Jules Kendall shares the sweet and savory at her blog, Pancakes and French Fries. She almost never writes about food. Instead, she focuses on her improving her health, decluttering and simplifying her home, and life with two loud boys and one quiet husband. She is the creator of The William Morris Project, a weekly series that encourages people to have nothing in their home they do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.
The hottest months of the year are upon us, which means it's time for a refresher course in "not cooking." This skill comes in handy when it's too hot or you're too tired to cook. Luckily, this lazy cooking style is also perfect for entertaining because set up is easy, the results are beautiful, and cleanup takes far less than a traditionally-prepared meal.
Where to Eat?
Anywhere! Inside or outside, formally or casually---what's important is that it works for your family. I always include is some kind of dining linen. It protects the table from all the plates and platters and makes clean up easier. I use a long runner when we eat at the dining room table and spread everything out. When we eat at our beat-up, old coffee table, I toss a tablecloth on top and tuck the extra material underneath. When we're done, I gather up the linens and toss them in the laundry room.
Tip! Go for busier patterns like florals, stripes, and checks to hide stubborn stains. Avoid solid tablecloths in navy and red if you serve items with a lot of oil--grease stains are a nightmare. If you're a fan of white, check the material before you buy. Make sure it's not synthetic and can be bleached, especially if you're someone who likse to bleach whites. Just because the fabric is white doesn't mean it's bleach-friendly!
Photo: Jules Kendall
How to Eat?
On appetizer plates! I love them, but I don't have many. In fact, I only have 4, one for each member of my family. If we were to have company over for this type of meal, I would have no problem investing in a set or two. My favorites are the ones where each plate is slightly different. This is a fun meal, so the plates should be fun, too. This is your chance to go a little crazy!
As for serveware, here are a few indispensible items I recommend for a no-cook meal:
Buy the biggest tray you can find that isn't metal. Stick with ceramics, if possible. It's perfect for fruit, sandwiches, salads, and anything else you'll serve for a large crowd.
Buy at least one divided platter as they are perfect for holding nibbles.
Skip the single use items. Instead of an olive boat, buy a rectangle platter that comes with three bowls. You don't need to use all three bowls, at least not on the platter. Use the platter and one bowl for carrots and hummus (like I did the other night). Use the other bowls on the table to hold nuts and olives.
If space is at a premium, a tiered serving tray is nice to have--but only if you think you'll get plenty of use from it and you have the storage space.
Tip! Aside from the tiered serving tray (I don't own one because I don't have the storage space), I prefer flat platters, dishes, and trays with no or low lips. They are easy to stack and take up very little room in a cupboard when organized well.
Photo: Jules Kendall
What to Eat?
Whatever you want! I try to hit all of the important tastes and senses: sweet, sour, crunchy, creamy, rough, smooth, mild, and savory. It sounds like a lot, but some foods, such as pickles, will hit more than one. I toss in a vegetable or two. Sometimes, if it's not boiling outside, I'll include one hot appetizer from the frozen food section that I can pop in the oven. (For some people it's not dinner unless there's something warm to eat.)
There are two schools of thought on how complicated to make these meals and I'm in the "do less" camp. I buy my carrots prewashed, my cheese precut (except brie, that's gross), and my cookies premade. I make my own guacamole, but that's where I draw the line.