|Stone Harbor, NJ at sunset|
Fran: "Simple, simple, simple. Boneless chicken breasts, marinated, grilled, served with a salad and corn if it's good, or another simple side like potato or pasta salad if it's not."
Matt: "Burgers, high-end, store bought potato chips and cole slaw from the deli."
Farah: "Chicken Kebobs--I marinate the chicken pieces overnight in yogurt and an Indian spice blend, then skewer and grill them. They can be served plain, with a variety of chutneys, or with chopped cucumbers and tomatoes wrapped in naan."
Anonymous: "Reservations. But don't use my name on your foodie blog, too shameful." [No sweat, Anon; check our next post for take out options that are sure to please.]
Claire: "Pulled Pork. It can be cooked ahead so there's nothing to do but reheat on the day when your guests arrive. It can also be cooked overnight, which means you avoid having the oven on and heating your house up during the day. Pulled pork is also inexpensive; you don't have to purchase the top cut of meat because the slow cooking process tenderizes it no matter what. We had a huge party at the beach on the very last day of the Summer--50+ people--and this fed everyone hassle-free. We even invited the lifeguards who had done such a great job over the Summer. People brought their own contributions...sides, rolls, and chips...and we had a great no-fuss feast."
When summer weekends arrive, I am generally manning the mess hall for a large crowd (like 20) at the beach. This means I aim for high volume, low cost, and crowd pleasing menus that appeal to three generations. Slam dunk: Flank Steak, Caesar Salad, and Grilled Bread.
For the bread: cut a baguette or other crusty loaf lengthwise. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill face down til toasted and starting to char. Serve plain, or slather with herb pesto, olive tapenade, or sun dried tomato puree. (I know, I know, the bread is a bit redundant with the croutons, so if this bothers you, opt for an interesting rice dish or macaroni salad, or ditch the Caesar and go with an arugula salad--but if you are feeding kids, Caesar is a safer bet.) I am one of those people who can never get enough bread and I can assure you, people are scraping the crumbs off the serving tray when I offer this up. When corn comes in, swap the bread for fresh corn on the cob.
For dessert: ice cream bars. My latest greatest discovery: Caramel Pretzel Klondike Bars. These little beauties are the next best thing to Bassett's WHYY Experience Ice Cream Flavor--vanilla butterscotch ice cream dotted with chocolate covered pretzels (pause for rapturous reflection, ahhh). Klondike's version boasts caramel ice cream encased in chocolate flecked with crumbled pretzels. That salty/sweet/crunchy combo makes me feel that all is right with the world. While Bassett's is a transcendent experience, for a crowd I prefer bars for simplicity's sake--no scoops, spoons, or bowls. Just unwrap and enjoy.
Have a safe and delicious holiday weekend!