The season of rooftop parties and backyard BBQs is upon us. Don’t know the first thing about entertaining? Fear not! Set the stage for an unforgettable (and affordable) outdoor bash with these party-perfect recipes and tips from Gaby Dalkin, the chef, cookbook author and blogger behind the popular website What’s Gaby Cooking. From whimsy decorations to festive drinks to a crowd-pleasing menu, Gaby’s got you covered.
1. Keep it simple.
“Summer dinner parties are all about enjoying the great weather and friends,” Gaby says. “So don’t stress about making something super complicated and crazy. Instead, stick to things you’re comfortable making so you can spend less time worrying about cooking, and more time enjoying the fruits of your labor with your friends.”
2. Dress [your salad] to impress.
“Salads are pretty much on every menu in the summer months. I like to add a few pops of color and some crunch to jazz things up even more. Swing by your local farmers market and grab some edible flowers or fun colorful veggies to add on top of your greens, and finish every salad with some slivered almonds for some extra crunch.”
3. Ice, ice baby.
“One of the easiest ways to jazz up a summer cocktail party is to make beautiful fruit infused ice cubes. Just add a few raspberries, sliced strawberries or blueberries to an ice cube tray before filling it up with water. That way, when you pop out the ice cubes, you’ll have an extra dose of color and fruit in your drinks!”
4. Set the mood.
“Music! Make sure to create a killer playlist, or enlist the help of one of your friends who can play DJ. It sets the mood for the entire party, so be sure to add tunes that you know will make people feel comfortable and right at home in your backyard. Mix in a few songs from today’s hits along with some of your favorites from back in the day.”
5. Light up the night.
“Outdoor entertaining is the name of the game in the beautiful summer months, but no one wants the party to end once the sun goes down. Make sure your backyard or patio is decorated with plenty of candles or fun lights so you can enjoy your soiree well into the evening.”
6. Mix and match.
“Don’t be afraid to mix things up! Often times I find that I’ve invited more people that I have matching place settings – and in the past, I’ve always panicked. Nowadays, I just use mixed and matched place settings. It gives my parties a vintage feel. In fact, I received so many compliments on that style, I’ve started collecting one-off pieces from all my travels. That way I’ll never have a shortage of dishes and each plate comes with a story.”
7. Be a hostess with the mostess.
“Party favors are an easy way to show your guests you really went the extra mile. I like to whip up a batch of my famous coconut and almond granola and send each guest home with a bag. It lets them know you really care and they can enjoy the granola the next morning and reminisce about your amazing gathering.”
8. Dish up noteworthy noshes.
Now, the most important part: the menu! Gaby’s bright, beautiful and fresh recipes offer the perfect complement to a breezy summer gathering. See below for her complete menu of dishes, from a delicious appetizer, to a side dish made with the trendy “supergrain” freekeh and a decadent yet light gluten-free dessert: