(Family Features) There's nothing better than enjoying a delicious meal while relaxing with friends and family.
Most of us have that familiar go-to menu that takes little or no planning, but this summer it's time to try something new. First, move dinner outdoors to enjoy the warmth of the sun or a star-filled summer sky. Then, fire up the grill and showcase summer's bounty to create this delicious trio of salads for a gathering that truly shines. Regardless of whether your taste buds lean toward sweet or savory, or your appetite is light or hearty - each of these salads is tasty and inventive - and sure to please even the most discerning of dinner guests.
Bright Ideas for Al Fresco Entertaining
David Mirassou, wine expert and sixth generation of America's oldest winemaking family, offers up these tips:
- Pressed for time? Chill wine and other drinks in 10 minutes when you layer ice and salt in a bucket, and then fill with cold water.
- Want guests to keep track of their glasses? Dip the bottom stem of wine glasses in chalkboard paint. Once dry, guests can write their names in chalk or paint pens on their glasses.
- Looking for conversation starters? Use a chalkboard paper table runner to suggest food and wine pairings, and invite guests to comment on them.
- Not sure which varietal goes with what food? Use this rule of thumb: Pair lighter foods with lighter wines, and heartier foods with heartier wines.
Recipe: Grilled Chipotle Caesar Salad Wedges Paired with Moscato
- 3 cups 1/2-inch cubes of cornbread
- 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup good quality Caesar salad dressing
- 1 tablespoon Moscato
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 1 teaspoon minced chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
- 1 large head romaine lettuce, cut into 4 wedges
- 1/2 cup diced tomato
- 1/2 cup crumbled Cotija cheese
- Fresh cilantro leaves (optional)
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Place cornbread cubes on baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil; toss lightly to coat. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown, stirring once or twice. Stir together Caesar dressing, Moscato, lime juice and chipotle peppers in small bowl; cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Preheat grill to high, adding wood chips if desired. Brush small amount of dressing mixture on cut sides of romaine. Place romaine, cut side down on grill. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until lightly charred. Place on 4 salad plates and drizzle with remaining dressing. Sprinkle with tomato, cheese, cilantro and cornbread croutons.
Recipe: Mango Caprese Salad Paired with Riesling
- 3 large, ripe mangos, peeled, pitted and sliced
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Snipped fresh basil leaves
- Crusty toasted baguette slices
- Place mango slices on platter, alternating with mozzarella slices. Drizzle with lemon juice and oil, and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with basil and serve with baguette slices.
Recipe: Steak Salad Paired with Pinot Noir
- 1/2 cup rinsed and drained canned white beans (from 15-ounce can, save remaining beans for salad)
- 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 clove garlic
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- 8 ounces mixed baby greens
- 1 8-ounce grilling steak, seasoned with salt and pepper or Pinot Noir Marinade
- 1/2 cup quartered and thinly sliced red onion
- 1/2 cup shaved fresh fennel
- 1 cup baked croutons
- 1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
- Place all dressing ingredients in blender or food processor; puree until smooth. Chill until ready to serve. Grill steak for about 5 minutes on each side; let cool slightly. Place greens, steak, onion and fennel in large bowl and toss with half the dressing. Arrange on 4 salad plates and top with croutons, cheese and remaining white beans; drizzle with remaining dressing.
- For Pinot Noir Marinade, combine 1/2 cup Pinot Noir, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon coarse black pepper and 2 cloves minced garlic in re-sealable plastic bag.