We know it's all too easy to rely on old standards for the appetizers, sides and desserts in your summer plans.
Why risk a flop when you're feeding a crowd?
So we're officially vouching for these recipes, culled from new spring and summer cookbooks.
They're a little different and thoroughly delicious.
DILLED POTATO SALAD WITH SMOKED TROUT
Smoked fish and dill are fine complements for tender fingerling potatoes dressed with a garlicky sour-cream-and-vinegar mixture. Look for skin-on trout; you'll use the skin to help flavor the potatoes as they cook.
MAKE AHEAD: The potato salad can be refrigerated a day in advance; bring it to a cool room temperature before serving.
Adapted from "Two If by Sea: Delicious Sustainable Seafood," by Barton Seaver (Sterling Epicure, 2016).
• One 6-ounce piece skin-on smoked trout
• 1 pound fingerling potatoes
• 2 cloves garlic
• Kosher salt
• 1/2 cup regular or low-fat sour cream
• 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
• 3/4 ounces fresh dill, chopped (1/3 cup), plus a few fronds for garnish
• 1 head radicchio or endive, leaves separated
Carefully remove the trout skin; place it in a medium pot along with the potatoes, garlic and a generous amount of salt. Cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; cook until the potatoes are tender but not falling apart, 10 to 13 minutes (depending on the size of the potatoes). Drain, reserving the garlic. Discard the trout skin.
Whisk together the sour cream, vinegar, chopped dill and boiled garlic in a large bowl, mashing the garlic to incorporate it into the dressing.
While the potatoes are still warm, cut any thick ones in half lengthwise as needed. Add all the potatoes to the dressing and gently toss until well coated. To serve, arrange the radicchio or endive leaves on a platter and spoon the potato salad over the top. Use your hands to break the trout fillet into small flakes, letting them fall into the salad.
Garnish with the dill fronds.
Nutrition | Per serving (based on 6, using low-fat sour cream): 130 calories, 9 g protein, 16 g carbohydrates, 3 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 20 mg cholesterol, 310 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber, 2 g sugar
FRESH FRUIT WITH CELERY SEED DRESSING
Julia Reed says she copied this recipe - a mainstay at gatherings when she was growing up in Mississippi - from her mother's handwritten files and has made it since she was in college. Feel free to change the combination of fruits to suit your liking.
MAKE AHEAD: The dressing and prepped fruit can be refrigerated, separately, a day in advance.
Adapted from "Julia Reed's South: Spirited Entertaining and High-Style Fun All Year Long," by Julia Reed (Rizzoli, 2016).
Ingredients For the dressing
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 1 teaspoon celery seed
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon powdered mustard
• 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
• 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
• 1 cup vegetable oil or other neutral-flavored oil, such as canola
For the fruit
• 1 ripe cantaloupe, peeled, seeded and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
• 1 pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
• 1 bunch green seedless grapes (1 pound)
• 1 bunch red seedless grapes (11 ounces)
• Scant 1 pound strawberries, hulled and cut into halves or quarters, as needed (2 generous cups)
For the dressing: Combine the sugar, celery seed, salt, powdered mustard and paprika in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the balloon-whisk attachment or a handheld electric mixer. Beat on medium-high speed for a minute or two, then pour in the vinegar. On medium-high speed, gradually drizzle in the oil, beating until thick and emulsified, to form a shiny dressing. The yield is a scant 1 2/3 cups.
For the fruit: Combine the cantaloupe, pineapple, green and red grapes and strawberries in a large serving bowl. Toss the fruit with the dressing, or serve it on the side.
Nutrition | Per serving: 350 calories, 2 g protein, 40 g carbohydrates, 23 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 250 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber, 34 g sugar
WARM PARMESAN POUND CAKE WITH WHIPPED MASCARPONE, RASPBERRIES AND BASIL SUGAR
SERVINGS:12 to 15
Cheese does wonderful things to the flavor and texture of this buttery, not-too-sweet cake; be sure to serve it warm, with the toppings put on at the last minute.
The original recipe called for saba, a wonderfully acidic syrup made from grape must; a good aged balsamic vinegar works just as well here.
MAKE AHEAD: The basil sugar can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days. The whipped mascarpone can be assembled, covered and refrigerated up to overnight; whisk to recombine before serving. The cake can be baked a day in advance, wrapped in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature; for best flavor, warm cut slices briefly and gently in a microwave oven on LOW before serving.
Adapted from "Around the Fire: Recipes for Inspired Grilling and Seasonal Feasting From Ox Restaurant," by Greg Denton and Gabrielle Quinonez Denton with Stacy Adimando (Ten Speed, 2016).
For the basil sugar
• 1/2 cup granulated sugar
• 1/4 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
For the whipped mascarpone
• 2 1/4 cups mascarpone cheese (triple-cream cheese made from low-fat fresh cream; can substitute a whipped cottage, cream or ricotta cheese)
• 3/4 cup sour cream
• 3 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
For the cake
• 2 cups flour
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
• 5 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely grated, preferably with a Microplane grater
• 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
• 2 cups granulated sugar
• 6 large eggs, lightly beaten
• 1 cup mascarpone cheese
• 1 cup sour cream
• 2 pints (24 ounces) fresh raspberries
• 1/4 cup good-quality aged balsamic vinegar (see headnote)
For the basil sugar: Combine half of the sugar and half of the basil in a spice grinder or mini food processor; pulse until the basil leaves are chopped finely and the sugar has taken on the color and scent of the herb. Repeat with the remaining sugar and basil. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
For the whipped mascarpone: Whisk together the mascarpone, sour cream and confectioners' sugar until well combined. Cover and keep chilled until ready to serve.
For the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-by-13-inch cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Lightly flour the sides of the pan, tapping out any excess flour.
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Whisk in the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
Combine the butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; beat briefly on low speed, then on high speed for about 5 minutes, stopping to scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Reduce the speed to medium and slowly drizzle in the beaten eggs.
Add the mascarpone and continue to beat until incorporated. Reduce the speed to low and alternate adding one-third of the flour mixture and one-third of the sour cream until both are nearly incorporated. Stop the machine and use a rubber spatula to finish combining the ingredients to avoid overmixing. Transfer the batter to the prepared cake pan, spreading it evenly and smoothing the surface.
Bake (middle rack) until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for a few minutes.
Serve warm, topped with whipped mascarpone and fresh berries. Sprinkle some of the basil sugar over everything, then drizzle the berries and/or the plate with the balsamic vinegar.
Nutrition | Per serving (based on 15, using 2 tablespoons whipped mascarpone per serving): 600 calories, 9 g protein, 55 g carbohydrates, 37 g fat, 18 g saturated fat, 180 mg cholesterol, 270 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber, 38 g sugar
S'MORE BETTER DIP
SERVINGS: 8 to 10
For a big crowd and less mess, this is the way to go. Feel free to dunk fresh fruit, cookies or salted pretzel sticks in the dip instead of, or in addition to, the graham crackers. Using a disposable aluminum pan makes for easy cleanup.
This recipe also can be baked in a 300-degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes, depending on how toasty you want your marshmallows to get. This version has half the cream of the original recipe and uses semisweet chocolate chips instead of milk chocolate chips.
Adapted from "Diva Q's Barbecue: 195 Recipes for Cooking With Family, Friends & Fire," by Danielle Bennett (Random House, 2016).
• 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (may substitute milk chocolate chips)
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• 1 package (14 1/2 ounces) plain graham crackers
• 15 jumbo marshmallows, each cut in half horizontally
• 1/2 cup Skor candy bar, crushed or coarsely chopped
Combine the chocolate chips and cream in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on HIGH in 30-second increments, stirring after each one, until the chocolate has melted. Stir until smooth.
Prepare your grill for indirect heat. If using a gas grill, preheat on medium-low (300 degrees). If using a charcoal grill, light the charcoal or briquettes; once they are ready, distribute them on one side of the grill. For a medium-hot fire, you should be able to hold your hand 6 inches above the coals for 7 or 8 seconds. Have a spray water bottle at hand for taming any flames.
Crush or bust up enough crackers (bite-size pieces) to completely cover the bottom of a 12-by-10-inch disposable aluminum pan. Pour the chocolate mixture evenly over the crackers. Top with the marshmallow halves. Sprinkle with the Skor bits.
Place the pan on the indirect-heat side of the grill. Close the lid and cook until bubbling, 35 to 45 minutes.
Serve immediately, with the remaining graham crackers.
Nutrition | Per serving (based on 10): 560 calories, 6 g protein, 90 g carbohydrates, 20 g fat, 10 g saturated fat, 20 mg cholesterol, 340 mg sodium, 4 g dietary fiber, 57 g sugar