Summer Dinner Parties

by Amy Ridings

“It’s summertime and the living is easy…”.  This lyric from Sam Cooke’s song Summertime best describes the attitude of summer.   As the summer sun beams down, it’s that time of year to enjoy time with our friends and family.  A great way to spend time with one another is at dinner parties, as they can range from relaxed and informal to theme dinners. The possibilities are endless! Garden Winds has a few suggestions for those that like to spend their time outdoors, under their gazebo.

The most common dinner party is the laid back, backyard barbeque.  This is great for a Sunday afternoon to relax before the upcoming workweek.  To make the outdoors the place to be, add decorations to the deck, gazebo, or pergola.  There are a variety of lights and decorations made especially for the outdoors that can be purchased which will not only look good, but make the party last into the night.  In addition, if your barbeque is going to be during the hotter parts of the day, why not consider a barzebo, which will help keep the one grilling a little cooler and keep everyone else cool as well by serving refreshing beverages.   Besides a backyard barbeque, your summer dinner party can have a theme, like country night, royalty, or kid’s night.  For instance, use mason jars for a country theme, and with a royalty theme, you can use damask baskets to decorate the table or place parting favors in the baskets.  There can also be party themes tailored to a girls’ night in.

No matter which theme you decide for your summer party. Here are a few recipes that will be sure to delight and please:

Garlic and Herb Crusted Leg of Lamb


  • 1/4 cup(s) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 2 head(s) garlic, cloves separated but not peeled
  • 3 clove(s) garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon(s) minced rosemary
  • 3 sprig(s) rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon(s) minced thyme
  • 1  (6-pound) bone-in leg of lamb, aitch bone removed
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 large sweet onion, cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges
  • 2 large carrots, cut on the diagonal 1/2-inch thick
  • 2 large rib(s) celery, cut on the diagonal 1/2-inch thick


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a small bowl, combine the 1/4 cup of olive oil with the minced garlic, rosemary, and thyme.
  2. Score the fatty top side of the lamb about 1/4 inch deep. Season the lamb all over with salt and pepper. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the whole garlic cloves, onion, carrots, and celery with a generous drizzle of olive oil. Arrange the vegetables in an even layer and season with salt and pepper. Scatter the rosemary sprigs over the vegetables and set the leg of lamb on top, fatty side up. Spread half of the garlic-and-herb rub all over the lamb, making sure to rub it into the score marks. Roast the leg of lamb for 20 minutes.
  3. Spread the remaining rub over the lamb and add 1/4 cup of water to the baking sheet. Roast the lamb for about 1 hour and 20 minutes longer, rotating the baking sheet a few times, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the meat registers 145 degrees F for medium. Add a few more tablespoons of water to the baking sheet at any point if the vegetables start to get quite dark.
  4. Transfer the lamb to a carving board and let it rest for 20 minutes. Discard the rosemary sprigs. Carve the leg of lamb into 1/2-inch-thick slices and serve with the roasted vegetables.

Penne with Asparagus, Peas, Mushrooms, and Cream


  • 1 pound(s) thin asparagus
  • 3 tablespoon(s) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for grilling
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 3 medium shallots, minced
  • 3/4 pound(s) shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded and caps thinly sliced
  • 2 1/4 cup(s) heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 pound(s) penne rigate
  • 1 1/2 cup(s) frozen baby peas, thawed
  • 3/4 cup(s) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 3 tablespoon(s) finely chopped flat-leaf parsley


  1. Preheat a cast-iron grill pan. Brush the asparagus with olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Grill the asparagus over high heat, turning, until it is lightly charred and very tender, about 6 minutes. Cut the asparagus into 1-inch lengths.
  2. In a very large, deep skillet, heat the 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the shallots and cook over moderate heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the shiitake, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring once or twice, until the mushrooms are golden and tender, about 8 minutes. Add the cream and bring to a boil. Simmer until slightly reduced, about 4 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 3/4 cup of the cooking water.
  4. Add the pasta to the skillet along with the asparagus, peas, and grated cheese and toss well. Add the reserved pasta water and simmer, tossing, until the pasta is nicely coated. Season the pasta with salt and pepper and stir in the parsley. Serve right away.

Strawberry Angel Food Dessert


  • 1 (10 inch) angel food cake
  • 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 (8 ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed
  • 1 quart fresh strawberries, sliced
  • 1 (18 ounce) jar strawberry glaze


  1. Crumble the cake into a 9x13 inch dish.
  2. Beat the cream cheese and sugar in a medium bowl until light and fluffy. Fold in whipped topping. Mash the cake down with your hands and spread the cream cheese mixture over the cake.
  3. In a bowl, combine strawberries and glaze until strawberries are evenly coated. Spread over cream cheese layer. Chill until serving.

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