A Make-Ahead Menu for a Laid-Back Dinner Party

Sundays are best spent outside, not in the kitchen.

July 18, 2022

We’ve teamed up with our friends at Line 39 to share a step-by-step guide for weekend entertaining, featuring top-notch bottles. From citrusy Sauvignon Blanc to plum-forward Merlot, each Line 39 wine is crafted in California with care.

Some people’s summer hobbies include surfing, fishing, tanning—I partake in none of these activities. My preferred summer hobby is sitting outside on a warm night with lots of food to graze on. Often these nights happen at the end of full days, when the sun has made me a little sleepy, friends are over, and bottles of wine (something light and refreshing, like Line 39 Sauvignon Blanc) crowd the table.

While my cookbook is called I Dream of Dinner (So You Don’t Have To), on days like these, I’m not dreaming of cooking, and I’m definitely not dreaming of doing dishes. But there’s a way to achieve that dreamy dinner without spending hours at the stove: go for a selection of dishes that can be made days ahead. The recipes below are great for picnics, potlucks, and any old summer Sunday when you’re looking to put together an easy spread.

The Menu

Tips for Any Make-Ahead Summer Dinner


Don’t cook the day of

This entire menu can be made a day or two ahead, when your schedule allows (you’re welcome). Once cooked, pack everything in to-go containers that stack easily in your fridge, which will also make it simple to take the dishes outdoors.

Room temperature is ideal

Not only can these dishes be made ahead, but they don’t need to be reheated before eating; all they need is 15 to 20 minutes out of the fridge. In that time, they shake the chill from the fridge and warm to room temperature, where their flavors are more vivid. Because seasonings are affected by the chill of the fridge, you’ll need to taste and adjust salt and acid as needed once the dish comes to room temperature.

Skip the main course

My favorite part of meals with my Italian family are the antipasti, all the little appetizers—the olives, meats, cheeses, vegetables, and other snacks—that precede the meal. This moment feels abundant and exciting, with so many flavors and textures filling up my plate. When I’m having people over, I like to follow a similar format and avoid any one dish being the focal point. Instead, there’s an ensemble of dishes that all go together, but if someone doesn’t eat fish or doesn’t like eggplant, there’s still plenty of options for them to make a meal.

Take it outside

It may or may not be scientifically proven, but I think that everything tastes better when eaten outside, whether that means at the park, beach, backyard, or even the fire escape. This is obvious but if you’re traveling with the food, like to a park, maybe skip the ice cream in favor of a sweet treat that won’t melt or smush en route (think: brownies, blondies, and other bars).

Don’t forget to chill the wine

The lighter a wine is in color, the colder you’ll want to drink it. Light, dry white wines, like Line 39 Sauvignon Blanc, are most enjoyable after about 2 hours in the fridge. And if you forget, this trick really works.

Go (mostly) vegetarian

Not only do vegetarian dishes satisfy more dietary restrictions, but they’re also less sensitive when it comes to temperature fluctuation and therefore can sit out more easily than meaty dishes. That said, I often add a few cured meats to the table to round out any menu because I never think I have enough food. These meats can safely sit out for about 2 hours (depending on how hot it is outside).

Crusty bread makes a party

Another one of my stop-gaps when I don’t think I have enough food is to add some bread to the spread. A delicious loaf of bread, some soft butter, and a chilled glass of Line 39’s citrusy Sauvignon Blanc is reason enough to have friends over.

What are your favorite easy, summery dishes? Tell us in the comments below!

Our friends at Line 39 make their wines by starting with the best grapes possible, all from the very best regions across California. Their commitment to sustainable practices shines through in their quality wines, and has earned them a spot as a Cer­ti­fied Cal­i­for­nia Sus­tain­able Win­ery from the Cal­i­for­nia Sus­tain­able Wine­grow­ing Alliance. A citrusy Sauvignon Blanc, a juicy Merlot, and a zippy Rosé Spritzer are just a few of their many offerings—learn more about their full lineup here.

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Top Comment:
“Escabeche or a grilled version of Niçoise salad, tortilla (Spanish), labneh, couscous with roasted veggies and tahini sauce, fresh fruit and crusty bread! All delicious! ”
— Emily

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Editor/writer/stylist. Author of I Dream of Dinner (so You Don't Have To). Last name rhymes with bagel.

1 Comment

Emily July 29, 2022
Escabeche or a grilled version of Niçoise salad, tortilla (Spanish), labneh, couscous with roasted veggies and tahini sauce, fresh fruit and crusty bread! All delicious!