Serious Entertaining: A Last-Ditch, Goodbye-Summer Picnic

Serious Entertaining

Seasonal menu planning for the perfect dinner party.


With fall a mere ten days out, summer is proving quite the cruel mistress. There she goes, parading about, dangling her blue skies and warm, sunshiny weather before our sweaty, eager faces, all the while carrot-and-sticking us along into winter's icy embrace.

That's right, summer. I know what you're up to. And before I get all spurned and dejected, I fully intend to wring out every last drop of the season.

Okay, okay. Maybe, just maybe, I'm taking out some personal issues on summer. Like the fact that I, er, "forgot" to go on that camping trip, dust off my rollerblades, join that outdoor pool, have a frolic (whatever that means), grow a host of fresh herbs, or have an epic picnic in the park. Because, you know, time and stuff.

Luckily, you can still get a concentrated dose (apply retroactively or prophylactically as needed) of the best produce—and happy-go-lucky escapading—the season has to offer. From tomato salad to a peach and plum pie, here's a picnic menu that promises to leave you short at least one summer regret.

Appetizer: Summer Tomato Salad


[Photograph: Carrie Vasios]

At this time of year, ripe, fresh tomatoes don't need any help to shine. This salad keeps things simple, highlighting the sweet-tart fruit with just a drizzle of balsamic, a handful toasted pine nuts, a sprinkle of shredded basil, and some crumbled goat cheese.

Get the recipe for Summer Tomato Salad »

Main Course: Steak and Avocado Sandwiches with Spicy Crema


[Photograph: María del Mar Sacasa]

Not only is this sandwich quick and easy to put together, but it travels beautifully. The avocado mash gets its punch from cilantro, lime juice, scallions, and garlic—a velvety foil for grilled steak, served at a tender medium-rare. Oh yeah, and it lets out its wild side with a smear of hot sauce-infused crema, for a refreshing hit of tingly heat.

Get the recipe for Grilled Steak, Avocado, and Spicy Crema Sandwiches »

Side: Grilled Corn with Harissa and Mint


[Photograph: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

Grilled corn isn't really a personal favorite...expect when it comes to this recipe. A savory spread of a smoky, spicy harissa mix balances corn's natural sweetness, with just enough cooling mint to round it all out.

Get the recipe for Grilled Corn with Harissa and Mint »

Dessert: Peach and Plum Pie


[Photograph: Lauren Weisenthal]

By now, peaches are starting to disappear, with plums taking up the stone fruit mantle at market. This pie was expressly designed to bridge the seasonal gap and, with any luck, ease the transition from warm weather into cool.

Get the recipe for Peach and Plum Pie »

Drink: Cherry Sangria


[Photograph: Autumn Giles]

There's nothing like a chilled, boozy class of sangria to rub in the summer. Here, the red wine base gets a boost of cherry flavor from Cherry Heering liqueur, and, of course, some fresh pitted cherries. Slivered lemons balance all that sweetness with some tart acidity, and a splash of seltzer delivers an effervescent pop.

Cherries not your thing? Give one of these stone fruit sangrias a shot, instead.

Get the recipe for Cherry Sangria »