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Cooking with Love

For the Love of Simple Summer Menu Ideas!

Brooke Hagerty

(7/2015) The month of June brings with it consistently warmer temperatures and warmer temperatures means grilling out, picnics and parties! We all love being able to get outside and enjoy the weather with family and friends. Enjoying a great meal together is always nice but not everyone likes having to spend a lot of time preparing and cooking said meal.

You could have everyone bring a dish but if you are anything like me you like to have a little more control over the dishes that are served. Yes, it is true that when it comes to party planning I am a little OCD and a lot of control freak! But even with that said I like to be able to join in the fun and let loose a bit.

The best way to combine the best of both worlds is to create a simple make ahead menu that allows you time with your guests. This month we are putting together a Simple Summer Dinner Party!

Let's start with some easy appetizers. You can make your life easier by hitting up the prepared foods and deli sections of your local grocery store. At my local store I love to hit up the olive bar for some great easy starters. Piquant peppers are bright red and have been brined in vinegar and offer a sweet heat. Stuff them with some feta cheese and you have a fantastic and fun appetizer that your guests are sure to enjoy. Pickled vegetables or Giadianerra is a great choice as an alternative to the traditional vegetable platter. And of course the olive selection is incredible. I like to get a mix of olives and turn them into an easy tapenade. Pick three different olives and using your hand chopper or food processor lightly pulse the olives until they are in a fine dice. There is no need to add olive oil or other spices/herbs as the olives from the olive bar are already in oil and/or marinades. While at the grocery store purchase a French baguette; slice into 1/4 slices and brush with a little olive and then place in 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes or until just crisp but not hard. Once your bread is toasted simply either place in a basket with a dish of tapenade on the side or spread a little on each baguette and place on a platter of mixed greens. If you want to add a little unexpectedness fine dice some anchovies as a part of the tapenade.

A chilled soup is a great make ahead dish and I find that it is always a delight for my guests. My favorite chilled soup is Cucumber Dill and it is surprisingly easy to make. The following recipe serves four people.

Cucumber Dill Soup


  • 4 cucumbers, peeled and seeded. Reserve 1 for garnish
  • 1 - 16 ounce container light sour cream
  • 1 cup almond or cashew milk
  • 2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh dill
  • 2 teaspoons fresh finely chopped parsley
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice + the zest for garnish
  • Salt and Pepper to taste (I use lemon pepper and truffle salt)
  • Fresh mint for garnish with the lemon zest.


Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor or blender and store in an airtight container for up to two days. Serve in bowls and garnish with cucumber, fresh mint and lemon zest.

This soup can be made two days in advance and stored in your refrigerator. Be sure to whip soup with a whisk prior to serving.

Your main course keeps on the easy track with these simple Turkey Burgers. Don't worry about them getting dry we are going to make a great mix that will make you want to eat turkey burgers seven nights a week!

Mexican Turkey Burgers


  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 can white beans, drained but not rinsed and then mashed
  • 1/2 cup of your favorite shredded or soft cheese (parmesan or queso fresco are great choices)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon each s & P (I use lemon pepper and truffle salt)


Combine all ingredients and form into equal size patties. Place in refrigerator and allow to set for 2 hours or up to 2 days. You can cook them either in the oven (350 degrees for approximately 30 minutes) or on the grill until they reach 155 degrees. Remove from heat and rest for 5 minutes. During the resting time the temperature will rise 5 to 10 degrees. Serve on your favorite grilled bun (I suggest a wheat bun with rolled oat top). Top with Bibb lettuce, Roma tomato and thick sliced red onion.

A simple potato is a great accompaniment to your burger. One of my favorites is the Fingerling potato. A light skinned white potato that is about the thickness of your thumb and just a little bit longer. These potatoes are available a most farmers markets or your local grocery store. If your local store does not carry them ask the produce manager if there is a possibility of getting them in and in most cases the will answer yes. The preparation of the potato is very easy. Slice in half lengthwise (approximately 5 - 7 potatoes per person). Pull a sheet of aluminum foil long enough to make a package of potatoes. Spray the foil with pan spray and place potatoes in the center. Lightly coat with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, salt, pepper to taste along with some of your favorite dried spices - my choice is Montreal Steak Seasoning with some fresh rosemary. Fold the ends up and roll down to create a package. The potatoes can be cooked on the grill or in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes, covered. Uncover and for 10 minutes brown until they are fork tender.

A nice cool vegetable is a great way to round out this great entree course. Fresh green beans are readily available throughout the summer months and are very easy to make ahead.

Summer Green Beans


  • 1 pound each fresh green and yellow beans
  • Vegetable Stock
  • Fresh Dill
  • Kosher Salt
  • Fresh squeezed lemon juice and zest
  • Ice bath (ice cubes and cold water in a large bowl)


Bring 4 cups vegetable stock to a boil. Drop in beans for 3- 5 minutes. Remove from boil and place in ice bath for 2 minutes to shock the beans and stop the cooking process. Remove from water and season with Kosher salt, lemon juice and zest. Toss gently with dill and refrigerate for up to one day.

And now for dessert.........this is where you can get your guests involved. Have them bring their favorite dessert to share with YOU!!!

As always, should you have a question, an idea for an article or are in need of my personal chef/catering services please contact me at Be sure to check out my website,

Until next month, Happy Eating!

Read other articles by Brooke Hagerty