(Family Features) Warmer weather is often welcome for a variety of reasons, but there’s something nearly irresistible about enjoying a meal outdoors. Whether you plan to gather on the patio or pack a picnic for the park, dining al fresco is an easy way to turn a meal into a full-fledged event.
Begin your meal with chicken sandwiches crafted on the grill and a seasonal pasta salad on the side then finish it with a glass of white wine and a dessert made for al fresco entertaining – cheesecake topped with fresh berries and mint.
For more al fresco recipes and entertaining tips, visit Culinary.net.
Serve a Sensational Side
This pretty side dish is made for sharing. Made with fiber-rich, whole-wheat pasta, colorful plum tomatoes and balanced out by the crisp, bright flavors of balsamic vinegar and fresh basil, this pasta salad is perfect for outdoor events and gatherings. Find more good-for-you recipes at AICR.org.
Pasta Salad with Tomatoes
Reprinted with permission from the American Institute for Cancer Research
- 8 ounces whole-wheat small pasta (fusilli or farfalle), cooked according to directions
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil, divided
- 1 teaspoon turbinado sugar (optional)
- salt, to taste
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 4 cloves garlic, minced and divided
- 1 medium green bell pepper, finely chopped
- 4 plum or Roma tomatoes, coarsely chopped
- 1 slice whole-wheat or multigrain bread
- In bowl, cover and chill pasta.
- In large mixing bowl, combine vinegar, 2 tablespoons basil, sugar, salt, pepper, red pepper, 2 tablespoons oil and half of minced garlic. Whisk to combine well. Add pasta, bell pepper and tomatoes, and toss gently until well coated.
- In food processor or blender, pulse bread to produce coarse crumbs. In medium skillet, heat remaining oil over medium-high heat. Stir in breadcrumbs and garlic. Saute 1 1/2-2 minutes until browned and crisp. Remove from heat and let cool.
- Top pasta with garlic crumbs and remaining basil.
Pair Like a Pro
When it comes to pairing wine with food, even experts agree that desserts can pose a challenge. A wide variety of flavor combinations can make it hard to find the perfect selection to serve with your sweet treat. While there’s no exact science to wine pairing, these simple tips can help you make your selection.
A good rule: the lighter the dessert, the lighter the wine. Avoid heavy reds for a sweeter dessert and instead pair with a crisp white like Chardonnay, such as Joseph Carr from Sonoma, California.
Citrusy Lemon Meringue Pie
Lemon flavors can sometimes be polarizing, but complementing this dessert with an equally citrusy wine can work wonders. Try pairing with a food-friendly pinot grigio or a sauvignon blanc.
Rich Chocolate Cake
Red wine with chocolate seems like a no-brainer, but not all red wines are created equal. For a richer delicacy like this devil’s food cake, try something like Villa Pozzi Nero D’avola, a more fruit-forward, easy-drinking red varietal.
For more tips and wine selections, visit winefix.com.
New York-Style Honey Cheesecake
Recipe courtesy of the National Honey Board
- 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
- 1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
- 4 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese
- 3/4 cup honey
- 1/4 cup flour
- 5 eggs
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest, grated
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- fresh berries, for garnish
- fresh mint, for garnish
- To make crust: In small bowl, stir together graham cracker crumbs and butter until well blended. Press mixture evenly onto bottom and sides of greased 9-inch springform pan; set aside.
- Heat oven to 350° F.
- To make filling: In electric mixer bowl, combine cream cheese, honey and flour. Beat until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Beat in cream, lemon zest and vanilla.
- Pour cream cheese mixture over crust; bake 15 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 200 F and bake 1 hour and 30 minutes longer, or until center no longer looks wet or shiny.
- With oven off and door ajar, let cheesecake cool 1 hour in oven. Remove cheesecake to rack to cool completely.
- Cover and refrigerate cheesecake at least 4 hours before serving. Garnish with fruit and fresh mint. Pair with chardonnay like Joseph Carr.
Go for Grilled Chicken
Few things go better with warm weather than firing up the grill and enjoying a meal in the fresh air. These chicken sandwiches, which are topped with Brie, pesto, fresh tomato and arugula on sourdough bread and toasted on the grill, are just the excuse you need to get outside and enjoy the weather with family and friends. Find more patio-perfect recipes at chickenroost.com.
Grilled Chicken Sandwiches with Pesto, Brie and Arugula
Recipe courtesy of the National Chicken Council
- 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 pound thin-cut chicken cutlets
- 1/4 cup basil pesto, divided
- 1 large tomato
- 8 slices crusty sourdough bread
- 4 ounces Brie, thinly sliced
- 1 cup packed baby arugula
- Heat grill to high.
- Combine 1/4 cup olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper; pour into plastic zipper bag. Add chicken, seal and marinate at least 30 minutes.
- Grill chicken 2-3 minutes, turn and grill another 2-3 minutes, or until chicken registers internal temperature of 160 F. Remove and reserve.
- Spread each piece of bread with 1/2 tablespoon pesto. Slice tomato into eight slices.
- Place chicken on four bread slices. Top with Brie slices, arugula and two tomato slices. Top with remaining bread slices, pesto side toward tomato.
- Brush outside of each sandwich with about 1/2 tablespoon of remaining olive oil. Place on grill, reduce heat to medium and grill 2-3 minutes per side, or until bread is nicely toasted and cheese is melted.
- Remove from heat, cut each sandwich in half and serve.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images (pasta salad)
Photo courtesy of 275847/Shutterstock.com (cheesecake)
Photo courtesy of Getty Images (grilled chicken sandwich)