8 years ago
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With the weather finally warming up, summer seems to be on the horizon. To Minnesotans, this means outdoor party season! It’s time to start filling your calendar with grill outs, picnics, and patio happy hours. What’s better than kicking back with friends to share an outdoor meal?

f you are like me, you aim to contribute something to the meal that will really stand out. My dilemma – I’m not a gourmet chef and usually don’t have much prep time. 

Solution: Summer foods that are delicious and completely low maintenance. Here are a few of my favorite easy appetizers for summer. They are all simple to prepare and require little prep. 

Insalata Caprese
Cut a few tomatoes and a mozzarella ball into slices. Layer them together on a plate and drizzle with olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste, and garnish the platter with fresh basil. Serve with crustini or a sliced baguette. 

Easy Variations: Use heirloom tomatoes to add color to the plate. Eliminate all cutting by using baby grape tomatoes and mozzarella ciliengine (small bite-size mozzarella balls). You can serve this Caprese in a bowl.

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Cantaloupe and Prosciutto Wedges 
Slice a cantaloupe into long wedges about a ½ inch thick. Wrap thin slices of prosciutto around the middle of the wedges, and top with fresh ground pepper (optional). This can be a little more time consuming since wrapping every wedge takes a few seconds. However, it’s easy work and anyone can do it. 

Easy Variation: Try honeydew as a delicious substitute. 

Fruit Kabobs 
Buy fresh cut fruit from the deli or produce department and make your own kabobs. It’s easy, healthy, and a bright addition to any table! 

Manchego and Spanish Honey 
Any type of cheese tray makes a wonderful appetizer, and it’s usually a crowd pleaser. I really like Young Spanish Manchego. It’s a versatile cheese with a sweet, nutty flavor. I drizzle Spanish Mitica Honey, which comes in orange or lavender, over the top to add some pizzazz. 

Easy Variations: Mitica Honey and blue cheese also make a fantastic combo. (Try Valdeon Blue)

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Salumi Plate 
The word Salumi is Italian and generally refers to salted, dry-cured meats made from pork. Examples include prosciutto, pancetta, speck, calabrese and soppressata. Sample a few varieties at the deli counter to see what you like best. I like to have my salumi sliced really thin so the pieces are light and airy. It tastes better and will serve more people. Complement this dish with crusty bread and olives. 

Cucumber and Feta Picnic Bites 
Cut cucumbers into thick slices and scoop out part of the middle to form small “bowls”. On the side, make a mixture of feta, a little olive oil, and your favorite fresh herbs. Scoop the mixture into your cucumber “bowls” and serve cold. 

Sushi Party Tray 
I’ve found that this is an easy way to get invited back to almost anyone’s home! There are several different trays available to serve larger groups. Just call Lunds or Byerly’s about an hour before you want to pick it up. 

My friends and I always enjoy the fresh ingredients and big flavor in these appetizers. Plus, most of the ingredients listed are all-natural and fairly nutritious for a health-conscious crowd. Do you have any other easy summer appetizers to add to the list?

Merritt Steidl, deli category analyst