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Reinvent Your Backyard BBQ

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Hosting a summer backyard bash? Celeb chef and mom Susannah Locketti serves up her top tips for creating a fuss-free warm weather menu.

Marinate in Minutes
Use large Ziploc storage bags to marinate meats or seafood. Here's a tasty one: Marinate one pound of boneless, skinless chicken breasts (pounded thin) with the juice and zest from one lemon, 1/2 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons fresh chopped rosemary, 3 cloves minced garlic plus salt and pepper. Or, combine two pounds of peeled, deveined shrimp with a little olive oil, some juice and zest from an orange, crushed red pepper flakes and salt and pepper. The marinating bags store easily in the fridge or a cooler until you are ready to grill.
Hold the Mayo
There's nothing worse than potato salad or cole slaw sitting out in the warm weather with your guests wondering of it's still OK to eat. Instead, make salads or side dishes that rely on olive oil to tie it all together -- these dishes can be served warm or at room temperature without fear of the food going bad. I love to create trays of grilled veggies tossed with olive oil, garlic, fresh herbs, Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper. Serve with grilled bread for a nice treat before the meat.
Creative Pasta Salads
Combine grilled vegetables such as red onions and eggplant with penne, olive oil, fresh chopped herbs, crumbled goat cheese and salt and pepper. You can also combine the orange grilled shrimp from above with mini shells, crumbled feta, wilted baby spinach and olives. Toss with a light dressing of olive oil, a little orange juice, chopped garlic, dried Italian herbs plus salt and pepper. Both of these pasta salads can be served warm, cold or at room temperature. No need to worry about the shrimp salad, because your guests will devour it in minutes!
Keeping It Cold
Hate it when the punch bowl gets warm? When making the punch, do a double batch and freeze some in ice cube trays. Drop the ice cubes in the punch during your party, so it stays cold without becoming watered down. You can also make cool ice cubes with leftover citrus or fresh chopped mint. When making ice cubes, just add chopped mint and lemon or lime zest to them for a refreshing surprise in ice water or mojitos. This takes seconds to do, and your guests will remember it.
Juicy Fruit
A fruit buffet is a great ending to any backyard bash. Place a tray of sliced pound cake, a bowl of chopped fresh or grilled fruit, chocolate sauce and aerosol whipped cream on a table outside. Keep aerosol whipped cream cold by placing several cans in a decorative bucket filled with ice. People can help themselves to dessert, leaving you time to sit back and relax. Of course, no one will ever turn away the classic sliced watermelon, either. Garnish the tray with fresh mint sprigs to heighten the presentation.

next: Last-Minute Staycation Tips
1 comments so far | Post a comment now April 5, 2011, 5:18 AM

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