Melissa Clark on Preparing Summer Parties

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Summer brings a bounty of fruits and vegetables, and many occasions for parties and celebrations. New York Times Dining Section columnist and cookbook writer Melissa Clark shares ideas on what to make for summer parties and how to make the most of summer entertaining. Her most recent cookbook is Cook This Now: 120 Easy and Delectable Dishes You Can't Wait to Make.

Ask questions or share your suggestions for what to make for summer parties!

Comments [23]

Robert Plautz from New York City

Regarding my previous comment using nails for potatoes, I went measured the nails that I use. I was wrong, they are six inches, not eight. It appears eight inch nails are not made. And I guess Greg B is responding and warning me to beware of zinc. I never considered that when I started using mine; he's probably right. Whether my nails had zinc coating and it's burned off by now or there is zinc used as an alloy in the steel and is still there, I don't know. All I know is that there very black now, like a cast iron pan. Maybe a way to test this is buy one and leave it wet for a while. If it rusts, it's all steel; if not, you've been advised as to whether you want to buy more.

Jun. 06 2013 01:26 PM
Greg B


Be VERY careful using galvanized steel on a grill. The zinc coating will evaporate at grilling temperatures, end up in your food, and is a pretty nasty neurotoxin. Bare steel nails are fine. But people who build home-made smokers out of galvanized steel garbage cans, or use galvanized steel chicken wire in in a grill, are asking for trouble!
Bare copper is also toxic- it is why saute pans are coated with tin on the interior.

Jun. 06 2013 12:55 PM

My favorite app is sliced french bread, butter and sprinkle with Parmesan on both sides, grill both sides until bread begins to brown, add sliced roma tomatoes, top with mozzarella cheese and crushed basil, grill until mozzareall melts. For extra flavor, try using garlic butter.

Jun. 06 2013 12:45 PM
Robert Plautz from New York City

Regarding nails and potatoes, I've been using industrial sized eight inch or so steel nails (NOT stainless) for years. There sold in hardware stores, but not all. Maybe Home Depot has them. In any event, there not stainless, ordinary steel. Just keep them clean and dry between uses. Indeed, just like a French steel pan or a cast iron pan, with use they will become seasoned over time. But again, keep them dry between use. And be careful putting them into the potatoes. It's difficult, especially with sweet potatoes or yams. Seems those potatoes are more dense and you can hurt yourself. It's best to cut-off one end a bit so that you have a flat base to force the nail from the other end.

Jun. 06 2013 12:40 PM
Greg B

The Stainless steel nail trick DOES NOT WORK (sorry for the caps). They do not have enough thermal conductivity to make a difference. Really- see the article:

Jun. 06 2013 12:30 PM
zach from bushwick

I'm not trying to troll here, but why does WNYC - a progressive, liberal entity - continue to air segments that promote SO MUCH MEAT. This isn't a cruelty-free tirade; it's a comment about the environmental impact of the meat industry on our planet. The majority of WNYC listeners probably recycle, avoid plastic products made in China, believe in Global Warming, but still we're going to hear about grilling burgers and hosting privileged "garden parties" with pounds and pounds of product from an industry that I guess we can just turn a blind eye to.

I'm a proponent eating good food, but I'm also a proponent for consistency.

Jun. 06 2013 12:29 PM
zazel loven from Hudson Valley

for Melissa - I bake ribs in the oven wrapped in foil and soaked in a good beer, for hours. Then put them on the grill and the crowd went wild - best ever.

Jun. 06 2013 12:28 PM
Greg B


You caution on "resting" meat is well placed. In fact, only about 1/3rd of the lost juices are reabsorbed, and only if you cook the meat above medium rare. For many reasons, this is a myth- see my article at

Jun. 06 2013 12:23 PM
Feree from Jersey City

Hi Lenny, Can you ask your guest about cooking those big turkey legs on the grill? How is that done successfully?

Jun. 06 2013 12:23 PM
Lee Bartell from NYC

It's the chopped onions that cause summer picnic problems, NOT the mayo! The moment onions get sliced/cut, bacteria is waiting to attach to those pieces. Cut an onion in half, leave one half in a dish face up, and watch it turn black.

Jun. 06 2013 12:23 PM

Mary Taylor Semeti, wrote about Sicilian small artichokes in the embers of your barbecue. After the embers are nice and hot put the prepared seasoned -- salt, mint, garlic-- artichokes in the embers. Messy but marvelous ! It IS messy but marvelous !

Jun. 06 2013 12:23 PM
BoomBoom23 from Morristown, NJ

LUV all Melissa's ideas - BUT, we do potatoes on the grill after we "nuke" them for a few mins. De-Lish!

Jun. 06 2013 12:22 PM
BoomBoon23 from Morristown, NJ

LUV all Melissa's ideas - BUT, we do potatoes on the grill after we "nuke" them for a few mins. De-Lish!

Jun. 06 2013 12:21 PM

The secret to grilling burgers: 1) make them as flat as possible before putting them on the grill.

2) Cook them about 80 or 90 percent on one side (to what ever degree of doneness you prefer) and just flip them at the end to sear them on the other side.

This prevents them from falling apart.

Never flatten them on the grill.

Jun. 06 2013 12:21 PM
Jenna from UES

I have a great tip for cooking chicken perfectly on the grill. I the seasoned chicken in a slow-cooker for 3 hours on low and par cook it before grilling. I then grill it for a few minutes with BBQ sauce.

Jun. 06 2013 12:21 PM
Donna from Montclair

You can put stainless large nails through baked potatoes before wrapping in foil to make them cook quicker. They conduct the heat throughout the potatoes.

Jun. 06 2013 12:20 PM
TK from NJ

For potatoes - if you have a charcoal grill. Cut thick slices, insert thick onion slices in between, butter on top with salt pepper. Cover in aluminum foil and stick them with the charcoal under the grate for 20 min or so while you are cooking your meat on top. It's very delicious.

Jun. 06 2013 12:20 PM
Hal from Crown Heights

I often use cast iron cookware on my grill instead of foil. I love cooking onions this way, and roasting garlic.
I may use a cast iron pan, a flat griddle, or a dutch oven, depending on what I'm cooking.

Jun. 06 2013 12:20 PM
Marcia from Manhattan

My husband cuts potatoes thin and grills them with olive oil and salt. Almost like potato chips. Awesome! (they do like to fall thru the cracks, though)

Jun. 06 2013 12:19 PM
Drew from Denver

Peaches in foil, on the gill after everything else is off and the fire is low - leave them on there until your done eating dinner and they're done in time for desert.
It's awesome!

Jun. 06 2013 12:19 PM
Ed from ny

grilled oyster mushrooms! so much better than portabellas

Jun. 06 2013 12:17 PM
John from Fanwood, NJ

I've been using cedar planks to grill fish on the gas grill. I soak the plank for an hour or so and keep a spray bottle nearby to douse flames. Thick fish like salmon works best, and I always marinate the fish first.

Jun. 06 2013 12:16 PM

Melissa's suggestions for grilling sound delicious, but I daresay most New Yorkers don't have an outside space or a grill. Can you talk more about no-cook or cold foods we can make inside?

Jun. 06 2013 12:15 PM

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