23 essential items to have on hand for an impromptu summer gathering

via Tumblr

It's summertime... the days are longer and the livin' is easy. The longer days and warm weather put us in the mood for entertaining. Some parties are planned, but I find that over the summer last minute, impromptu parties are commonplace and can be great fun!

To prevent hectic last minute runs to the grocery store, bakery, and cheese shop there are simple basics that you may want to keep on hand. If you decided right now - this very moment - that you wanted to have a few people over later this evening, do you have enough items lying around in your pantry, fridge or freezer to eliminate hours of last minute shopping?

Following are some items you may want to keep on hand this summer

via the Olive Board

From your fridge:

1. Marinated and spiced olives, assorted
2. A selection of hard and semi- hard cheeses (Soft cheeses don't keep as long)
3. Cured meats like salami and prosciutto
4. Cornichons, those tiny and sour little French pickles
5. Assorted berries and cherries (We feast on these regularly so we're always running out to replace them!
6. Butter
7. Greek yogurt or sour cream (Great for making dips, sauces and spreads)

via This Week for Dinner

From your freezer:

8. Ice for keeping beverages like wine and champagne cool and for use in your drinks.
9. Assorted breads. Yes, bread is freezable! I often buy a couple of good baguettes and toss them in the freezer. Take them out an hour or two before-hand to thaw. If you wish, toss the thawed baguettes into a warm oven for a few minutes to warm and crisp.
10. Assorted frozen appetizers, if you wish
11. Phyllo dough - Pepperidge Farm's is fantastic. These pre-made flaky sheets can become and appetizer or dessert filled with the best seasonal bounty.

via Pop Sugar

In your pantry:

12. Nuts
13. Assorted crackers
14. Olive oil
15. Spices + seasonings

On your counter:

16. Tomatoes
17. Peaches, plums

via The Daily Telegraph UK

From your garden:

18. Fresh herbs
19. Fresh veggies (provided you have a green thumb and they're ripe!)

via Flickr

From your bar:

20. Wine, white and rose
21. Champagne/Prosecco/Gavi
22. Beer
23. Liquor, if desired.

It wouldn't hurt to have a few pre-planned menus on hand as well. This way when you're running out for those few last minute items you won't have to worry about coming up with a menu as well. If you grow your own vegetables or have access to a local farm or farmer's market, you'll be able to pick up all your veggies there. Consider tossing a few on the grill or making a very simple summer salad. From there, you'll simply need to decide whether to serve, meat, fish or chicken.

With any or all of these items on hand you can whip up a lovely appetizer platter in no time. Offer up fresh berries and cherries in a pretty bowl, select cured meats and cheeses with olives, cornichons, crackers and bread on a pretty platter or cutting board along with some nuts, wine, Champagne and or beer and you're set to go without leaving the house.

Arrange whatever fresh vegetables you have on another platter or pretty plate. Cut into manageable strips. (I tend to steer away from traditional crudites which I find rather boring. Instead opt for home or locally-grown tomato slices. If you have heirloom tomatoes use them for their wonderful taste and color, slice up fresh zucchini, cucumbers and peppers.

Pesto-infused olive oil via The Entertaining House

Create a lovely Herbed Dipping Sauce by infusing some of your favorite herbs and garlic, add a touch of salt and pepper and this newly flavored oil is wonderful on everything. It is best to let the flavors blend and this oil gets better day after day.

If you have a little bit of pesto lying around, take a tablespoon or two and add it to a half a cup of olive oil, salt and pepper, crushed red pepper flakes and a little bit of crushed garlic. This Pesto-Olive Oil Dip is a favorite at The Entertaining House - we love it over veggies, fish and of course with our favorite crusty baguette or ciabatta!

You can create an Herbed Butter spread for your guests that will leave them begging you for the recipe!
Combine 1/2 stick of room temperature butter and 1/2 cup of olive oil, 2 cloves of crushed garlic, 1 or 2 good shakes of crushed red pepper, 1 tsp dried oregano, 1 tsp dried basil - or substitute 2 tsp herbes de Provence or Italian seasonings. In a small food processor like the Cuisinart Mini Chop, blend all ingredients until smooth. Scrape out with a rubber spatula and place into ceramic ramekins. Place immediately in fridge. (My friend Amy and I created this recipe about 20 years ago when we worked at Williams-Sonoma together. We served it with the warm bread that came right out of the bread machines. This was a great way to sell our bread machines, assorted olive oils and herbs!)

All these dipping oils and spreads can and should be made and stored in the fridge ahead of time.
Make sure that all beverages have time to chill before serving.

With having these all on hand you'll have less to worry about last minute!