For many, summer translates to the perfect time to entertain — longer days, warmer climes, and the fresh offerings seasonal farmers’ markets have to offer all mean that hosting friends and family has never been more achievable. But sometimes the idea of where to begin can feel intimidating. What can you cook that will be easy to prepare, summer appropriate and healthy? Luckily, there’s a foolproof summer entertaining menu and approach that’s as easy as it is delicious.
Former pro athlete and Boulder, Colorado-based chef Lentine Alexis knows that sometimes what you feed guests and what you feed yourself can have far more wide-ranging effects than simply filling stomachs. “Focusing on seasonal, local ingredients is the key,” says Alexis, who recently received her Ayurvedic medicine certification and has cooked and created content for the likes of Red Bull, Patagonia, and Outside Magazine. “Whether you're shopping at a farmer's market or the grocery store, whatever is in bounty is what's in season. You don't need complicated recipes, just simple cooking techniques — like grilling and quick pickling — to make these ingredients shine.”
Given that most cities and towns boast farmers’ markets during the warmer months, incorporating local ingredients into your summer-entertaining plans is likely not a difficult undertaking “Know that what grows together goes together,” says Alexis. “Offer up what nature is offering you, and you're sure to wow your guests. Cooking and serving local food is of the upmost importance to my cooking philosophy. Whether we recognize it or not, our bodies are striving to align with the seasons. Eating locally is the best chance we have of giving our bodies the nourishment that they're requiring in that moment.”
Alexis warns against limiting yourself or the foods you choose to incorporate into a menu, but rather being thoughtful about where they are coming from. “There aren't food groups or ingredients that I avoid,” she says. “As they're in their whole food state, they're exceptional and important in my book. This includes meat raised on regenerative farms in my community, local dairy products and bread made with locally sourced whole grains. I deeply believe local and seasonal diet is the only kind of ‘diet’ we ever need, and anything else can cause tremendous problems in the body in the long term.”
Beyond the food served at your get-together, the presentation can be another important — and unifying — factor in throwing a successful summer gathering. “Even with all the cooking skills in the world, I avoid plating food when we have guests and always opt for family style,” advises Alexis. “Guests love to serve themselves and letting them do so lightens your load and brings commensality to the table. No matter what you're serving, that spirit of togetherness and generosity will infuse your meals.” It can also be fun to do something both simple and unexpected in how you present your dishes. For Alexis, that can be something as easy as serving a childlike treat in a creative and chic way. “In the summertime, popsicles up-turned in a wine glass are a lovely and strangely sophisticated dessert,” she says.
Alexis also drives home that a key aspect to great entertaining is remembering that being a good host means that you, too, need to have fun. “Consider your guests, and make it easy for them to enjoy themselves,” she says. “That means spending time with them! If you make the meal something easy for you to pull together or present, then they'll feel at ease. If you're stressed, they'll feel stressed as well.”
When it comes down to it, summer entertaining is as simple as gathering good friends and enjoying the weather and fresh ingredients. Remembering those small details are the real secrets to great warm-weather hosting. “Summer entertaining isn't about being fancy or fussy, it's about the easy, simple bounty the season bestows upon us,” says Alexis. “The foods that are fresh right around us taste the best, require the least amount of preparation to taste amazing and provide our bodies with the goodness they need. Whatever your comfort level in the kitchen, serve what you're confident about and proud of, and that will make your party a smash success.”
Here, Alexis shares an entree, dessert, and drink perfect for summer soirees. Now the only thing left to do is decide who’s lucky enough to make your invite list.
Summer Entree: Spiced Mung Bean Tacos With Corn & Coconut Salad
“This surprising taco spread is one of my favorite meals to pull together in the summertime for guests — whether they’re omnivores or herbivores,” says Alexis. “It comes together in a flash, is full of flavor, and keeps the body cool, collected and feeling grounded. The superpowers are in the spices which energetically soothe digestion, beat the heat and reduce bloating — all of which can get the best of us in these hot summer months.”
For mung bean taco filling:
- 1 cup mung beans, soaked overnight
- 2 tbsp / 30 ml ghee
- 2 tbsp coriander seeds
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 tsp ground fenugreek
- 1 Tbsp ginger, minced or grated
- ¼ tsp asafetida
- 2 tbsp molasses or maple syrup
- 4 cups / 1 L water
- 1 tsp sea salt
For corn & coconut salad:
- 5 large ears of corn, grilled or boiled in salt water
- ½ cup / 42.5 g shredded unsweetened coconut flakes
- ¼ cup / 8 g fresh cilantro, chopped
- 3 green onions, sliced thinly
- ¼ tsp smoked paprika
- ¼ tsp smoked chili flake
- juice + zest of 1 fresh Lime
- salt + pepper to taste
To assemble and garnish tacos:
- Corn tortillas
- Fresh avocado slices
- Tomatillo salsa
- Micro sprouts
- Sliced radishes
- Yogurt with a pinch of cumin
- Fresh limes
Soak mung beans overnight, drain and rinse well, set aside.
In a small coffee grinder, with mortar and pestle, or with the back of a spoon, combine cumin and fennel seeds, fenugreek and asafetida. Grind well. In an instant pot, use the sauté function to warm ghee, about a minute, then add spices and ginger, cook for another minute or two, stirring until aromatic. Add mung beans, and maple syrup (or molasses), stirring to coat the mung beans completely in the sticky spicy mixture. Add water and salt, then cover and cook on high pressure for 15 minutes.
(NOTE: If using a conventional stovetop, simmer mung beans for 35-40 minutes or until tender. You may need to add more water and cook longer with this method.)
Grill ears of corn or cook in a pot of salted water for 7-10 minutes. Chop corn off the ears and into a big bowl. Add coconut flakes, chopped cilantro, sliced onion, spices, and the juice of one lime. Stir and set aside.
Warm corn tortillas on the stovetop and keep toasty in a kitchen towel until serving. Layer mung beans, corn and coconut salad and whatever garnish you have available into each taco. I like avocados, radishes, microsprouts, yogurt with cumin, and extra lime juice.
Dessert: Apricot & Cardamom Sorbet
“This apricot sorbet captures the best of the season and serves it up with a spoon, which is what I really want on the menu at every soiree I throw,” says Alexis. “The subtle cardamom is cooling to the body, and the texture of the sorbet captures the magic of a just ripe apricot—it’s perfection. I highly recommend owning an ice cream maker for this specific purpose. Want a quick way to impress any dinner guest? Homemade ice cream that practically makes itself because the fruit is that good.”
- 1 ½ cups / 335 ml water
- ¾ cup evaporated cane juice
- 1 lb ripe apricots, halved and pitted
- 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 10 cardamom pods, crushed with the back of a knife
For topping (optional):
- 4 fresh apricots, pitted and sliced
- 2 tbsp toasted pistachios, chopped
In a medium saucepan, over medium-high heat, bring water, sugar, and crushed cardamom pods to simmer. Cook until the sugar dissolves, 3 to 4 minutes. You know the syrup is ready when you don’t see any sugar granules on the bottom of the pot. Remove from heat and allow the mixture to infuse for 15 minutes. Strain and discard the cardamom pods. Return the syrup to the pot, adding sliced apricots. Bring the apricots to boil over medium-high heat. Then reduce heat to simmer and cook for 7-10 minutes, until the apricots soften and begin to break down.
Add lemon juice. Then puree apricot-syrup mixture and strain through a fine mesh sieve, using a rubber spatula to push as much of the apricot mixture through the mesh as possible. Chef’s tip: The better you puree the apricot mixture, the easier it is to strain through the sieve, so puree well!
Transfer the apricot puree to a Ziploc or reusable stasher bag and refrigerate in an ice bath. This is the fastest way I know to get your ice cream base real cold, real fast. Check in a half hour. Once the mixture is completely cool, pour into your ice cream maker and churn until creamy and frozen, according to manufacturer’s instructions.
Transfer sorbet to an airtight container and let sit in the freezer for 6 hours or overnight. Serve chilled, top with fresh apricots, roasted pistachios or basil flowers.
Cocktail: Hibiscus & Lime Ranch Water
“I’m not one for complicated cocktails, and this hibiscus-lime ranch water makes it neat and tidy for guests, whether they’re drinking alcohol or not,” says Alexis. “I love to add mezcal here, but if your guests are off the sauce, everyone can still enjoy the same pretty and festive refreshment. Hibiscus is a super ingredient; it cools from the inside out and adds a tart little punch.”
For the hibiscus simple syrup:
- 1 cup evaporated cane juice
- 1 cup filtered water
- ½ cup dried hibiscus flowers
For 1 cocktail:
- Juice of ½ lime
- 1 oz hibiscus syrup
- 1 ½ oz mezcal (optional)
- TopoChico or other favorite sparkling water
- Ice cubes
- Lime slices, to garnish
In a small saucepan, combine the evaporated cane juice and water and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Simmer for 3-4 minutes, until the sugar granules dissolve. Add the dried hibiscus flowers and allow to steep 10-15 minutes. Strain out the flower and transfer to an airtight jar, cool completely and store in the refrigerator until ready to use. Syrup can be kept in the fridge for up to one month.
In a cocktail shaker or glass, stir or shake together hibiscus syrup, lime juice and mezcal (if using.) Pour over ice cubes. Add sparkling water to taste and garnish with a lime slice. Enjoy!