Long days with short to-do lists, that’s the way early summer weekends should be. This time of year, my husband and I enjoy inviting nearby friends and family over to enjoy good times, good conversation and, of course, good food! When our kids were younger, the adults would sit around on the patio and watch the commotion of backyard games, swapping stories about potty training and preschool admissions – now these toddlers have turned into teens and many will soon be heading away to college! This reminds me that the one constant thing in life is change and I should relish and take full advantage of each moment as it is gifted to me.
Despite the inevitability of change, the one thing that has always remained the same is my philosophy towards outdoor entertaining – keep it easy! It can’t get much simpler than firing up the grill to make dinner and my favorite grilling recipes are those that combine the season’s freshest ingredients with simple herbs and spices. No cloyingly rich sauces, no greasy gunk, no crust nor breading; just delicious, straightforward and seriously healthy food. Most people equate grilling with throwing a hunk of meat on the grates. While I do love my lean proteins, I also enjoy grilling all sorts of vegetables – zucchini, onions, artichokes and even Romaine lettuce! One dish you absolutely have to try for easy outdoor entertaining is my recipe for Tuscan Grilled Eggplant with Tomatoes and Feta – it’s an uncomplicated and outrageously delicious way to prepare this strange-looking and often intimidating big purple vegetable.
Slicing eggplant into lengthwise planks gives the vegetable the substantial presence of a steak, making this recipe a satisfying main meal option for any vegetarian – I also like to serve this version of eggplant as a stunning side dish with lean proteins such as grilled fish or chicken. Even though the actual grilling process is a breeze, a little bit of time does need to be spent prepping the eggplant. Following the salting, soaking and patting dry process described in the recipe directions will help ensure you don’t end up with soggy or bitter eggplant. You can skip this step if in a rush, but the taste and texture of the eggplant is much better if you see it through. Guests are sure to be prolific in their praise of your gourmet grilling skills when you serve this elegant yet easy recipe – it can be our little secret that the only other ingredients besides eggplant and tomatoes are Tuscan Herb with Lemon dressing, Feta Cheese Crumbles and Instantly Fresh Herbs from Litehouse Food.
So, enough about the eggplant; outdoor entertaining is also about the ambiance. When the sun starts to sink, light candles for a beautiful effect – if you look closely you may just recognize these glass lanterns to be repurposed salad dressing jars! Just rinse out your empty jars of any type and fill the bottoms with sand or small pebbles before adding candles. If you like, loop wire around each rim and fashion into a handle for easy toting to the table. Enjoy!