For summer parties, serve food buffet-style in big bowls – Loveland Reporter-Herald

For summer parties, serve food buffet-style in big bowls – Loveland Reporter-Herald

Summer entertaining at its simplest, utilizes a big-bowl approach. Large troughs of stylish, serve-yourself fare positioned in easy reach, make casual gatherings easy on the cook and fun for the guests. Put the fare on the table and invite diners to dig in. Relax.

One example? Hummus garnished with a tasty Mediterranean-style concoction of herbs and olives, cucumbers and toasted seeds, is just right for dipping toasted pita chips. Another winner is a platter of eye-catching roasted summer vegetables. The vegetables are scrumptious on their own, but when used atop toasted slabs of sourdough bread spread thinly with soft herb cheese, the combo becomes irresistible.

Serve tasty gazpacho in a large pitcher (not for pouring — just to look pretty) or big glass or ceramic jar. Provide glasses and a long-handled ladle. Guests can scoop up their serving into a glass and garnish to their liking with a couple of toasted tortilla strips, a lime wedge, and celery leaves. If you like, beforehand you can rim the glasses with a tasty mix of seasoned salt and coarse salt, anchored on the rim with a swirl of lime juice.

A selection of cheeses and sliced and/or dried fruit, arranged on a board or platter, could round out the meal. For a self-serve bar, provide a chilled bottle of Rosé, plus mineral water and iced still water with lemon.


Roasted summer vegetables can be served unaccompanied, or they can be paired with toasted sourdough bread and soft cheese. (Photo by Cathy Thomas)

Roasted Summer Vegetables

Cookbook author Ina Garten asserts that even in summer, it’s easier to roast vegetables in the oven than to grill them on the barbecue. They are scrumptious on their own, but for a big bowl gathering, I like to provide toasted slabs of sourdough bread and soft cheese to slather and then top with roasted veg. Boursin garlic and herb cheese works well, as does Trader Joe’s Goat’s Milk Creamy Cheese.

Yield: 6 servings


2 medium zucchini squash

1 red bell pepper

1 yellow or orange bell pepper

1 fresh fennel bulb

1 small red onion

2 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic, about 3 garlic cloves

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 sprigs fresh thyme

For serving big bowl style: Thickly sliced sourdough bread, olive oil, soft garlic-herb cheese such as Boursin,


1. Adjust oven racks, one in lower-middle and one in position below it. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Trim ends off zucchini and cut diagonally in 3/4-inch-thick slices. (The slices may seem large, but they will shrink.) Cut peppers lengthwise in 1 1/2-inch-wide slices, discarding core and seeds. Trim fennel stalks and cut bulb though the core in 1-inch wedges. (Cutting through core keeps pieces intact.) Peel onion and slice into 1/4-inch-thick rounds, leaving the slices intact.

3. Place vegetables in groups on rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with oil, add garlic and gently toss, making sure the vegetables are all lightly coated with oil. Divide vegetables out on two rimmed baking sheets, making sure they are in a single layer and still grouped together. If they are too crowded, they will steam instead of roasting. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and place a few thyme sprigs on top. Roast 15 minutes. Turn each piece; switch and rotate positions of sheet pans in oven. Roast 5 to 10 minutes more, until all vegetables are tender-crisp. Sprinkle with extra kosher salt and serve hot or at room temperature, arranged in groups on a large platter.

4. If desired, accompany with toasted sourdough bread and soft cheese. Guests are invited to spread cheese on toast and top with roasted vegetables of choice. For vegan version, simply top toast with roasted vegetables or offer a vegan cheese.

Source: Adapted from “Barefoot Contessa How Easy is That?” by Ina Garten (Clarkson Potter, $35)

Hummus with Herb, Cucumber and Olive Salad Topping

This salad-like topping is one of my favorite ways to top hummus. If you’re looking for an easier approach, the garnish can be as simple as a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of sumac, or smoked paprika, or za’atar. Coarsely chopped Marcona almonds are tasty, as well as toasted pine nuts.

Yield: About 8 servings


3 to 4 cups homemade or store-bought hummus; recipe follows

1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley

1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh dill

1/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives, thinly sliced

1 small cucumber (such as Persian), unpeeled, cut into small dice

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Salt to taste

1 tablespoon pepitas, toasted; see cook’s notes

1 tablespoon sunflower seeds; see cook’s notes

1 tablespoon white sesame seeds, toasted; see cook’s notes

Pita chips, homemade or store-bought; recipe follows

Cook’s notes: Most often I buy pepitas and sunflower seeds that are roasted and salted. If you buy raw pepitas and/or sunflower seeds, toast them by placing on a rimmed baking sheet and lightly toasting them in a 350-degree oven for about 3 minutes. To toast sesame seeds, place in small skillet on medium-high heat. Shake handle to redistribute seeds as they lightly toast; keep an eye on them because they burn easily. Remove seeds from skillet as soon as they lightly brown.


1. Spread hummus in large bowl. In medium bowl, gently toss parsley, dill, olives, cucumber, oil, and juice together. Season with salt to taste. Spoon over hummus. Sprinkle on pepitas, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds. Serve with pita chips to use as dippers.

Source: Adapted from “Boards” by American Test Kitchen (American Test Kitchen, $30)

Bittman’s Hummus

This easy hummus recipe comes from Mark Bittman’s “Eat Vegan Before 6:00” cookbook. He likes to eat hummus for breakfast, accompanied with carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, and whole wheat toast. I have doubled his hummus recipe here to make enough to serve big-bowl style topped with herb and olive salad.

Yield: 8 servings


4 cups cooked or canned garbanzo beans, drained (reserve liquid)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

4 tablespoons tahini; see cook’s notes

1/3 cups fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons ground paprika or ground cumin (or both)

2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste

Cook’s notes: Tahini is a paste made from ground, hulled sesame seeds. It is sold at natural food stores and supermarkets with large specialty sections. Stir it well before measuring.


1. Combine the garbanzos, oil, tahini, juice, paprika (and/or cumin) and salt in food processor. Puree until very smooth, adding some garbanzo liquid if needed. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Source: Adapted from “Eat Vegan Before 6:00” by Mark Bittman (Clarkson Potter, $26)

Pita Chips

Yield: 6 to 8 servings


4 (8-inch) pita breads, white or whole-wheat

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt


1. Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees. Using kitchen shears or sharp knife, cut around perimeter of each pita and separate into 2 thin rounds.

2. Working with 1 round at a time, brush rough side generously with oil and sprinkle with salt. Stack rounds on top of one another, rough side up, as you go. Using knife, cut pita stack into 8 wedges. Spread wedges, rough side up and in single layer, on 2 rimmed baking sheets.

3. Bake until wedges are golden brown and crisp, about 15 minutes, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking. Let cool before serving. Pita chips can be stored at room temperature for up to three days.

Source: Adapted from “Boards” by American Test Kitchen (American Test Kitchen, $30)

Gazpacho, made with Roma tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, onions and garlic, can be served in a glass rimmed with seasoned salt and garnished with celery leaves, lime slices or toasted tortilla strips. (Photo by Nick Koon)
Gazpacho, made with Roma tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, onions and garlic, can be served in a glass rimmed with seasoned salt and garnished with celery leaves, lime slices or toasted tortilla strips. (Photo by Nick Koon)


Yield: About 8 (8-ounce) servings


1 medium hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, finely diced

2 stalks celery, trimmed, finely diced, (reserve leaves for garnish)

1/2 medium sweet onion or red onion, finely diced

1/2 green bell pepper and 1/2 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, finely diced

4 ripe Roma tomatoes, seeded, finely diced

1 medium clove garlic, minced

1 small jalapeño chili, seeded, minced; see cook’s notes

1 tablespoon minced cilantro

1 tablespoon minced Italian parsley

32 ounces tomato juice

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup chicken broth or vegetable broth

Freshly ground black pepper

As needed to adjust seasoning: Optional hot pepper sauce and seasoned salt

Optional garnish: Celery leaves, lime slices, toasted tortilla strips, see cook’s notes

Optional for coating rims of glasses: 2 tablespoons seasoned salt mixed with 2 tablespoons coarse salt, fresh lime juice for moistening glass rims

For serving: Glasses, ladle

Cook’s notes: Use caution when working with fresh chilies; wash work surface thoroughly upon completion and do NOT touch face or eyes. To make toasted tortilla strips, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut 3 corn tortillas into 1/4-inch-wide strips. Place on rimmed baking sheet in single layer. Bake in middle of preheated oven and bake until crisp and lightly browned, about 3 to 5 minutes.


1. In nonreactive container such as glass or ceramic, combine all ingredients except optional seasoning and garnishes. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Cover and refrigerate overnight or about 8 hours. Stir and taste. Adjust seasoning as needed.

2. If you want to place seasoning on rims of glasses, place salt mixture in one saucer and lime juice in another. Dip lip of each glass in lime juice, then into salt mixture. Ladle gazpacho into each glass or have guests serve themselves. Garnish glasses with celery leaf, lime slices and two tortilla strips.

Source: “Melissa’s Everyday Cooking with Organic Produce” by Cathy Thomas (Wiley, $29.95)

Cooking question? Contact Cathy Thomas at [email protected]