When you want to entertain


July 16, 2008|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Sun reporter

Summer Gatherings By Rick Rodgers William Morrow / 2008 / $17.95

Summertime and the cooking is easy. Or at least it should be. So cooking instructor and cookbook author Rick Rodgers has come up with a collection of 50 recipes perfect for casual dining. Fresh, in-season ingredients dominate the recipes that run the gamut from White Peach Bellini Freezes to Corn Hotcakes With Blackberry Syrup.

It wouldn't be summer without grilled hot dogs, and Rodgers offers a spicy and easy chowchow to brighten up that barbecue staple. The recipe yields a quart that will keep in the refrigerator for weeks.

The Mixed Berry Slump, another easy recipe that uses any in-season fruit, won rave reviews at my casual Sunday dinner party. As an added bonus, the dish is made in a pot on the stove, so you don't have to heat up the oven. On the down side, the slump is best when it is made and served immediately, so you should save this recipe for friends or family who don't mind your absence from the dinner table while you finish up the dessert.

Let's Get Together By DeeDee Stovel and Pam Wakefield Storey / 2008 / $14.95

This is another collection of simple recipes for casual dining. Ingredients for these dishes are readily available in your local grocery, and most of the recipes require a half-hour or less of preparation.

You'll find lots of tasty options for a summer menu, including Lemon Chicken and Vegetable Kebabs. Nothing complicated here: just the favorite pairing of lemon and chicken. Put some corn on the grill as well and you've got your perfect summer dinner.

Experienced cooks may prefer a more adventuresome cookbook, but for those short on time or experience, this is a welcome addition to the collection for casual entertaining.

Fabulous Parties By Mark Held, Richard David and Peggy Dark Ryland Peters & Small / 2008 / $35

For cooks looking for a challenge, Mark Held, Richard David and Peggy Dark offer this collection of more than 150 recipes and scores of decorating ideas for elegant entertaining. There are menus for a California wine-tasting party, a chocolate and coffee party, a Moroccan-style party and a '50s retro party, to name but a few in this 192-page book.

Beautiful photographs - which may inspire or intimidate, depending on your point of view - illustrate each theme. Unfortunately, the print is awfully small. So you may need to put on your reading glasses while you're mixing up the passion-fruit vinaigrette or crafting your lotus crisps.


Chow Chow for Grilled Hot Dogs

Makes 1 quart

4 cups chopped green cabbage

1/2 sweet red bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed, cut into 1/2 -inch dice

2 Kirby cucumbers, scrubbed, seeded and cut into 1/2 -inch dice

1 large onion, chopped

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 cup distilled white vinegar

2/3 cup packed light-brown sugar

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1/2 teaspoon celery seed

1/2 teaspoon crushed hot red pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

Combine the cabbage, red bell pepper, cucumbers, onion and salt in a large colander, and place the colander in the sink. Put a plate to fit inside the colander on top of the vegetables and weigh down with a few large, heavy cans of food.

Let stand for 1 hour to drain off excess juices.

Bring the vinegar, brown sugar, mustard, celery seed, hot red pepper and turmeric to a boil in a large nonreactive saucepan over high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the vegetable mixture (do not rinse) and return to a boil.

Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, uncovered until the cabbage is crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.

Transfer the chowchow to a 1-quart canning jar or medium bowl and cool to room temperature.

Cover and refrigerate overnight. (The chowchow can be made up to 3 weeks ahead, covered, and refrigerated.) Remove from the refrigerator 1 hour before serving.

From "Summer Gatherings"

Per tablespoon: 12 calories, trace protein, 0 grams fat, 0 grams saturated fat, 3 grams carbohydrate, trace fiber, 0 milligrams cholesterol, 93 milligrams sodium


Find recipes for Lemon Chicken and Vegetable Kebabs, and Mixed Berry Slump at baltimoresun.com/taste

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