If ever there was a summer to embrace backyard cookouts and low-key evenings with family, it’s summer 2020. Many of us are opting to stay home way more than go out these days, and although this summer has had its fair share of tough moments, our family of four has also enjoyed some of the sweetest days together.
I have been missing the food at some of my favorite Austin restaurants, and it’s encouraged me to get outside my comfort zone and make some dishes that I wouldn’t normally try at home. Last weekend, we bought sushi grade fish and made crudo (my sushi cravings are out of control right now), and we’ve got plans to attempt grilled octopus next.
One restaurant-inspired dish that’s become part of our regular rotation this summer was inspired by one of my favorite Mediterranean spots in Austin. Their colorful, healthy dishes nod to North Africa, Greece, Israel & Lebanon – and are all meant for sharing. This is truly my favorite type of warm weather menu, and it’s been so fun to recreate this Mediterranean vibe for dinners at home. For this one, we scooped up all the colorful produce, delicious meats, dips and condiments from Good and Gather at Target, and had same day delivery with Shipt to make life easy. And speaking of easy: for the menu, I skewered everything I could and tossed it on the grill for an updated take on the classic kebab cookout. Scroll on to get the recipes and find out exactly how this special dinner came together in under an hour.
One of my favorite things about Mediterranean cuisine is the bold, bright flavors that work so well for summer menus: think zesty citrus, aromatic herbs, exotic spices, and tons of garlic!
For this meal, here’s what was on the menu:
Make the Main, Outsource the Rest
My secret to no-stress meal prep is to choose one or two items (max) to make from scratch, then fill in the menu with other high-quality store-bought ingredients. The end result is an abundant meal with loads of interesting colors and flavors, but since I’ve lightened the prep for myself, I can actually kick back and enjoy the spread right along with my family. In this menu, I’m focusing my attention on grilling the kebabs, and the rest of the meal practically makes itself.
Now let’s talk about those store-bought ingredients. Whether I’m doing dinner at home or hosting a party, I leverage these yummy prepared items like Good & Gather’s dips, olives, nuts, and pita chips — but I have a couple hacks that make them feel a little elevated. First, I usually transfer them out of their plastic containers into pretty wood or ceramic dip bowls like these.
Next, I think about a simple garnish that will make them feel a little more homemade. For this menu, I sprinkled fresh parsley and mint from my garden over the top of the Mediterranean Orzo Salad to add some fresh leafy greens to the top. I also added some drained chickpeas from a can to the top of the Pine Nut Hummus and drizzled with olive oil and sea salt. Think about the flavors that are in the dishes, and see if you can use that as a jumping off point for a natural garnish that’ll add visual interest and fresh flavor.
How to Make This Mediterranean Grazing Board
The key to arranging a perfect grazing board is selecting snacks and dips that go together, no matter how they’re combined. One delicious bite after another, the possibilities are endless. Instead of heavy cheeses or the strong flavor of charcuterie, a Mediterranean board is all about light, crisp flavors, perfect for weathering summer heat. Here I paired refreshing cucumber, crunchy pita chips, salty feta cheese, and a few different hummus options to create a spread that’s totally irresistible, but that also won’t spoil appetites before dinner.
Secrets to a Simple Israeli-Inspired Salad
I know, it’s so tempting to add all the fresh produce and herbs in the world to your salad. More is more, right? Well if you’ve ever had a true Israeli salad, you know that its beauty is in its simplicity. The ingredients list is straightforward: diced tomato, diced cucumber, and diced onion, tossed with parsley, a squeeze of lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper. That’s all, folks! The perfect refreshing side salad for all your off-the-grill dinners this summer.
Skewers for the Win
There’s something about skewers that scream summertime barbecue, and they’re also great for serving a crowd. All the components can be chopped into bite-sized chunks, skewered, and refrigerated far in advance – and then they’re ready to go on the grill when it’s time to cook. The skewers also come in very handy for making sure nothing falls through the grates.
I marinated my Good & Gather All Natural Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast in a simple lemon and herb marinade for a few hours, then skewered bite-sized pieces alternating with red onion for color and flavor. For the veggies, instead of alternating each type of veggie on each kebab, I decided to go monochromatic and skewer all my tomatoes together, all the bell peppers together and so on. Not only does this create a visually stunning presentation when the finished kebabs are spread out on a platter together; it also serves the functional purpose of being able to pull each veggie off the grill when its done cooking. Since tomatoes cook way faster than, say, eggplant, it’s really helpful to ensure that each vegetable is cooked to its optimal time.
Scroll to the bottom of this post for the printable recipe card for these kebabs.
A Menu That Can Hang
One lesson I learned from my early career in catering is that when it comes to outdoor entertaining, food temperature is a key part of the planning process. Especially here in Texas, a dish that needs to stay really cold won’t make it long in the sweltering heat of the summer. By the same token, to serve hot foods when they’re really hot, you need to have your timing planned to the minute so that food is served right when everyone’s ready to eat.
Since I try to avoid a rushed vibe when I’m making a meal for my family or friends, I opt for menu items that are a little more forgiving when it comes to food temps. Did you know that a lot of dishes are delicious at room temperature? Grilled meats, grain salads, chopped raw veggies, and dips are all great options for food that doesn’t need to be kept super hot or cold. Summertime meals should be easygoing, and this strategy eliminates the rushing around at the last minute to get everything on the table at once.
Easy Breezy Grocery Shopping
Now more than ever, my grocery shopping experience needs to be seamless – and quick! I love that Target’s drive-up pickup service makes it easy to grab what I need without having to go in-store. When I’m really in a pinch, I go for Target delivery with Shipt. It’s so easy to open up the app, hit the “buy again” button to add my regular items to my cart, then search Target’s inventory for what’s for dinner tonight.
I’m a major proponent of the Mediterranean diet as my guide when it comes to eating food that makes me feel good – and that satisfies my taste buds! This means plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, with moderate amounts of chicken, beans, fish, and dairy. Thanks to Good & Gather’s beautifully-stocked fresh produce aisle and delicious poultry offerings, this menu is brimming with colorful Mediterranean-inspired flavor and freshness. And so convenient that I can get literally everything I need for this meal while I’m picking up all my other Target go-to’s.
Raise a Glass
We poured these Lime Sparkling Waters which are a festive option for everyone in the family – we’re also big fans of the Tropical Cherry (like I actually have to hide it from my kids so it doesn’t all “disappear” right when I come home from grocery shopping.) and Adam and I also enjoyed a glass of crisp white wine with our meal to really bring home those Mediterranean vibes. I’ve been getting a lot of questions from y’all lately on my favorite affordable summer wines, so here are some I’ve been loving lately:
Sauvignon Blanc: Gérard Bertrand Côte des Roses Sauvignon Blanc White Wine ($17.99)
Pinot Grigio: J Pinot Gris ($12.99)
Rosé: Gerard Bertrand Gris Blanc Rose Wine ($14.99)
Sparkling: Mionetto Brut Rosé Prosecco ($12.99)