Ah, the sweet smell of summer - freshly cut grass, birds chirping, and food grilling. What more can you expect from the summer months? When summer rolls around, you are more than likely going to a barbeque or some kind of function - and the polite thing to do is always offer to bring something: whether that something is a drink / side / dessert / or savory dish, you should never arrive empty handed.
My favorite summer dishes to bring to any function are sure to please any and all crowds and will not break the bank. Not only are they delicious, but super easy too! You don’t have to slave over a hot stove and you don’t need to go to WholePaycheck for fancy ingredients either.
1) Summer Time Citrus Side Salad (I just made that up, but it’s literally an orange salad)
This salad is SO easy and is one of my favorite things to make. My mom used to make this growing up and I remember always asking for it during the warmer months because it is so refreshing!
All you would need are a few oranges (depending on the size of your crowd, it is easy to alter), a bunch of scallions, red wine vinegar, a little extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, fresh parsley (dried is fine, too!), and garlic powder.
Literally - just cut everything up into bite sized pieces, throw it in a bowl with the seasonings and the vinegar and oil, and done. So. Stinking. Simple. I love it served cold but you can eat this right away!
2) Watermelon and Mint Salad
Another crowd pleasing salad - the contrast between the sweet watermelon and cool mint is sure to satisfy all taste buds. And it looks super sophisticated, too.
Cube up some watermelon, a quarter of red onion, a handful of chopped fresh mint, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper, and some crumbled feta cheese. Holy WOW. So easy but everyone will be fooled into thinking you went to a high-end restaurant and ordered this to bring!
3) Tri Color Pasta Salad (For all my carblovers out there)
This is one of the best dishes to bring because it has familiar ingredients that are never intimidating to most people, can be eaten cold or room temperature, and looks like you spent a lot of time making it.
Get your favorite tri-color pasta (either ziti or a tortellini for extra flavor), cook according to the package directions. You can use your own vinaigrette if you want, or find your favorite dressing from the supermarket (just be careful of the sodium and extra ingredients!), sliced cherry tomatoes, chopped cucumbers, cubed provolone cheese, any type of cubed meat (or you can make it vegetarian!) - you can use cubed ham, cubed salami, cubed turkey - whatever! Adding some fresh herbs really takes this dish to the next level and if you are with a crowd who likes a little heat, add some crushed red pepper and whole pickled peppers for some extra crunch!
4) Corn, Cucumber, and Avocado Salad
This salad has such a summery color pallet - there is something about the green and yellow that just make you feel so happy while preparing this. You can sub cooked corn for frozen corn to make this dish even easier to prepare.
Grab a large bag of frozen corn, one and half whole English cucumbers (washed with skin on), and a large ripe avocado. Chop the cucumber and avocado in similar bite sized pieces, mix with the corn and add some dried dill, juice of one - one and half limes, salt and pepper to taste and done! No one will ever guess you made this right before you were leaving for the party!
5) Caprese Garlic Bread
Unfortunately, you may need an oven or toaster oven for this one - but fortunately, it is so FREAKING worth it.
I prefer a nice Semolina / Italian style bread - something hearty; crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. Whatever you do end up going for though, be sure it is FRESH. Stale bread will not work for this recipe. And if you do have stale bread, you can easily turn this recipe into a panzanella salad (basically a bread salad - who wouldn’t love a bread salad!?)
Anyway, grab your bread and cut it down the center lengthwise - as if this is a giant hot dog roll, but better. Cut some slits in the center of the bread and rub fresh garlic into the bread. Toast this for just a few minutes until you can smell the garlic coming through and it smells like fresh bread baked in your kitchen.
Take it out, careful to not burn yourself, and drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil and rub more garlic into the bread. At this point, i like to grate some garlic onto the bread itself too.
Slice some fresh tomatoes - heirloom would be perfect here - and the freshest mozzarella you can find (whatever you can afford will be just perfect!). Assemble as if you were making a sandwich of just deliciousness, put it back into the toaster / oven for just a minute or two until the mozzarella is starting to melt, and then top it with either a balsamic glaze or just balsamic vinegar and fresh basil.
This dish will accompany anything there and is perfect on its own. No main dish required.
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