Last week, I invited a few friends over for dinner in the backyard — on a Tuesday. All of our weekends have been busy lately with travel or family commitments, so we thought, why not grab a free midweek evening? (What happened to the long lazy days of summer, btw?!)
It reminds me why I enjoy an evening together. There’s no pressure to pull out all stops, and people tend to call it early night. But because there’s a bit of a surprise, there’s a “go ahead, treat yourself” vibe that puts everyone in a good mood. The only challenge? I had a workday full of meetings and picking up the kids just 2 hours before my guests arrived, so I knew it wouldn’t be a night to prepare a full dinner menu from scratch.
Enter: Snacks for Dinner. Also known as dinner solution easy to put together in a short time and that no one ever sad about. I pull this out of my back pocket all summer, whether it’s for an impromptu pool party or a Friday night with a celebrity when I don’t feel like cooking. It’s carnival, it’s summer, it’s a near-zero effort party. The idea of the Dinner Snack is that it’s made with delicious, store-bought ingredients that can be assembled quickly — and friends or family can join in and help you throw together. Think of it as a group activity that might require a bit of chopping or pre-mixing, but very little actual cooking.
Here’s my recipe for the perfect “Dinner Snack”: toast + tips + salad + snacks + sweets.
Homely! It’s infinitely customizable, so choose one from each of the sections below, place it family-style in the center of your table, and enjoy a snack.
Dinner Snacks Item #1: A toast
Avocado toast with kale and crunchy veggies
This pretty toast is bursting with flavor, fresh herbs, and crunchy veggies. Make kale pesto in advance, then lay out all the toppings and invite friends to make their own.
Carrots and Toast Hummus
This recipe proves once again that the simplest things taste best — and it’s a great way to add something unexpected to your snack menu. Use really good sourdough as your base, and bake it on the grill or stove for extra flavor. Use your absolute favorite garlicky hummus (bonus points if you use homemade!)
Tuna and avocado toast
Tuna and avocado toast is one of my favorite summer treats. Inspired by the niçoise salad, it consists of crispy bread with kale, mashed avocado, crispy sliced cucumbers, fragrant and fatty grilled tomatoes, pieces of oiled tuna, and loads of fresh basil. Mouth is watering.
Dinner Snacks Item #2: In another country
Figs and Burrata
The 4 ingredients (fig, burrata, pesto and mint) make a perfect combo, you’ll want to make this combo all summer long. You can make this as a salad, or spread the ingredients on a large wooden cutting board and let everyone scoop each piece, cheese plate style.
Crudité with the Blue Goddess Costume
This Green Goddess Dressing is the perfect accompaniment to fresh spring veggies – and it’s a great appetizer to welcome the outdoor dinner season. Not to mention, sauces are dipping sauces or salad dressings that you’ll want to have in the fridge at all times for an impromptu snack for dinner.
Malibu Farm Rainbow Chopped Salad (table version)
Okay, this is technically a salad recipe, but my favorite way for a simple summer get-together is to chop all your ingredients and spread them out on a long wooden board to blanket. drop, just like chef Helene Henderson did at the outdoor dinner she hosted.
Dinner Snacks Item #3: A salad
Simple citrus salad
Juicy citrus, salty Marcona almonds, onions and fresh herbs, this citrus salad is refreshing, simple, and could be the new star on your summer table. Plus, I have a theory that every fruit tastes better when drizzled with EVOO and sprinkled with fine salt.
White beans and lettuce Raddichio
The combination of bittersweet, creamy white beans, and savory parm is addictive. Make this for an Italian-inspired aperitif gathering, just like Olivia Muniak did.
Farro Salad with tomatoes and vegetables
At a magic hour gathering she recently hosted at her home in Santa Barbara, Jessie De Lowe served this salad as the centerpiece of a meal meant to be shared. “I make sure to always include some toasted nuts for a crunch and some fruit for sweetness,” she says. Lately, I’ve been obsessed with Charlie Bird’s Farro Salad and kept repeating it.”
Dinner Snacks Item #4: Some of the children’s items can be purchased from the store
Take this as an opportunity to “add” your dinner snacks with some no-cooking dishes. Olives, nuts, a block of parmesan, some grilled meat or pickled veggies from the Whole Foods salad bar are all fair game. Place them in small bowls and group them together on a cutting board for an easy and classy presentation.
My favorites are the cerignola olives or the castckerrano olives—both of these fleshy, dark green olives that brought me to the Italian riviera. Don’t forget a small bowl to remove pits.
I always keep a jar of toasted nuts in the freezer. For parties, almonds are my favorite, but pistachios, walnuts, or cashews work just as well. If they’re unsalted, be sure to add a little bit of floating salt before serving as a snack.
Especially since my menu is more plant-based, setting up a serving table with a few store-bought charcuterie options is a great way to add some dishes without spending a lot. effort. My choices are thinly sliced prosciutto and sliced Italian sausage.
Dinner Snacks Item 5: Something sweet (and very cold)
Mango Lassi Popsicles
It’s refreshing, everyone’s favorite summer fruit. If you can find them, the juicy and ripe Alphonso mangoes will be the best fit here. Otherwise, any mango you can buy at the store will work. You can absolutely use frozen mangoes, just defrost and drain off the liquid for this particular recipe.
Do not bake cardamom lemon
Although I self-identify as a lover of delicious cakes and cookies, there’s something inherently magical about desserts that don’t require baking time. When simple ingredients are mixed together and turned into something completely different, the effect is nothing short of magical. No wonder these bars are one of our most popular recipes in 2022.
The fact that this raspberry tiramisu can be made up to a day in advance and simply hung in the fridge, ready to go, makes it almost perfect for any summer party you have on the books. The raspberries are used in two ways: fresh berries between layers, plus raspberry liqueur in the soaking liquid. I love the bold fruity quality it adds, especially paired with the chocolate, cream, and espresso flavors.