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A Memorable Spread to Kick Off Summer

Even though the official start of summer isn’t for another month, to me Memorial Day means the start of summer, getting together with friends and enjoying the season’s bounty. Here are a few of my favorite tips, ideas and recipes for your Memorial Day gathering.

Summer Salads

I grew up in the Midwest where by late May, warm weather had finally arrived. No matter what the calendar said, Memorial Day kicked off the start of summer and grilling season. My neighborhood had a big gathering, which meant some serious cooking with the season’s bounty. There were long tables of salads (leafy green, potato, fruit and bean, oh my!), platters of grilled meats and veggies, desserts and cold beverages.Even though I now live in Texas where plentiful sunshine keeps us dining outdoors nearly year round, I still associate Memorial Day with summer’s first big outdoor gathering with friends.

Hosting a get-together? Just gather friends and the best, freshest ingredients. Voilà! You’re nearly there. Here’s some inspiration to get you started.

Get Grilling with Stone Fruit

Stone fruit is a term for fruit with flesh enclosing a stone, or pit. Think apricots, peaches, nectarines, plums and all their hybrids too. See what’s in season in your neck of the woods and grill it! It’s as easy as 1-2-3:

  1. Cut in half and remove pit

  2. Grill on medium heat cut-side down, flip once

  3. Remove from grill after 5 minutes, or when fruit is softened and just charred

Then you can:
Finish with sweet glazes or simple syrups made with rum and butter, mint and ginger or honey and orange juice

  • Arrange cooled halves on top of a chilled custard tart or cheesecake

  • Add to green or grain salads, top with toasted nuts

  • Purée or dice and add to salsas and barbecue sauces to serve with grilled foods

Hip Dips for Grilled Foods

Looking for dips that go the distance? These versatile combos will pair with sides or mains on your table.

  • Kabobs = Peanut sauce + lime + cilantro + tamarind

  • Vegetables = Greek yogurt + harissa (a North African hot chile blend) + lemon juice

  • Steak = Fish sauce + honey + gochujang (a Korean hot chile paste)

  • Fish or Chicken = Sour cream + fresh oregano + anchovy paste + chopped olives + lemon zest

  • Bread or Flatbread = Extra-virgin olive oil + minced garlic + toasted sesame seeds + chopped fresh parsley

Far-Out Hot Dog Toppings

Hog dogs don’t have to be the boring option. Offer these toppings and earn applause:

  • Pesto with onions, pickled green beans or okra

  • Wasabi mayonnaise, green onions and a sprinkle of roasted seaweed snacks

  • Crushed corn chips, cotija or grated parmesan cheese, sour cream and cayenne pepper

  • Chopped kimchi and shredded mozzarella cheese

Summer Time-Savers

No one expects the host to do everything. It is a holiday, after all. Here are a few of my favorite Whole Foods Market shortcuts from around the store that won’t have you cutting corners:

  • Meat department: Premade kabobs and burgers made in-house, which are the perfect size for grilling

  • Prepared foods department: A wide selection of sides including potato salad, kale salad and coleslaw

  • The salad bar: Shop it for precut veggies and small amounts of ingredients

Get Cooking!

Grilled Vegetable Panzanella
Chicken Orzo Salad
Grilled Shrimp with Mustard Seed Sauce
Grilled Smoked Tea Rib Eye Steaks
Stone Fruit and Tomato Salad
Stawberry Lemon Soda

Stawberry Lemon Soda

Check out our seasonal recipe collections for more inspiration.

What’s on your menu for Memorial Day? I’d love to know.

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