Summer Dinner Party Recipes
My husband’s birthday was earlier this month, and among our dinner guests we had people who were vegetarian, gluten-free, and couldn’t digest cow dairy. I was so grateful to be preparing the meal in August, when there is lots of inspiring, in-season produce available! We decided on a Mediterranean-themed dinner. Even if you’re not navigating a variety of dietary preferences, Mediterranean food + summer produce = a delicious meal.
Although I love cooking and cookbooks, I was trained in the “a little of this, a little of that” style of cooking, so I don’t always have recipes to share for the things I make. But, since it’s not canning and it’s not baking, it’s very hard to go wrong with these dishes.
Zucchini Fritters with Goat Yogurt
For me, the highlight of the meal (besides our wonderful guests, of course) was the zucchini fritters. I’ve been making zucchini pancakes for years, and you can find my recipe in an old blog post here. To make the fritters, you just need to make two changes to the pancake recipe. The first is (obviously) to fry the dough in spoonfuls, rather than as a pancake. I will confess that I use more oil for zucchini fritters — enough in the pan to semi-deep-fry the dough — than for the pancakes, and that’s probably part of their appeal. The second change was a revelation for me. Instead of using whole wheat or regular gluten-free flour, I used chickpea flour (also marketed as garbanzo bean flour). The resulting fritters were lighter and crispier, with a significantly improved taste. Chickpea flour all the way!
The goat yogurt made a great dip for the fritters. I make my yogurt in a standard Euro Cuisine yogurt maker, following the same technique you’d use for cow milk yogurt. Basically, heat the milk to 180 degrees (stirring frequently to prevent scalding). Remove the milk from the heat and return to room temperature by putting the pot in a bowl of ice or in the fridge. Once the milk has reached room temperature, stir in a spoonful of the previous batch’s yogurt (you can use yogurt from the store if this is your first batch). Pour the milk into the glass jars, place in the yogurt maker, and turn on for 7 hours. Yogurt makers are great, but if you don’t have one there are ways to make yogurt in a cooler full of warm water or in your oven or dehydrator. (More info available in my book.)
Cucumber Tomato Salad
This salad was a big hit, and all credit goes to the ingredients. It’s hard to go wrong with heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, and fresh basil. I chopped the tomatoes into medium chunks, sliced the cucumbers thinly (you can use any kind except pickling), and mostly left the basil alone. The salad was tossed with extra-virgin olive oil, unseasoned rice vinegar, and a splash of red wine vinegar. Add a little salt and pepper, and you’re ready to go!
Baba Ghanoush and Mung Bean Hummus
I love making hummus, but with one caveat: I always, always use mung beans instead of chickpeas. I think that the mung beans make for a smoother, creamier, and easier-to-digest spread. You’ll want to get the split mung beans (not the whole ones that still have the green skin). Sometimes they’re in the bulk bean section and labeled “small yellow beans.” Cook the mung beans until soft. Put in the food processor and add the remaining 5 hummus ingredients — tahini, olive oil, fresh lemon juice, garlic (I like to roast mine first), and salt. I know that the lack of measurements is annoying if you haven’t made hummus before, but I just add a little of everything, blend, taste, and then add more of whatever is needed until it tastes right. If you’d really like a recipe, Epicurious has a nice one (although it’s a bit fancier than mine). I like to serve hummus topped with a drizzle of olive oil and paprika.
I had never made baba ghanoush before this party, but as I went to research recipes I learned that baba ghanoush has the exact same ingredients as hummus — just swap roasted eggplant for the cooked beans. I used this recipe for the party, and the result was ok. I think that next time I’ll cut the eggplant in half lengthwise and roast it cut-side down, to give the eggplant more of a smoky/roasted flavor.
Sweet potato chips.
We served the hummus and baba ghanous with a cut vegetable platter, which looked pretty but wasn’t particularly recipe-worthy. We also had these sweet potato chips. I cut sweet potatoes thinly, put the in a bag with olive oil/salt/pepper and tossed, then put the coated chips on cookie sheets and cooked at 325 until they were nice and done (it took a while). The result was pretty tasty, and paired well with the dips.
Olives and pickled veggies.
What’s a Mediterranean dinner without olives? The olives, pickled peppers, and balsamic onions were from the store, but I did make the pickled green beans and the oh-so-hot horseradish habanero dills. Both recipes were out of the Ball Canning Book, although the addition of habanero and horseradish were a deviation from the standard cucumber dill recipe.
Feta and Hardboiled Eggs
I would love to be able to take credit for the feta, but that task was beyond me for this party. I did boil the eggs, and I’m grateful to our chickens for providing such good ones. I did use an old backyard chicken keeper trick, since fresh eggs are notoriously difficult to peel. If you add baking soda to the water before boiling, the eggshells will come off more easily.
Paleo Chocolate Truffles
We didn’t get a clear shot of the finished truffles, because we had the guests finish their own (which involved dipping the truffles in melted chocolate and sprinkling on chocolate chips). But, I can tell you, they were fabulous. This decadent-tasting-but-not-that-bad-for-you recipe is from PaleOMG, and I will be forever grateful to the friend who introduced me to it. I do deviate from the recipe a bit in that I use semi-sweet chocolate chips both for the melting chocolate and for the chips, but other than that the recipe is great as-is. With all that chocolate, how could it not be?