You might be gearing up for comfort food season, but the farmers' markets are still bustling with summer's ripest produce. Heirloom tomatoes, ears of corn, sweet peppers and the plumpest eggplants are still at your disposal, so get them while you can and make the most of your haul with a festive dinner party to celebrate this late-season bounty.
Starting off with briny, caper-laced eggplant caponata crostini (see the recipe), this party takes a turn for the drop-dead gorgeous with a vibrant heirloom tomato tart (see the recipe), filled with herbed ricotta in a Gruyère pastry crust. The cheesiness continues with a summer corn cacio e pepe (see the recipe), elevated with a rich corn stock made with the cobs. To finish, simple grilled peaches and figs (see the recipe) are the perfect sweet touch to this peak-season party.
Though you could knock out this vibrant menu in about five or six hours by yourself, we suggest inviting three friends over to help you out. You'll be done in less than three hours. So grab a spicy tequila cocktail (served in a bell pepper, of course) and take notes, because we're breaking down how to tackle your final summer blowout.
① First things first: Put one sous-chef on tart duty. That means making the crust and chilling it as soon as possible, then prepping the filling and tomatoes. This way, you'll finish baking the tart completely to cool before your guests arrive.
② You're on pasta duty. Get the corn stock cooking and the rest of the pasta ingredients mised out, so you can fire the pasta when your other guests arrive.
③ Have another friend make the caponata and get ready to work the grill. The caponata and crostini can be made in advance and assembled later. The grill master is also on peach duty, so have him or her assemble everything for that recipe, too.
④ Task your final friend with the cocktails. That means batching everything into a pitcher and prepping the rimmed pepper cups.
① Prep 10 red pepper cups and line the rims with cumin salt. You'll need only eight, but it's better to be safe than sorry, so make a couple extra. (Someone will drink them!)
② Then, batch a large pitcher with enough for everyone to have two cocktails each. First, muddle all the herbs and vegetables with the agave in the pitcher, and then add the lime juice and tequila. Keep this chilled until you're ready to serve with ice.
③ Set up a bar with the batched base and a tray of the pepper cups. Go ahead and pour out the first batch and leave the pitcher for refills.
Now that everyone is hungry for the final tastes of summer, let's finish up this menu.
① Have two friends handle plating the room-temperature items. One can finish the crostini, while the other garnishes and slices the tart.
② As pasta master, you can fire the cacio e pepe. You want this eaten shortly after it's finished so that it's cheesy and creamy. (Everyone's going to lose it over this dish, we promise.)
③ After carbo-loading, feel free to take a quick breather before throwing the peaches on the grill. They're quick and easy, and perfect with just a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Get ready for a true meal of summer lovin' that will stick with you and your friends for the rest of the year.
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