In Carofoli's Kitchen

Summer Entertaining: Al Fresco

By John F. Carafoli | July 08, 2011
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summer menu includes salad and other al fresco entertaining main dishes and desserts
Photos by Mark Willard, styled by John Carafoli

Bagnat (Cooked Salsa Verde)
Mixed Green Salad, with a simpledressing of chopped fresh herbs with oil & vinegar
Escabeche Striped Bass with Jasmine Rice
Summer Berry Pudding with Rose Geranium Cream

Summer on Cape Cod is short. It’s our time to play, be outdoors and take advantage of the bounty our area offers us. One of the ways of doing this is through cooking as an extension of the way we live. It is creating a moment, a sensation, a memory through the senses.

Whether I’m cooking for friends or styling food for the camera, I feel a connection to my ingredients and techniques. I love experiencing the textures, smells and sounds that are so essential to cooking. Each aspect of preparation—from conceiving the menu to selecting ingredients and wines, to setting the table—can be a personal expression of your own style.

Having friends and family over for a festive outdoor gathering, sharing the day’s activities over a glass of wine or serving a meal on the deck are all part of the summer experience. I suggest starting with the fresh produce in our local farmers’ markets or farm stands. Purchase seasonal fish from your fishmonger. Joes’ Lobster & Fish Market on the canal is my favorite for striped bass and mussels, if I don’t gather them myself. Whenever possible, use the herbs, vegetables and fruits from your own garden.

Relaxed entertaining is all about planning and organizing. Setting the table, creating an environment and ambiance and, most of all, timing the meal, come next. For a stress-free menu, you want most of it to be prepared ahead of time. That way your party will flow easily, and everyone can enjoy the event, including you, the host.

Since it is summer, most of the dishes on this menu can be served at room temperature as is the tradition of Italy and most Mediterranean countries. The food can be made ahead of time and set out on a table or tablecloth—colorful or white, depending on the color of the plates and serving dishes. guests will be able to serve themselves.

The setting should be playful and festive. use your imagination. Mix glasses and dishes that have been stored away for years; they do not necessarily have to match. I sometimes use a table of assortedcolored Fiestaware.

As a food stylist, I am very conscious of how food looks on plates. For this menu, select serving plates of all different shapes and sizes. The appetizer works well with the toast points on a colorful platter (if the tablecloth is white) and the Bagnat itself in a white bowl, either placed off to the side or centered on the platter with a serving spoon. You want to make the food the hero, it should look as appetizing and appealing as possible.

For the salad, use a variety of different greens, nasturtiums and flowering herbs for color. A simple oil and vinegar dressing will bring out the flavors of the lettuces, but you can also use freshly chopped herbs like tarragon, thyme, parsley, and sprigs of cilantro or mint. Remember that the lettuces are the heroes.

Place the plates at one end of the serving table with silverware, napkins and glasses. Arrange the serving dishes in the order you want your guests to select the food.

Use a wood cutting board for the bread, a copper kettle or an unusual container filled with ice for the wine. For atmosphere, fill a clean terra cotta flower pot with sand, and place a small votive candle inside under a globe to protect the flame from the wind. (You can also do a similar thing with paper bags.) Place the pots or bags around the patio or deck and a few on the table. Creating a setting and feeling of abundance is important. Make it playful and fun.

Leslie and Kevin Plumb of Town Center Wine & Spirits in Eastham provide the wine paring for this menu. They specialize in small handcrafted and artisanal wines. When we tasted the wines with the food, we were amazed by how beautifully they complemented the dishes. You can sign up for Leslie and Kevin’s wine newsletter at

Bagnat (or Salsa Verde)
Salsa Cruda (Uncooked Tomato Sauce)
Escabeche Fish
Summer Berry Pudding


I’m not sure how this salsa verde (green sauce) got its name. It calls for grinding the vegetables in a meat grinder; if you use a food processor, pulse instead of process so as not to over-process the vegetables. I like serving it on toast points (crostini) as an appetizer. It is also wonderful served as a condiment with meat and poultry.


  • 2 to 3 cups fresh Italian parsley
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 green peppers, stems and seeds removed
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 2 2-ounce cans anchovies (with or without capers)
  • 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes


  1. Put the parsley, garlic, peppers, carrot and onions through a meat grinder (or food processor), alternating small amounts of each ingredient as you proceed. Set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil and anchovies, stirring to dissolve the anchovies. Stir in the vegetable mixture, tomato sauce, vinegar and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low and cook, uncovered, for about 25 minutes, stirring frequently. When cool, store in refrigerator for 1 to 2 weeks or freeze (it freezes well). Serve by the teaspoonful on toast points as shown in the photo. Yields about 5-½ cups
  3. Pair this recipe with: Commanderie de la Bargemone Rosé 2010. In the glass it’s a very pale pink, with classic aromas of wild strawberries and red currants and lovely minerality with a crisp, bone-dry palate. Suggested retail price: $14.99.


This fresh salsa goes perfectly with freshly steamed mussels for a great summer appetizer. Serve extra salsa on the side. There are no exact proportions to this recipe and it can be easily doubled.


  • 3 ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño pepper (seeds removed and discarded), finely
  • chopped
  • ½ cup cilantro leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 1 green pepper, finely chopped
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • ¼ teaspoon salt


  1. In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients. Mix well. Serve at room temperature over freshly steamed mussels. Makes 2 cups.
  2. Pair this recipe with: Chateau de Lancyre Pic St. Loup Rosé 2010. This delicious rosé has a large profile that pairs wonderfully with the fleshy mussels, and a distinctively spicy garrigue (spicy and earthy) undertone which will complement the tomato base. Suggested retail price: $17.99.


On a trip to Jamaica, I stayed in a small guesthouse in Montego Bay, where I became friendly with the owners and, of course, the chef, a lovely Jamaican woman who let me cook the evening meal with her. She taught me how to make this recipe for escabeche (es-keh-BEHSH). It is a preparation in which poached or fried fish or meat is marinated, sometimes overnight, in an acid mixture such as vinegar with herbs and spices. Citrus juice made with lemons and limes may also be used. I serve this dish the same day or the next day at room temperature. You might want to heat it slightly to bring out the flavors.

Serves 4 to 6


  • 2 pounds striped bass
  • 1 cup onion, grated
  • 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • Oil for frying
  • Crushed red pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup sliced onions
  • 1 red pepper, sliced
  • 1 green pepper, sliced
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons white vinegar


  1. Cut the fish into 4 to 6 pieces and place in a large bowl.
  2. Add the onion, ginger, garlic, tamari or soy, black pepper and paprika; mix well and marinate for 45 minutes at room temperature. Put ¼ inch oil in a large skillet and place on high heat, heating the oil until it starts to smoke. Add the fish a few pieces at a time and fry until lightly brown, turning frequently. Do not overcook.
  3. Remove from pan and place on a paper towels to drain.
  4. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons oil and crushed red pepper to the same pan, and lower heat to medium; add the onions, red and green peppers and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the vinegar, and cook for 3 more minutes. Place the fish on a platter; spoon the vegetable mixture over it. Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate overnight. Serve the next day at room temperature.
  5. Pair this recipe with: Bruno Giacosa Roero Arneis 2010. A full-bodied white wine with excellent minerality, such as this Bruno Giacosa Arneis, pairs well with the striped bass. Giacosa is one of the best producers in Piedmont, Italy. The Arneis is fine and elegant, with a bouquet of citrus and acacia flowers. Suggested retail price: $31.99.


This pudding can be made with any fruit—blackberries, blueberries or strawberries. It is a perfect dessert for using the local fruits in season. Here I used two different kinds of currants and raspberries.

Serves 6


  • Soft butter
  • 7 or 8 slices very thin white bread (I use Pepperidge Farm)
  • 1½ cups raspberries or other berries
  • ¼-¾ cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1½ cups fresh red currants
  • 1½ cups fresh yellow currants


  1. Lightly butter the inside of a 3- to 4-cup bowl. Line the bowl with several slices of bread, packing them tightly around the bottom and sides.
  2. In a small saucepan cook the raspberries with ¼ cup sugar (adjusting according to how sweet the berries are) and 3 tablespoons of water, bring to a boil and simmer for 6 to 8 minutes. Spoon the berries into the bread-lined bowl. Cover the raspberries with a layer of bread. Repeat the process with the red currants and then the yellow. Top with layers of bread.
  3. Cover the pudding with plastic wrap. Set a saucer slightly smaller than the pudding on top then weigh it down with a heavy object (I use a small rock). This will force the juices into the bread. Refrigerate overnight.
  4. To unmold the pudding, run the tip of a knife around the edge of the bowl, and invert the bowl onto a decorative plate, shaking the pudding loose from the bowl. garnish with raspberries, currants and sprigs of mint.
  5. Serve with rose geranium cream (recipe below).
Article from Edible Cape Cod at
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