Add a fun twist to any room with a quick balloon garland. I hung a gold ribbon across the dining room ceiling then tied white balloons to it at different lengths to create a tent-like feeling.
Pink peonies, sky blue napkins, fun, conversation starter place cards and my new favourite crystal goblets (snatched up at an antique market) make a colourful, summery table setting.
While rosé and white wine were on ice for dinner, I always like to have some cocktail options on standby for when people walk in the door. Aside from serving these, this cider also caught my eye for its pretty packaging, so I made a batch of it in a pitcher along with mint and sliced strawberries and limes for quick and easy refills.
A classic Caprese salad is always one of my favourites for fresh, easy, summer dining. A high quality balsamic vinegar is a must – or you can take whatever you have up a notch by making a reduction. Just bring two parts vinegar and one part honey to a boil in a small saucepan, then reduce to a simmer until it thickens into a syrup-like sauce (about 15 minutes).
Halloumi baked in grape leaves is another excellent summer starter that doesn’t take much effort. Place thick slices of halloumi cheese on a rinsed and dried grape leaf (find them in a jar in most grocery stores), drizzle with olive oil, fresh, chopped garlic, basil and pepper. Wrap the leaf completely around the cheese and bake for about ten minutes at 400°F. Make a lot because your guests will love ‘em.
Ottolenghi’s Cucumber Salad with Chili and Poppyseeds is made with the tastier, smaller cucumbers and is another dish you can whip up ahead of time to keep your menu light and refreshing. Simply slice six to eight mini cucumbers on the diagonal and combine with all of the ingredients listed here.
This salad just looks like summer on a plate. Admittedly, I had a hard time finding fresh figs at this time of year (even at the farmer’s market) but I finally stumbled upon some great green ones in my neighborhood and they really made the dish. Combine arugula with a handful of chopped basil leaves, small strawberries, goat cheese, and a drizzle of honey and olive oil.
This roasted chicken from Donna Hay’s Seasons is another easy addition. I picked up two chickens just over a couple of pounds each and had the butcher butterfly them for me. Roasting them flat cuts your cooking time in half. Once out of the oven, top with a zesty sauce of mint, chopped almonds, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil.
What could be more fun (or summery) than ice cream cake? Bring this childhood throwback into an adult setting by skipping the frosting, whipped cream and sprinkles in favour of better flavours (Bordeaux cherry and classic vanilla) and a topping of fresh berries and mint leaves.