In June, we take our cues from Mother Nature. More daylight means parties last later in the evening. And those parties can happen at a moment’s notice—especially when a grill is involved. What to do when you find yourself the hostess without much warning? (Hint: Takeout isn’t the answer.) Listen as culinary pro Christina Garruppo shares her shortcuts for effortless summer entertaining, from the ingredients every cook should have on hand to a versatile noodle salad that’s ready in no time.
THE SHOPPING LIST
A few staples go a long way when it comes to whipping up a low-key meal on the fly. Don’t have Garruppo’s MVPs in your refrigerator? Make a beeline for the grocery store—now.
1. Boneless chicken thighs A more flavorful choice than the ubiquitous chicken breast. Garruppo buys thighs in bulk, packs them into quart-size bags, and freezes them until ready to use. “I cook more than I need and make them into chicken salad for lunch the next day,” she says.
2. Canned gourmet food San Marzano tomatoes, tuna packed in oil, garbanzo beans: these pantry items can cut prep time in half, and they inspire a variety of easy starters—from homemade salsas and hummus to a fresh Bloody Mary.
3. Citrus Indispensable for cocktails, lemons, limes, and oranges are also ideal when added to marinades and salad greens. Throw whole fruit in a bowl and you’ve got an easy, long-lasting centerpiece.
4. Cured meats A platter of charcuterie, a bowl of warm olives, and a loaf of crusty bread are pretty much all you need for summer appetizers.
5. Eggs “When friends show up unexpectedly for dinner, I sauté whatever leafy greens I have on hand and top with a fried egg,” says Garruppo.
6. Frozen shrimp It’s one of the most versatile proteins, thaws quickly—and cooks even faster. Toss some on the grill, then sprinkle over pasta or an arugula salad.
7. Herbs “In the summer, mint is one of my favorites,” says Garruppo. Adding fresh herbs to marinades, sauces, or your favorite dip gives it a fresh finish. Her secret for Sunday marinara sauce? “Fresh Italian parsley, and a lot of it.”
8. Mirepoix Sautéed carrots, celery, and onions are a foundation of French cooking. “I use them to start soups, stews, braised meats, even a quick chili,” says Garruppo.
9. Pasta It’s cheap, quick, filling, and delicious. Opt for fresh when possible; it tastes better but doesn’t last as long as dried varieties.
10. Red Bliss potatoes “You can fry, roast, grill, or boil and mash them for a quick side dish,” says Garruppo. “I like to cook the larger ones and store them in the refrigerator. When guests stop by, I scoop out the center, fill with cheese and cooked bacon, and bake until crisp.”
11. Special mention Sriracha (the perfect way to top off that fried egg over leafy greens).
THE KITCHEN STAPLE
The secret to a quick meal? A clean refrigerator. “If mine is messy, I tend to forget about certain items, and then they spoil,” says Garruppo. She suggests storing ingredients in similarly shaped quart- and pint-size containers. “They’re clear and easy to stack, so you can see exactly what you've got.” It also pays to have a refrigerator that keeps food fresher for longer. Thankfully, in-appliance technology helps control temperature and humidity, preventing spoilage and ensuring that your food is ready to go when you are. The Electrolux Wave-Touch French Door Refrigerator takes that concept one step further with its Luxury-Glide Perfect Temp Drawer, which features nine settings that let you store wine, fish, and meat at the ideal temperature. The refrigerator’s Fast Ice option makes and stores cubes in advance so you have ice on hand before company arrives.
THE WARM-WEATHER DISH
The beauty of this recipe is its versatility. Add celery, mushrooms, and radishes for a meal that’s chock-full of vegetables; grilled chicken or pork tenderloin work well in place of the shrimp. You can also adjust the spice level to taste.
SOBA NOODLE SALAD WITH GRILLED SHRIMP
Prep time: 45 minutes. Cook time: 25 minutes
¼ cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
Sriracha to taste
2 limes, juiced and zested
1 pound soba noodles
2 pounds large shrimp, frozen or fresh (at least 4 per person)
1 cucumber, cut into 2-inch strips
2 bell peppers, cut into 2-inch strips
2 carrots, peeled and grated
4 scallions, white parts only, thinly sliced
1 serrano chili (optional), cut into thin rings
Mint and cilantro for garnish
Salt and black pepper to taste
1. Bring a large pot of water to boil; heat grill to medium.
2. To make the dressing, combine mayonnaise, vinegar, soy sauce, sriracha, and lime juice and zest. Whisk until smooth. Set aside and refrigerate (overnight is fine if necessary), until ready to use.
3. Cook noodles in boiling water for about 8 minutes or until al dente. (Don’t overcook or they will fall apart.) Drain and rinse with cool water. Drizzle with a small amount of vegetable oil to prevent sticking, and refrigerate until cold.
4. While noodles are cooling, season shrimp with salt and pepper. Grill until light pink, about 2 minutes on each side. Allow to cool or arrange directly on cold noodles for a nice contrast in temperatures.
5. In a large bowl mix noodles, cucumbers, bell peppers, carrots, scallions, and serrano chili (if using). Add dressing to taste.
6. Top noodles with shrimp, garnish with cilantro and mint leaves, and serve.