Most of the people who come to our house for dinner are people whom we know, and we know that they like seafood. But since some people have allergies and digestive issues (me, too) I always ask about dietary restrictions if someone new is coming for a meal. We have one friend with a severe allergy to clams - but he eats raw oysters. It's always good to ask.
Summer and winter entertaining is different - in the summer, we like to grill and sit outside, so we lean towards simpler menus. I like things that can be prepped in advance, so that I don't have to spend a lot of time away from my guests.
One of my favorite hors d'oeuvres is a Garlic Basil Shrimp recipe - CLICK HERE to see that recipe and several other tasty shrimp recipes. Many people who don't want to eat fish will happily eat shrimp. The garlic basil marinade should be made in advance, and the shrimp can be put on skewers and marinaded for half an hour before the guests arrive. Then all you have to do is grill it for 2 to 3 minutes and serve. We like to start off with a bottle of bubbly - it makes everything seem more festive, and it's great with shrimp.
For the main course, grilled Alaskan salmon is a big favorite. Sometimes I make my own pesto out of mustard greens or basil, sometimes I just get some from one of our stores - Jaime can make almost anything green into an amazing pesto. I add a green salad, usually with some fresh fruit on top from the farmer's market, and fresh sweet corn from the market as well. To cook the corn on the grill, I pull down the husk (don't remove it!), take out all the silk, then put the husk back up. I soak the corn in a big pot of cold water for about an hour before cooking, then put the corn, still in the husk, on the grill just before I put on the fish. The corn cooks in about 10 minutes on the upper shelf in our gas grill. Let everyone pull down their own corn husk (they make a handy handle) and provide lots of butter.
Another favorite for entertaining in the summer is Salad Nicoise - the recipe is in my July 9th posting - great, because you can do the whole thing in advance and just pull it out of the fridge and serve. Add some fresh crusty bread and a nice French rose or a Sauvignon Blanc for a blissful summer dining experience.
Of course, one of the primo entertaining experiences is a New England Lobster Boil - CLICK HERE for a wonderful lobster boil recipe. It can be made either with whole live lobsters, or with Maine lobster tails - the key is to have bibs and lots of napkins, and a crowd ready to dig in with their hands. This is definitely outdoor dining fare! One of our customers in Hinsdale sent us the photo to the right from her recent New England Lobster Boil party, which she proclaimed a resounding success. Love the terrycloth napkins perfect for a deliciously messy meal.
For dessert, I tend to make use of all the great fruit available this time of year - fresh peach cake is a big favorite, or a Sherry Trifle, filled with lots of fresh berries, custard and whipped cream layered with sherry-soaked lady fingers. Not low cal.
Summer is the time to take advantage of all the great fresh produce at the farmer's markets, and of course, all the great fresh fish!