recipes here can easily be prepared a day ahead of time, allowing the host to truly relax.
Creating an adjacent space to keep pitchers of lemonade, light cocktail fixings, and ice at the ready will minimize dashes to the kitchen and add to the easygoing atmosphere. And when the afternoon winds to its eventual close, guests will leave happy and sated from great conversation, an indulgent lunch, and the casual, gracious hospitality.
Our irresistible summer entertaining recipes were created by Lake Forest resident Elizabeth Brown, an accomplished recipe developer, cookbook author, and executive chef. Brown has worked as development chef for Idyll Farms and completed projects for companies such as Bread & Buddha, Love and Lemons, Garrett’s Popcorn, and Buhl & Brown Kitchens. Prior to her work as an independent chef consultant, Elizabeth was a corporate chef for Marshall Field’s and Macy’s department stores. In her spare time, Elizabeth volunteers at Roberti Culinary Pathway, a culinary job readiness training program for the underserved, located in Waukegan.
WHITE GAZPACHO WITH CRAB-BASIL SALAD
Makes about 12 cups
- 4 cups chicken stock, chilled
- 2 cups sour cream
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Tabasco
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 8 ounces yellow tomato, small dice
- 8 ounces red tomato, small dice
- 6 ounces orange bell pepper, small dice
- 12 ounces English cucumber, small dice
- 6 ounces peeled jicama, small dice
- 2 ripe but firm avocadoes, small dice
- Kernels from 2 ears sweet corn, cooked, cooled and cut off the cobb
- 3 scallions, thinly sliced
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro
- ¼ cup chopped basil
- ¼ cup roasted and salted sunflower kernels
- Crab-Basil Salad (recipe follows)
Whisk together chicken stock, sour cream, vinegar, Tabasco, salt, and pepper in a large bowl until smooth. Fold in tomatoes, bell pepper, cucumber, jicama, avocado, corn, scallions, cilantro, and basil. Taste for seasoning, cover, and chill until very cold. Just before serving, stir in the sunflower kernels. Top each portion with some of the Crab-Basil Salad.
- 1 pound jumbo lump crab meat, picked over
- 3 tablespoons Agrumato extra-virgin olive oil pressed with lemons (available at Heinens) or 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice
- ½ cup basil chiffonade
- salt and pepper to taste
Gently fold all ingredients together. Taste for seasoning, cover, and chill until very cold.
This is a fun sandwich to pull out at a picnic—it looks simply like a giant loaf of bread—hungry picnic guests start acting nervous. Then you slice into it and reveal a stunning rainbow of tantalizing meats, veggies, and cheeses—a hearty summertime feast for all. It is also best if made early in the day, wrapped tightly, and given some time to rest in the refrigerator before bringing to room temperature and slicing into wedges. This recipe is also very forgiving—depending upon the size of your boule (round rustic loaf), you may need more or less of each ingredient. Feel free to add things from your refrigerator: leftover grilled chicken, corn kernels, grilled eggplant—your imagination is the limit.
- 1 medium zucchini, very thinly sliced lengthwise on a mandolin or with a vegetable peeler into ribbons
- 1 large carrot, very thinly sliced lengthwise on a mandolin or with a vegetable peeler into ribbons
- 1 large round loaf country style or rustic bread (2 pounds)
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 cups store-bought jarred muffaletta salad mix, drained of oil, divided
- 4 ounces prosciutto, thinly sliced
- 1 red bell pepper, roasted, peeled, and thinly sliced
- 1 yellow bell pepper, roasted, peeled and thinly sliced
- 4 ounces smoked turkey, thinly sliced
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced 1/3-inch thick
- 1 large ripe beefsteak tomato, thinly sliced
- 12 large basil leaves
- 4 ounces salami, thinly sliced
- 6 ounces crumbled fresh goat cheese
- 1/2 small red onion, peeled and minced
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cups arugula leaves
Combine zucchini and carrot ribbons in a medium bowl and squeeze juice of half a lemon over top. Drizzle in one tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Reserve.
Slice the loaf of bread in half across the belly. Pull out the soft interior bread from inside of each half, leaving a one-inch border all around to create a cavity in which you’ll build the sandwich.
Scatter 3/4 cup of muffaletta salad mix evenly over cavity in the bottom piece of bread. Drizzle with one tablespoon olive oil. Layer prosciutto over the mix to cover bottom of the bread completely. Next, layer red and yellow peppers, followed by sliced turkey. Now layer on mozzarella slices. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, arrange the tomato slices on top and season again. Sprinkle basil leaves atop tomato slices. Layer on the salami. Gently squeeze liquid from reserved zucchini and carrot curls, then spread over salami. Sprinkle goat cheese crumbles and minced red onion over all, drizzle with one tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, and top with arugula leaves.
In top piece of bread, scatter remaining muffaletta salad mix and drizzle with last tablespoon olive oil. Working quickly, cap the top piece of bread onto the sandwich base, using your hands to compress the whole thing so the top and bottom pieces of bread come together. Wrap very tightly in a few layers of plastic wrap. Allow to rest at room temperature before slicing into wedges, or refrigerate for up to 24 hours. This sandwich gets better the longer it rests.
BLUEBERRY GIN FIZZ
Makes one cocktail
Our bartender friends at the Deer Path Inn created a light, refreshing cocktail recipe perfect for summer gatherings.
- 15 fresh blueberries, plus more for garnish
- 1 ½ ounce of gin
- 1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1/3 ounce simple syrup or honey syrup
- Champagne or prosecco for topping
- Mint sprigs or cocktail picks for garnish (optional)
Place blueberries in a cocktail shaker and smash with a wooden spoon or muddler. Add gin, lime juice, and syrup to shaker and top with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a glass. Top with Champagne or prosecco to taste.
To garnish, thread blueberries onto a mint sprig (bottom leaves removed) or a cocktail pick. Balance across rim of glass or place in the cocktail.
Is there a recipe you’re dying to have? E-mail us at [email protected] and we’ll start digging.