Recipes: 4 easy-to-prepare treats to serve at your next summer get-together (2024)

The late Erma Bombeck was a much-loved humorist who achieved popularity with her newspaper columns syndicated from 1965 to 1996. She published 15 books, most of which became bestsellers. Her final book entitled “If I Had My Life to Live Over Again,” written after her cancer diagnosis, revealed her regrets.

“I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded,” she wrote. It is the quote that sticks with me.

As the summer unfolds, I plan to ask friends to stop by for a glass of wine, some iced tea, or a co*cktail. No la-di-da dinner will be in the mix, only some simple nibbles. A bowl of nuts. Maybe some seasoned popcorn. Some cheese and crackers.

And something else. One or two easy-to-prepare things from my kitchen. And once everyone has a glass of choice, I’ll propose a toast to Erma.

Recipes: 4 easy-to-prepare treats to serve at your next summer get-together (1)

Onion Flatbread

This tasty flatbread goes together quickly, especially when using storebought fresh pizza dough. I buy pizza dough in 1-pound plastic bags at Trader Joe’s and find that they work best when used within one or two days of purchase.

Yield: 6 servings


Parchment paper

All-purpose flour

12 ounces pizza dough

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese, see cook’s notes

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

Coarse salt

Finely chopped Italian parsley

Cook’s notes: Sometimes I use a shredded cheese labeled “taco blend.” It’s shredded Jack cheese tossed with taco seasoning.


1. Adjust oven rack to middle position. Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Lightly dust parchment paper with flour. Press dough into an 8-by-12-inch rectangle. Transfer dough on parchment to a rimmed baking sheet. Rub dough with olive oil. Add cheese and top with onion slices.

2. Bake until browned and cooked through, 10 to 11 minutes. Top with a small amount of salt. And parsley.

Source: Adapted from Food Network Magazine

Recipes: 4 easy-to-prepare treats to serve at your next summer get-together (2)

Grilled Chocolate Sandwiches

Crusty, hot, and melty chocolate sandwiches make a decadent snack or dessert, but they can also be cut into daintier portions and nestled with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Yield: 2 sandwiches, each cut in half or thirds


Soft unsalted butter

4 slices sourdough French bread or firm white sandwich bread, see cook’s notes

About 2 ounces chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, or 1/3 cup chocolate chips, minis preferred

Coarse sea salt or Maldon flakey salt

Cook’s notes: I use La Brea Bakery’s Country White Sourdough bread, sliced thinly, or Trader Joe’s cracked wheat sourdough bread. Because these bakers’ versions are large I use two slices instead of four; I cut them in half and consider each half a slice of bread.


1. Butter one side of each slice of bread generously. In a skillet big enough to hold them, cook the slices butter side down over medium heat, just until pale gold on one side.

2. Cover two of the slices with chocolate. Flip a naked slice on top, butter side up. Cook, turning the sandwiches as necessary, until chocolate is softened and the sandwiches are browned on both sides. Serve immediately, sprinkled with a pinch of coarse sea salt.

Source: Adapted from “Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts” by Alice Medrich (Artisan, $25.95)

Recipes: 4 easy-to-prepare treats to serve at your next summer get-together (3)

Salmon Rillette

“Rillette” is a French term for a concoction with a spreadable yet chunky texture. Most often rillettes are made with pork or duck, but in this recipe salmon and smoked salmon are the headliners.

Yield: About 4 cups


3 cups water

1 pound skinless salmon fillet

1/2 pound smoked salmon, finely chopped

1/2 cup (1 stick) softened unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces

3/4 cup minced shallots

1/3 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons drained capers

2 teaspoons brandy or B&B liqueur

2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For serving: Toasted sliced baguette or crackers or cucumber slices

Garnish: Sprigs of Italian parsley


1. Bring 3 cups water to boil in deep, 12-inch skillet on high heat. Add fresh salmon; reduce heat and poach at bare simmer, turning once, until just cooked through, about 8 to 10 minutes. With slotted spatula, transfer salmon to bowl and cool.

2. Flake poached salmon with fork. Add smoked salmon, butter, shallots, parsley, lemon juice, mustard, capers, brandy, zest, salt and pepper. Stir until well-combined. Pack into 1-quart terrine or bowl. Refrigerate, covered, at least 4 hours. Serve with bread (toasted, or not), crackers and/or cucumber slices. Garnish with Italian parsley. Provide a small spreading knife.

Source: Adapted from “The Gourmet Cookbook” edited by Ruth Reichl (Houghton Mifflin, $40)

Recipes: 4 easy-to-prepare treats to serve at your next summer get-together (4)

Smashed Baby Dutch Yellow Potato Dippers

The crisp texture and sweet starchiness of smashed oven-roasted Baby Dutch Yellow Potatoes is irresistible. Here they are used as dippers for a simple mix of sour cream, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, and seasoned salt. Serve the potatoes hot but cool enough to easily pick up. If you prefer, you can provide a spoon for guests to use to scoop up sour cream mixture and place on their smashed potatoes.

Yield: 6 servings


1 pound Baby Dutch Yellow potatoes

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon seasoned salt, such as Spike

Kosher salt to taste

Sour Cream Dip

1 1/2 cups sour cream

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt, such as Lawry’s or Spike

1 teaspoon hot sauce, such as Frank’s RedHot

Garnish: snipped fresh chives


1. For potatoes: preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In a Dutch oven or pot, place potatoes with enough water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to boil on high heat; reduce heat and simmer until tender, about 10 to 12 minutes (to test piece with the tip of a pointed knife – it should go in easily, but potatoes shouldn’t be over-cooked). Drain in colander; shake colander to remove excess water.

2. Place potatoes in a large bowl. Drizzle with 3 tablespoons oil and seasoned salt; toss to coat potatoes. Spoon potatoes onto prepared baking sheet taking part of the oil along with them — place them in single layer, leaving a space between them. Smash the potatoes to flatten them (keep them mostly whole). I use the bottom of a measuring cup to press them down. Bake until crisp, about 25 minutes. Sprinkle with a little kosher salt.

3. In a small bowl, combine sour cream, Worcestershire sauce, seasoned salt and hot sauce. Stir until blended. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Top with snipped chives.

4. Serve potatoes to use as dippers alongside the bowl containing the sour cream mixture or provide a spoon for scooping sour cream mixture..

Award-winning food writer Cathy Thomas has written three cookbooks, including “50 Best Plants on the Planet.” Follow her at @CathyThomas

Recipes: 4 easy-to-prepare treats to serve at your next summer get-together (2024)
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