While there’s nothing better than pulling out the grill and filling it with burgers, brats, and buns, the same old summer meal can start to feel uninspired — read: stale — after a couple weekends of the classic menu.
Enter celebrity chef Cat Cora — TV personality, Bon Appétit magazine executive chef, the first female Iron Chef, and UNICEF spokesperson, among a much longer list of achievements and accolades — with some refreshing dinner recipe ideas for your table this summer.
As busy as Cora may be juggling her (large) assortment of chef’s hats, this award-winner still finds time to whip up her own summer meals alongside her partner and their children. "For me it’s very cathartic — just to be home, and not on the road, on an airplane, and not trying to cook in a four-minute TV segment," she says.
So, with a relaxing dinner party in mind, and an extra minute to spare, Cora shares her recipes for the perfect summer meal, while offering up some wisdom on how to plan a menu.
For Cora, the process starts with a theme. "A lot of times I’ll pick a country," she says. "That gives me an idea of how to narrow down different flavors and what style of food I’m going to do."
With the general idea in place, she then considers the where (in the dining room, alfresco, at the beach, at a friend’s house), how (in your kitchen, traveling, in a friend’s kitchen), and who (kids, adults, friends, family, strangers).
Next, Cora starts her menu by choosing an entrée and an appetizer — "Dessert, drinks, and sides can all be worked in afterward," she says. Whatever you select, Cora suggests you strike a balance between ingredients and tastes: "Some sweet, some savory, some vegetarian, fish or seafood, and meat or poultry," she says.
When it finally comes time to approaching your ingredients — of which Cora emphasizes the seasonal and local, of course — she advices to prep what you can ahead of time. This includes chopping vegetables and sealing them in airtight containers, or getting a marinade going in advance. "That way, you can enjoy your party," she says. "That’s really what it’s about."
For Cora’s perfect summer meal, she shares her dinner recipe ideas for a Mediterranean meets California menu — the way she likes to eat at home. Check out the slideshow above to get her recipes for tuna tataki lettuce-wrapped gyros, grilled stone fruits with prosciutto, Basque beef tenderloin, a chocolate boudino, and an ouzo pomegranate martini.
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