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Celebrate Summer with "Porch Parties"

As soon as the thermometer regularly hovers over 70 degrees, I start living outside! Of course that includes entertaining guests. Who doesn't love to sit on a breezy porch (or in my case, a breezy rooftop) on a hot day, cool drink at hand?

Denise Gee, author of Porch Parties (Chronicle Books, 2010) has compiled a charming book full of food, drinks, and decorating ideas for outdoor entertaining.  Featuring beautiful photographs, this 144 page volume is a colorful joy to read. 

Here are two recipes from Denise. Try them, then buy the book!

Watermelon Cooler

This is the dreamiest drink I’ve had in ages. So agree the friends I most recently shared it with. They, like me, love how it’s naturally sweetened with honey. It’s a lot of fun to serve in chilled jelly glasses.

4 cups 2-inch cubes watermelon
1 cup vodka, chilled
2 tablespoons honey (see note)
Garnish: Small watermelon wedges with rind (optional)

Freeze the watermelon chunks in a zip-top plastic bag until just frozen, about 1 hour. Remove from the freezer and add to a blender. Pour in the vodka and honey. Process until blended and pour into frosted cocktail or jelly glasses. Garnish, if desired.

Serves 4

Note: Use standard honey (say, clover) instead of a dark or other strongly flavored version; otherwise it’ll change the drink’s flavor in a disappointing way.
The young, soft white seeds in a “seedless” watermelon are perfectly fine to ingest. Actually, they make your drink look even more watermelon-y.


Shrimp and Tomato Salad

The marriage of sweet tomatoes and shrimp, with kiss of light and lemony cream sauce, makes for both a well-seasoned and well-dressed nibble. Serve it in small decorative bowls, avocado halves, or martini glasses.

1 1/2 pounds cooked, peeled, and deveined large (26- to 30-count) shrimp
1 1/2  pounds grape or small cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup chopped chives
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or dill
1 teaspoon lemon zest (from about 1 large lemon)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup sour cream or mayonnaise (see note)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Salt and white pepper, to taste
Garnish: Additional lemon zest, lemon wedge

Add shrimp and next 4 ingredients to a large bowl; set aside. Stir together lemon juice, sour cream, and Dijon mustard in a small bowl. Gently fold into shrimp-tomato mixture and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Refrigerate at least 6 to 8 hours before serving. Garnish if desired.

Note: Sour cream will lend a lighter texture, revealing more of lemon and herb flavor; mayonnaise will give a bit more depth and a creamier consistency.

Decorate your outdoor space with the same careful thought as you do the indoors. See Porch Parties for more decorating ideas.

Do you have a porch (or a veranda, or a rooftop, or....)? How do you "live outside"?


Text & photographs reprinted with permission

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Reader Comments (2)

This book looks fantastic! LOVE the cover shot & I adore serving drinks out of Mason jars! The watermelon cooler looks so refreshing! Perfect for a night out relaxing on our deck!

What a wonderful idea for a book! I grew up with porch parties and can't wait to have them myself (need a porch first!)


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