When planning a menu for a pool party, it's important to choose dishes that will hold up against the heat. The last thing you want is a melted cheese dip or wilted vegetables. Creative and innovative plating is a great way to keep appetizers cool. Arrange dishes on ice, in small glasses or on mini plates in the shade, or inside away from the sun. Like the pool water, I want all of the dishes to provide relief from the heat, so cooling, light recipes are ideal. For my menu I'll get some help from the grocery store by serving hummus with crisp pitas and marinated olives. Chilled gazpacho in shot glasses, citrus avocado salad in lettuce cups, and watermelon feta salad will round out the homemade portion of the menu. All of the appetizers are light, summery and perfect for a hot day by the pool. Interested in these taste treats? Check out the recipes, just read more


Grilled Vegetable Gazpacho

I got this recipe straight out of a "Cooking at the Academy" series put out by PBS/California Culinary Academy. When I started cooking in my early 20's, it was one of the first "involved" dishes I'd ever made. I can vouch for its deliciousness. Make a whole bunch, invite friends over, have some croutons on the side, drink Margaritas, and I can't imagine anything could be better. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

1 large onion, peeled
2 zucchini
1 each red, yellow, green pepper (or any combo)
2/3 cup olive oil
8 vine ripened tomatoes
3 cucumbers
8 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup fresh sourdough breadcrumbs
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
2 cups tomato juice
salt & pepper

Garnish
2 tablespoons thinly-sliced scallions (tops only), cut on the bias
2 tablespoons finely diced red onion
Coarsely ground black pepper

Preparation:

1. Preheat the grill to moderately hot

2. Cut onion into thirds lengthwise. Trim off ends of zucchini and slice in half lenghtwise. Brush onion, zucchini and whole peppers w/ a little o.o. and arrange on grill over high heat.

3. Grill, turning occasionally, for 3 - 4 mins per side or until skin of peppers blister and turn black and veggies are roasted. Remove and set aside to cool.

4. Peel blistered skin off w/ knife. Cut peppers in half and remove seeds and membrane. Cut all veggies and place in the bowl of food processor fitted w/ metal blade. Process until coarsely chopped and transfer to bowl.

5. Core tomatoes and cut into medium (1/2 inch) dice. Peel cucumbers and cut into (1/2 inch) dice. Finely chop garlic.

6. Add tomatoes, cukes, garlic and breadcrumbs w/ veggies. Stir in vinegar and tomato juice.

7. Gradually, add the remaining olive oil, stirring to combine.

8. Refrigerate for 2 - 3 hours until well chilled. Garnish the edges of the plate with the scallions, red onion and ground pepper.



Citrus Avocado Salad
From Farmer of the Month

1 large grapefruit
1 large orange or 2 mandarins
2 Tablespoons each lemon juice and salad oil
Butter lettuce leaves
1 large ripe avocado
1/3 cup chopped, salted cashews or peanuts

  1. Using a sharp knife, cut, peel and remove all white membrane from grapefruit and orange. Holding fruit over a bowl to catch juice, cut sections free and drop into bowl. Add lemon juice and oil, mix gently, cover and refrigerate for at least one hour or up to four hours.
  2. Just before serving, arrange lettuce leaves on four individual plates.
  3. Pit, peel, and slice avocado. Arrange avocado equally on each individual lettuce then top evenly with citrus mixture and juices.
  4. Sprinkle with cashews or peanuts.

Serves 4.

*Please Note: the image at right is the salad mixed with spinach rather than served in butter lettuce cups.*



Watermelon-Feta Salad with Fresh Herbs
From Culinary In The Country

6 cups cubed seedless watermelon
2 cups chopped trimmed watercress
3 ounces crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh mint
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, gently toss together watermelon, watercress, feta, onion, basil, mint, lemon juice and salt.

Serves 4-6.