Monday, July 26, 2010

Summer Dinner Party

Photo from

Saturday was one of those perfect summer days, where it's warm but not too hot, the day seems to go on forever, and you check every box on your to-do list.  John and I took our engagement photos with the obscenely talented Avi Rothman.  While I can't share them yet, I can say that the proofs are everything I hoped they would be.  Oh, and there may or may not have been a lot of blue and yellow frosting.  Everywhere.
Camera phone photo by Avi Rothman

On Saturday night, we hosted Avi and the neighbors for a quintessential summer dinner on the patio.  Fried chicken, potato salad, and heirloom tomatoes with homemade ranch dressing.  Do you ever have a meal that's so tasty you miss it when it's gone?  It was like that.  We followed it up with a nectarine and blackberry pie, a scoop of ice cream, and some gooooood sleep.  We're right smack in the middle of summer, so if you want to make your own patio dinner from heaven, here are the recipes.  I also threw in our beer and wines for the evening.  I realized that I do my fair share of wine drinking, and that you might want to know what's in my glass...  Now you know!

Oven fried chicken by Ina Garten.  Do yourself and your chicken favor and use Crisco.  Just do it, you won't regret it.

Potato Salad with Red Bell Pepper and Sweet Corn from Fine Cooking.  Fine Cooking has a "create your own potato salad" recipe generator.  Go have some fun with this, I love it.  My recipe is below.

Ranch Dressing by The Pioneer Woman.  I served it with green leaf lettuce, heirloom tomatoes, an avocado, and a Persian cucumber from Dorien's garden.

Nectarine and Blackberry Pie adapted by yours truly.  I used the recipe for the peach pie I made on the 4th of July, but instead of peaches, I used nectarines (69 cents a pound at Pavilions, boo ya!) and blackberries.  The yellow fruit with the purple sauce (from the blackberries) made it one of the prettiest pies I've ever made.

The beer- Honey Moon by Blue Moon

The wine:
Municipal Winemakers Bright White Riesling- This is one of my go-to wines.  Most people think of Riesling as being a sweet wine, but Dave Potter, the winemaker at Muni, makes a clean dry riesling that I can't get enough of.
Robert Renzoni La Rosa Sangiovese Rose- Kenny and Dorien brought this back for us from their "mini-moon" in Temecula.  I'm a huge fan of Rose, and this one tastes like strawberries.  Refreshing and delicious!

A note about fat:  this was just one of those meals.  Buttermilk, mayonnaise, crisco, sour cream, butter.  They all came out to play in this dinner.  And I don't sweat it too much.  I think if a meal is delicious, and you savor it and enjoy the time with your friends and have a great conversation, then the caloric splurge is well worth it. 

Potato Salad with Red Bell Pepper, Sweet Corn and Cilantro
From Fine Cooking
For the Dressing:

1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup sour cream
2 Tbs. fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp. chopped fresh oregano

For the Salad
1 tsp. plain rice vinegar
kosher salt
3-1/2 lb. medium waxy potatoes, such as Yukon Gold or red (or 3-1/4 lb. baby potatoes), scrubbed clean
1 cup diced red bell pepper
1 cup thinly sliced scallions
1 cup fresh sweet corn kernels
3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Make the Dressing

Whisk all the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl.

Make the Salad

Combine the rice vinegar and 2 tsp. salt in a large bowl. Let sit to dissolve the salt. Put the potatoes and 2 Tbs. salt in a 6-quart pot and add enough cold water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over high heat and reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Cook the potatoes until barely tender when poked with a fork or skewer, 20 to 25 minutes. If the potatoes aren't all the same size, remove them as they are cooked. (Baby potatoes will take 5 to 10 minutes.)

Gently drain the potatoes in a colander and set aside until just cool enough to handle. Using a paring knife, peel the potatoes by scraping off the skin. (Skip this step if using baby potatoes.) Cut the potatoes into 3/4-inch chunks. Add the potatoes to the bowl with the vinegar and gently stir with a spatula to coat. With your fingers, pull apart any pieces that are stuck together.

When the potatoes have completely cooled, gently fold the bell peppers, scallions, sweet corn, and cilantro into the potatoes. Fold in enough dressing to generously coat the potatoes (you may not need all of the dressing). Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature or cold.


  1. How funny - Dan and I drank a bottle of La Rosa from Robert Renzoni on Saturday too! Renzoni is the best, I used to be wine club member. We brought that bottle back after hitting it up on the way out of town the weekend of D/K's wedding =)

  2. This is such a perfect summer menu! I love meals like this. I especially love your potato salad - so much more color than the usual drab pile of potatoes!

  3. This potato salad looks amazing - a nice change from the usual! I totally agree with your note about the fat...sometimes an amazing meal with friends and family is just worth it!

  4. Summer dinner parties are my favorite. Everyone is so relaxed and it can go well into the night without feeling like it's going well into the night.


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