The sun shines every day, wild flowers bloom along the roads, and farmer's markets are a riot of fresh vegetables, fruits, and berries. It's the peak of summer - time for a party!
Invite some friends for a meal that takes advantage of this glorious season. Set a table on the deck or patio, or, if it's very hot, in the air-conditioned dining room. Decorate it with jugs of simple summer flowers and let this relaxed season do the rest.
For this party, nearly everything can be prepared ahead of time or can be well on its way to being done when the guests arrive. This is not a meal where you gather around the grill and fan the smoke. Cooking is kitchen-bound.
We have chosen roasted whole chickens--so easy to prepare. They are cooked with fresh garden tomatoes, which make a luscious, fresh-tasting sauce. We season the chickens with fresh thyme, but you could use tarragon or rosemary instead.
The roasted pepper salad can be made well ahead of time--and while you can grill the peppers on the outdoor grill, they can also be charred in the broiler or over an open gas flame.
The green bean and potato salad is meant to be served warm or room temperature. You can make this shortly before your guests arrive and let it sit on the counter, tossing it with the dressing just before serving. We suggest omitting the salami or soppressata for this meal so that this can be served as a side dish. (With the meat, it's robust enough for a main course.)
Summer Means Shortcake
After you and your guests have feasted well, end the meal with a summer berry shortcake. Ours is for blueberries, which are wonderful in mid summer. If you can, pick your own for sweet, fresh flavor. Otherwise, buy pint baskets overflowing with plump berries.
You can make the shortcakes early in the day, but if you can manage, bake them just before serving so that they are warm.
Spoon the berries over the warm shortcakes, dollop with chilled sweetened yogurt and then take your fork to this sublime dessert of melting flavors and comforting textures.
Enjoy the party - summer days soon will wane and while autumn is glorious, nothing beats these long, lazy days and mild evenings. And nothing surpasses the fresh vegetables and fruit available now.