The secret to hosting a party is putting out one of these irresistible self-serve spreads.
Build It Better
A special occasion like sending your baby off to college (or finally taking a vacation) calls for an extra-special spread. Here, we one-upped the classic BLT by enlisting lobster (you can sub in shrimp or poached chicken if you prefer). Then we flanked a rainbow of ripe-tomato slices with hard-boiled eggs and avocado, and whisked together two next-level condiments: mayo mixed with crisp bacon and a tangy mignonette. To make quick (or no) work of the lobsters, have your fish counter steam them and remove the meat.
Bring Home the Beach
Smoky Clams and Fregola
Capturing the flavors of a clambake, but at a fraction of the effort, this seafood stew melds a polyglot of cultural influences. The combination of clams and sausage hints at Portugal, while the corn is a nod to New England, and the fregola that soaks up all the juices hails from Sardinia. You serve the dish in shallow bowls with spoons, but this is a messy, eat-with-your-hands meal that says you’re among friends. To round out the menu, offer a simple green salad or coleslaw alongside.
Lay Out La Dolce Vita
An antipasto platter checks off all the boxes for a great summer lunch: It can sit at room temperature for a few hours. If extra guests arrive, you can easily add more cheeses and cured meats. And its eclectic array of flavors hits the spot for meat eaters and vegetarians alike. The grilled eggplants and squashes get a sweet-and-sour marinade full of plump raisins and briny capers. They can be prepped the day before if you like, and then all that’s left to do is toast some crusty Italian bread and raise a glass.
Share the Love
Chocolate-Zucchini Sheet Cake with Cream-Cheese Frosting
Nothing says “party” like an oversize sheet cake covered with thick, swirling icing. This one was baked in a jelly-roll pan (which is slightly larger than a 9-by-13-inch baking dish) to yield a larger, thinner cake, and the batter doubles down on chocolate with both semi-sweet chunks and cocoa powder. The addition of grated zucchini helps keeps it so moist that you can bake it a day in advance; just frost it the day you serve it. The gorgeous garnish—sugared squash blossoms, crisped in the oven—tastes like candied pumpkin, lending an intriguing adult touch to a kid-pleasing dessert.