Donatella Arpaia’s passion for food was formed at a young age. Spending summers at her grandfather’s Italian olive farm, growing up in her dad’s restaurants, and learning from her Mama Maria were invaluable foundations of her cooking. Since opening her first restaurant, Bellini, in 1988, Donatella hasn’t stopped. The former lawyer-turned-culinary-mogul and Food Network star shares her love of cooking and entertaining with us, bringing fun, drama and personality to your table.
Summer entertaining often involves large groups, yet I love intimate summer dinner parties! It feels so indulgent to bring the good crystal and flatware outdoors, to slip on that fun dress you’ve been waiting to wear, and savor an elegant meal under the stars.
Of course, because I am a chef, I think the meal itself is very important, but it’s definitely not everything. Don’t neglect the other important aspects of making your dinner memorable. Here are my top tips (and a few recipes) for an intimate summer gathering.
Candles, flowers and music are the sacred trilogy to any event. Candles flickering under the stars are the easiest way to set the mood. For a modern and elegant look, choose one type of flower and arrange bunches in a beautiful vase. These yellow forsythia branches from my garden added the perfect pop of color.
If possible, set the table early in the morning. I like to mix metallics such as gold flatware with crystal stemware, and I always finish with a splash of color. For this summer soiree, I chose lavender napkins for a touch of modern elegance. Set your table apart with outdoor dining inspiration from Frontgate’s Pinterest board.
For music, create a playlist for the evening. The tempo should be upbeat upon arrival and a bit mellower when dining.
Lastly, don’t forget that you’re part of the scene. Pick out a pretty dress that’s comfortable and colorful. You’re the hostess … have fun with it!
Make sure your menu is balanced. Vegetarian pasta is light and healthy, and I’ll also offer steak and seafood options to include all my guests. All of my recipes are easy, but they do require buying top ingredients.
For an added touch, why not print a menu and add a wine course pairing? It’s a great way to engage your guests in conversation. Print on parchment, and wrap in a bow.
My No-cook Pasta Sauce. That’s right! The only cooking required for this dish is boiling the pasta! The best part is that this pasta can be served hot, warm or even cold. The more it sits, the better it gets!
2 pints (4 cups) cherry or grape tomatoes, halved or quartered
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup chopped Italian parsley
Zest of 1 large lemon (plus juice)
1 medium green zucchini, sliced then cut into ribbons
1 medium yellow zucchini, sliced then sliced into ribbons
1½ cups ricotta
One package of Malfaldine pasta (lasagna strips)
Sea Salt and freshly ground pepper
In a large bowl, toss together the tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, parsley and lemon juice and let marinate.
In the meantime, bring a large pot of salted water to a roaring boil, cook pasta and remove from heat one minute before the suggested time on the package.
Drain (reserve half cup of pasta water) and transfer pasta to a large bowl. Stir in ricotta until fully incorporated, using pasta water as needed to thin. Add the tomatoes that have been marinating. Toss again and gently fold in zucchini.
Finish with freshly ground salt and pepper and serve—hot, warm or cold. The more it sits the better it gets!
1 large bunch flat parsley, coarsely chopped
1 bunch scallions, sliced (white and green parts)
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 or 4 anchovies (optional), minced
⅓ cup olive oil
Crushed red pepper
Salt and black pepper, to taste
40 oz. skirt steak
To make sauce, place parsley, scallions, garlic and anchovies in a bowl, and stir in olive oil, crushed red pepper, salt and black pepper. Let sit, and allow flavors to meld together while steak cooks.
Place steak on grill and cook 6-8 minutes on each side. Remove from grill and cut into thin slices. Brush with Chimichurri Sauce and serve.
1 lb. large shrimp
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
Wooden 4-inch skewers
Soak the wooden skewers in water for 1 hour or use metal skewers.
Whisk olive oil, salt and pepper into a bowl. Thread four shrimp onto each skewer, then brush shrimp skewers with olive oil mixture. Let shrimp marinate for 15 minutes.
Heat grill to medium. Place shrimp on the grill and cook 2 minutes per side or until cooked through.
3 pints cherry tomatoes
¼ cup olive oil
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
1 package arugula
Preheat oven to 425°. Toss cherry tomatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place tomatoes on a baking sheet so that they fit in single layer. Roast tomatoes for 20-25 minutes or until soft.
Place tomatoes on a serving plate and top with arugula. Arrange grilled shrimp skewers on top of the arugula and serve.
Think outside the box! Grilling isn’t just for steak. Place watermelon slices on the grill, then sprinkle with salt and mint for a light and sweet end to your meal.
While you may think of the backyard barbecue as the place to enjoy a cold craft beer or an icy sangria, some meals call for wine. Not a light white or an easy-drinking pink, but a silky red that envelops you like a cool Pacific breeze.
Crimson in the glass and smooth on the palate, the Grande Fleur de Lyeth Reserve 2013 will take you there … and take your grill-out to the next level. A heady blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and petite syrah, this blended wine is our featured Wine of the Month.
WINE OF THE MONTH
|The Wine:||Grande Fleur de Lyeth Reserve 2013, Sonoma|
|The Maker:||Katie Carter|
Sonoma’s Lyeth Estate has made its mark crafting Bordeaux-style blends. Blending helps balance the wine and adds layers of flavors that aren’t possible with just one grape variety. Lyeth winemaker Katie Carter demonstrates with this exclusive Reserve – the latest release of a big customer favorite.
Sonoma’s ideal growing conditions – those cool Pacific breezes and hot, sunny afternoons – were at their apex in 2013 (which is being hailed as a twin to the excellent 2012 vintage). Everything ripened to perfection, especially the Bordeaux grapes favored by Lyeth. Cabernet sauvignon delivers rich cassis notes, and blends especially well with plummy, silken merlot. A dash of deep, dark petite Syrah adds extra richness and intense color. Time in oak imparts an inviting, spicy complexity.
Grande Fleur de Lyeth will be right at home on your outdoor dining table. Serve with not-too-spicy barbecued spare ribs (such as these yummy Grilled Root Beer Pork Ribs). It’s also great in fall and winter with slow-roasted leg of lamb, herb-encrusted pork chops or hearty beef stews. And for sipping it on the porch with friends, it partners well with firm aged cheeses like cheddar, Gouda or even Parmesan.
Try it for yourself. Shop Frontgate’s Hand-selected Wine Cases.
Courtesy of Food & Wine
Four 12-ounce bottles root beer
1 cup Asian fish sauce
1 head of garlic, cloves crushed
¼ cup black peppercorns, cracked
2 large shallots, thinly sliced
16 cups ice
2 large racks of pork spare ribs (about 5 pounds each)
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
2 Tbsp. finely ground long pepper (see note) or black pepper
¼ cup fresh lime juice plus lime wedges, for serving
In a medium saucepan, bring 2 bottles of the root beer to a boil with the fish sauce, garlic, cracked black peppercorns and shallots. Remove from the heat, cover and let steep for 25 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a large roasting pan and add the ice. Add the rib racks, cover and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat the oven to 325°. Remove the ribs from the marinade and scrape off most of the solids. Transfer the ribs to a large rimmed baking sheet. Cover with foil and bake for about 2 hours, until the meat is very tender but not falling off the bones.
Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, combine the remaining 2 bottles of root beer with the vanilla bean and seeds and long pepper, and boil over moderately high heat until reduced to 2/3 cup, about 25 minutes. Add the lime juice and simmer for 2 minutes. Discard the vanilla bean.
Light a grill. Grill the ribs over high heat until richly browned, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer the racks to a carving board and cut in between the ribs. Serve the ribs with lime wedges, passing the root beer sauce at the table. Serves 6
Long pepper, a fragrant relative of black pepper from Indonesia, can be found at specialty food stores and online at salttraders.com.
Serve up a Summer filled with good food, great wine and the best of times with family and friends. Find everything you’ll need for a season spent outdoors and shop our Grills & Outdoor Entertaining Essentials.
As the summer grilling season kicks off, it’s time to talk burgers.
Americans love hamburgers … and we enjoy them most eaten hot off the grill. The sizzle when the meat hits the hot flame, the aroma drifting through the air, and the familiar charred taste are simply irresistible. Easy to cook and easy to eat, hamburgers are also a great way to serve a crowd.
This summer, consider serving up a twist on plain patties with cheese. Why not get inventive with toppings and build your own burger bar? Here’s what you’ll need.
Start with good-quality meat, preferably freshly ground at the butcher. Well-marbled and full-flavored ground chuck, made from the shoulder, has a near-perfect ratio of meat to fat (80% to 20%.) You can also experiment with other meats – short ribs, brisket, sausage, turkey – for more variety. Plan on ¼ lb. of meat per person for standard size burgers or ½ lb. for more generously sized patties.
Tips: Group toppings for each type of burger together and consider making little placards to identify them. (See the Kentucky Bourbon Bacon Burger below, as an example). Our Super Chill insulated bowls ensure all the fixings stay at the proper temperature.
The Kentucky Bourbon Bacon Burger:
hickory-smoked bacon bits, caramelized onions, bourbon-smoked pepper and cheddar
bacon, red onion, tomato and American cheese
jalapeno peppers, white onion, chili-lime hot sauce and Monterey jack cheese
The Greek Squad:
sun-dried tomatoes, red onion and feta cheese
Top it all off with an array of crisp lettuces – from iceberg to arugula – pickles and relish. Your guests will savor every bite of their out-of-the-ordinary burgers!
Tell us. What’s your favorite burger?
Get your space in party-ready shape with inspiration from our All-American Pinterest board.
When a summer afternoon finds you playing badminton on the lawn, cooling off at the 19th hole, or simply dipping your toe in the pool, you need a daytime cocktail that’s light and fruity without being overly sweet. One that you can savor all afternoon.
Days like these call for gin. Refined without being overly fussy, this clear liquor is made from grain (some combination of corn, barley and/or rye) that’s infused with juniper berries. These small, bluish berries give gin its distinctive flavor – that piney taste that’s as crisp and cool on the palette as a mountain breeze.
Of course, when you’re at Wimbledon (or simply watching the telecast across the pond), the gin drink of choice is the Pimm’s Cup. Spectators love to sip this truly English cocktail and will quaff nearly 230,000 of them at this year’s event.
If you’ve never experienced Pimm’s, it’s gin-based liqueur infused with citrus and spice. Invented by London bar owner James Pimm in 1823, it is now the quintessential English summer afternoon drink (and the traditional drink of Wimbledon). Pimm’s Cups are traditionally made with lemonade, lemon soda, ginger ale or ginger beer and are garnished lavishly with cucumber, mint leaves and fruit.
This recipe makes a sufficient amount to fill a pitcher. Serve in a pint glass, like our Dimple Pint Glass with Chill Insert. It’ll keep your drink cold, but not water it down.
Courtesy of Food & Wine
1½ cups Pimm’s No. 1
1 navel orange, cut crosswise into thin slices
1 lemon, cut crosswise into thin slices
¾ cup firmly packed mint leaves and tender stems
1½ cups cold ginger ale or lemon lime soda
1 cucumber, cut lengthwise into 8 wedges
About 3 cups ice
1 apple, quartered, cored, and cut into thin slices
In a large pitcher, combine the Pimm’s, the orange and lemon slices, and the mint. Chill for about 10 minutes. Stir in the ginger ale.
Put two cucumber wedges, standing on end, into each of four 1-pint glasses. Fill halfway with ice. Pour in the Pimm’s mixture. Push the mint down into the drinks, and divide the orange, lemon and apple slices among the drinks.
For more traditional Wimbledon entertaining favorites, check out our strawberries & cream recipe for a perfect summer treat!