Friday, June 3, 2011

Summer Entertaining is Simple With a Well-Stocked Summer Pantry

It seems like during the summer unexpected guests can drop in at anytime, but that doesn't have to catch you unprepared. The key to successful entertaining on the fly is the idea behind the Gatewood Hall properly stocked “Summer Pantry”. Below is an extensive list of items a gracious host or hostess could keep on hand. Please don’t be overwhelmed. Rather than store them all just select a few that suit your tastes. Pick items that you love and that are versatile (for your needs) and then keep them in supply. Convenience products are not all the same. I have a few of my favorites to keep in the pantry and freezer during the summer for last-minute appetizers, snacks, quick meals or to dress up leftovers. I will share those with you over the next few weeks.

As I have mentioned, I believe the key to the successful Summer Pantry is to stock up on versatile, shelf-stable ingredients so you can knock out a tray of hors d'oeuvres at a moment's notice.

Must-have options for the cupboard:
o A good quality mild cracker or crisp bread
o Cheese straws- (A true southern expectation. There are so many great store-bought versions there is no need to make them, most are foil sealed which gives them a long shelf life, or you can even freeze them.)
o Pickled veggies— For serving as antipasto or garnishing a Bloody Mary or Martini
o Canned dolmades- (stuffed grape leaves), a Greek treat stuffed with rice.
o Jarred roasted red peppers or sun-dried tomatoes— Items like these plus a little fresh garlic dress up a jarred pasta sauce, or can be used atop crackers in hors d'oeuvres
o Jarred pesto- Spread it on crackers or slices of crusty bread. (Pesto just tastes like summer to me and while I love to make it from scratch there are so many great jarred versions you can’t go wrong.)
o Nuts- Pistachios, smoked, mixed- (My favorite is Marcona almonds from Spain. They are sold at many specialty stores, but the best buy is from Costco. Marcona almonds are flat and crunchy, and have a more delicate flavor than American almonds. They're simple, classic, satisfying and healthy too.)
o Stuffed olives— keep a few jarred or canned varieties on hand, preferably good quality ones with a twist such as stuffed with garlic, jalapeno, or even almonds. (Sometimes I’ll buy a mixed jar of olives, drain and refill with a hearty red wine, but be sure to refrigerate if you do this)
o Unique or special salsa- (I usually keep a regional peach or fruit version and a great traditional flavor)
o Olive tapenade
o Jarred eggplant appetizer
o Wonderful fruit jam or chutney

o Good local honey
o Really great mustard
o Your favorite mayo (you can add things to it to make it a great spread)
o Dry salami, pepperoni or other cured meat
o A can of quality Italian tuna in oil for sauces or topping salads and crackers- (Truthfully I never keep this on hand this but I have a friend who swears by it!)


o Champagne or Prosecco— Serve alone in the evening or mix with juice and garnish with a strawberry for mimosas at brunch
o Sparkling water
o Soda
o Beer
o Red wine
o White wine

Seasonings, Stocks & Spices

o Extra virgin olive oil
o Balsamic vinegar and a flavored dipping oil- (like garlic, basil, or lemon)
o Sea salts ( I love the flavored versions like lavender or citrus)
o Chicken, Beef & Vegetable stock
o Garlic powder- (I prefer the jarred crushed garlic)
o Canned Italian tomatoes and paste (I love good canned tomatoes!)
o A good pre-made canned sauce (You can add some spices to give them a bit of flare. Without question an unusual pasta and a jar of sauce + added fresh garlic and herbs to brighten the flavors create a no-fuss dinner.)

Rice & Pastas
Boil, drain and pour your favorite sauce and you are good to go.

o Arborio ( aka: Risotto)
o A couple varieties of pastas (I like the idea of Penne, Linguini and Tri-colored Fusili)
o Jasmine or Brown Rice

Crusts, Bread & Shells in the Freezer
These are great to have in the freezer. Just thaw and fill with just about anything for a last minute appetizer or dessert.

o Frozen puff pastry
o French Baguette
o Ready-made pizza dough
o Pie crusts

Cheese in the Fridge
Most cheeses last for a really long time in the fridge, and can be a valuable addition to your Summer Pantry

o Cream cheese
o Goat cheese
o Wedge of Cheddar
o Chunk of Parmigiano- Reggiano
o Brie


o Vanilla ice cream (a really good one, I prefer good ole Hagen Daz)
o Cookies (I have a friend who makes a big batch of their favorite cookie dough and freezes them for an easy quick sweet end of a meal sometimes they make ice cream sandwiches. Take your favorite cookie, put a spoonful of ice cream and top with another cookie. Keep in the freezer until you are ready to serve. A simple & fun treat!)
o Pound cake
o Frozen fruit
o Chocolate or Caramel (I love a really great jarred chocolate or caramel sauce, in the summer there is something about a really great sundae or ripe fresh fruit dipped in chocolate or caramel simple yet decadent!)

Miscellaneous Items
o Beautiful or fun paper napkins & plates
o Easy melamine plates, trays and service ware
o Nice looking tooth picks & bamboo skewers

You don't want to be caught with nothing to serve when people drop by and your well-stocked Summer Pantry (and freezer) will ensure that you always have fun, party food available without much prep required. I will spotlight some of my favorite products, where to get them and what to do with them over the next few weeks. I know we have some really great entertaining friends out there…Have I missed something that you love to keep in your Summer Pantry? Please share your ideas! I love hearing from you!

Happy & Gracious Summer Entertaining!


No comments: