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Menu and Recipes Ideas for the Backyard

Blueprint, Volume 1 2006

Appetizers
Arrange peeled small carrots and radishes (halved if large) on platters, then lay out the rest of the starter course on white plates and platters to elevate the presentation and disguise the fact that everything came from the produce aisle or the olive bar at the grocery store.

Crackers
Croccantini crackers, lapanzanella.com for stores.
Square bowl, surlatable.com

Olives
Porcelain pourer, Dandelion, 888-548-1968

Carrots
Bone china plate, bodumusa.com

Radishes
Four bowls with tray (only tray shown), Red Vanilla, 201-460-1020 for catalog

Salami
Rectangular white tray, Dandelion, 888-548-1968

Chips
Solea olive-oil potato chips, wholefoods.com for stores.
Rectangular porcelain platter, cb2.com

Dip
Six-inch rice bowl, Red Vanilla, 201-460-1020 for catalog

Easy Herbed Yogurt Dip

1. In a small pan of boiling water, cook 2 peeled garlic cloves for 1 minute; drain and finely chop.
2. In a medium bowl, combine 1 drained 17.6-ounce container of plain, full-fat Greek yogurt, the garlic, 2/3 cup finely chopped fresh dill, and 1/4 cup finely chopped chives. Season with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper. Mix well.

Modern Salad Bar

The Condiment Tray

A few surprises and elegant upgrades (above): Phat Beets, rickspicksnyc.com; a bowl of spiced nuts; some Parmesan curls; Cabernet vinegar, ooliveoil.com; Terra Medi white wine vinegar, and extra-virgin olive oil, both at select gourmet retailers

Green Beans
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon of coarse salt. Remove stem ends from 2 pounds of green beans. Cook half the green beans (to avoid overcrowding) until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Transfer the first batch to a colander, and rinse well under cold running water to stop further cooking. Repeat with remaining beans. Drain well, and toss with a little coarse salt. Serve with sliced heirloom green zebra tomatoes.

Spicy Yucatan Cream Sauce
In a small bowl, stir together 3/4 cup Three Chiles and Citrus Yucatan Marinade (madeinnapavalley.com) and 3 tablespoons sour cream until smooth. Makes scant 1 cup

Parsley-Mint Sauce
In a blender or food processor, combine 1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, 1 large garlic clove, 1/3 cup water, 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, and 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice; puree until smooth. Season with coarse salt. Sauce can be covered and refrigerated overnight. Makes about 1 cup

Spice-Rubbed Grilled Chicken

1. In a small bowl, stir together 4 teaspoons coarse salt, 2 teaspoons sweet paprika, 2 teaspoons sugar, and 3/4 teaspoon ground pepper. Rub mix onto both sides of 12 boneless, skinless chicken-breast halves. Brush 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil over chicken.

2. Heat grill to medium. Grill chicken in a single layer, turning it when grill marks show and chicken is nicely colored, about 5 minutes. Continue cooking until an instant-read thermometer inserted into chicken reaches 160 degrees, about 4 minutes more. Let stand 5 minutes.

3. Slice crosswise, place on a large platter, and serve with bowls of Yucatan and mint sauces.

Crostini With Creamy Feta Cheese

Preheat broiler with the rack in the upper position. Cut one 10- to 12-ounce 18-inch baguette into 40 slices. Brush both sides of slices with extra-virgin olive oil. Broil until golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes per side. Let cool to room temperature. Sprinkle 10 to 12 ounces of creamy French or Bulgarian feta over the slices. Sprinkle with coarsely ground pepper, and drizzle 1/3 cup honey over cheese.

Lemon-Scented Chickpeas
In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons Meyer lemon extra-virgin olive oil (ooliveoil.com), 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, and 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander. Season with coarse salt and ground pepper. Add 3 cans (15 ounces each) drained and rinsed chickpeas; toss to combine. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes for flavors to blend, or overnight. Taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary. Makes 4 cups.

Salad Greens
Quarter some radicchio di Treviso lengthwise, and then toss it with mache.

Dessert Bar
"Oh, I guess I'll try just one bite..." With a so-called grazing platter for dessert, guests can still feel virtuous while sampling store-bought sweets and a fresh fruit tray with dip (see recipe below).

Almondina cookies, original and choconut, almondina.com
Strawberry Sorbet chocolate bar, mariebelle.com
Chocolate 25-piece gift box, boulela.com
Pate de Fruit gift box, charleschocolates.com
Coconut clusters, veregoods.com

"Cannoli" Cream Dip

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spread 1/2 cup shelled pistachios on a baking sheet. Bake until crisp, about 7 minutes. Rub in towel to remove skins. Coarsely chop nuts in a food processor.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together two 15-ounce containers of ricotta, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1 teaspoon grated orange zest until smooth.

3. Fold in pistachios and 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips. Serve with 5 pints of strawberries, hulled.