Summer al fresco dinner menu

Hi friends!

My husband and I love to hang out at home with our friends and family, and during the summer, you can often find us relaxing on the deck, firing up the grill, and having a few drinks.  I love it!

It’s so much fun to put together easy menus for our get-togethers.  If you are serving an “al fresco” summer dinner with friends, here’s the menu I’d recommend.  It’s light, healthy, delicious – and best of all, much of the food is cooked on the grill so clean up is minimal!

Al Fresco Summer Dinner Party Menu

White Sangria
Antipasti Platter
Cedar Plank Salmon
Quinoa Salad
Grilled Pineapple and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Greet your guests with a delicious glass of white sangria.  It’s so pretty and fresh!  One of my favorite recipes is very similar to this one by Tyler Florence:

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  • 2 bottles dry white, such as sauvignon blanc
  • 1/2 cup Spanish sherry
  • 1/2 cup orange-flavored liqueur (recommended: Cointreau)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 bunch seedless white grapes
  • 1 lemon, unpeeled and sliced
  • 2 peaches, unpeeled, pitted, and sliced
  • 1/2 honeydew, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 1/2 liter club soda


Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher, stirring until sugar is completely dissolved. Serve immediately, or if making in advance, refrigerate up to 24 hours, and then add the club soda just before serving.

Set out an antipasto platter for your guests to nibble on while the rest of the meal is grilling.  We like to go to Costco (so classy haha) and pick up prosciutto, cheeses, crackers, olives, hummus, and veggies.  Then just arrange everything on a pretty serving dish – couldn’t be easier!

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Next is the salmon.  Be sure to soak your cedar planks for at least two hours before the party.  Also, have a spray bottle filled with water nearby for any flare-ups that might happen as the salmon is on the grill.   My favorite cedar plank salmon recipe is SOOO easy!  Simply brush the salmon fillet with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and cracked pepper, brush on dijon mustard, then sprinkle brown sugar over the top.  The sugar caramelizes and the salmon ends up with the most delicous smoky / sweet / tart flavor.  TRUST me, to die for!

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This quinoa salad is already becoming a staple in this summer’s dinner rotation at my house.  I love that it’s spicy and has such a nice crunch of vegetables.  I follow this recipe exactly with one exception:  I add chopped red and green bell peppers for an extra hit of veggies.

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  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 3 cups water
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 cups diced cucumber
  • 1 small red onion, finely minced (optional)
  • 2 cups finely diced tomatoes
  • 1 to 2 jalapeño or serrano peppers (to taste), seeded if desired and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro, plus several sprigs for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 avocado, sliced, for garnish


1. Place the quinoa in a bowl, and cover with cold water. Let sit for five minutes. Drain through a strainer, and rinse until the water runs clear. Bring the 3 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add salt (1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon) and the quinoa. Bring back to a boil, and reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer 15 minutes or until the quinoa is tender and translucent; each grain should have a little thread. Drain off the water in the pan through a strainer, and return the quinoa to the pan. Cover the pan with a clean dishtowel, replace the lid and allow to sit for 10 minutes. If making for the freezer, uncover and allow to cool, then place in plastic bags. Flatten the bags and seal.

2. Meanwhile, place the finely diced cucumber in a colander, and sprinkle with salt. Toss and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Rinse the cucumber with cold water, and drain on paper towels. If using the onion, place in a bowl and cover with cold water. Let sit for five minutes, then drain, rinse with cold water and drain on paper towels.

3. Combine the tomatoes, chiles, cilantro, vinegar, lime juice and olive oil in a bowl. Add the cucumber and onion, season to taste with salt, and add the quinoa and cilantro. Toss together, and taste and adjust seasonings. Serve garnished with sliced avocado and cilantro sprigs.

Yield: Serves six.

Alongside the quinoa salad, serve some yummy grilled asparagus.  We like to throw ours on the grill in a basket or foil packet, drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic.  So delicious and simple:

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Don’t forget dessert!  Try this recipe for glazed pineapple, and then serve each guest a big ol’ scoop of high quality vanilla ice cream with it.


Mix 4 tablespoons melted butter, 1/4 cup light brown sugar, 1/4 teaspoon each curry powder, cinnamon and vanilla extract, a pinch of salt and a splash of dark rum in a bowl. Slice apineapple in half lengthwise (keeping the top attached), then cut each half into 3 long wedges; cut out the core. Place 2 wedges on a sheet of foil; brush with the spiced butter and fold up. Repeat to make 2 more packets; grill over medium heat until the pineapple is soft and golden on the bottom, 15 to 20 minutes.

What are your favorite “al fresco” dinner recipes?  Please share!


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