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Anne Burrell's Summer Entertaining Tips
The Food Network star loves watermelon, red Solo cups, and evenings on her patio
For many, Memorial Day is the unofficial start of the summer season with the weekend spent at the beach or the backyard.
For Anne Burrell, summer means entertaining with her husband Stuart Claxton at their home in Brooklyn. “My husband and I love living in Brooklyn. After a million years of living in the City, this is my first out-of-borough experience. I feel like Brooklyn is what the West Village was years ago,” she tells Broken Palate, adding that she had lived in that Manhattan neighborhood for years before a desire for more room and outdoor space led the couple to Brooklyn.
Burrell turned the outdoor terrace in her new home into an urban oasis. “It’s funny, I feel like New Yorkers and city dwellers make so much use of every inch of space,” she adds. Burrell started by mapping out the area and installing astroturf and grass. She then added a table with a patio umbrella for entertaining and a cozy couch. “It became my outdoor living room. I love to entertain.”
When guests come over, Burrell likes to keep the party delicious yet simple — especially in the summertime.
Rather than a sitdown affair, the host of Worst Cooks in America will push two tables together to fashion a buffet with food. Then she’ll put the bar in a different place: “That way we don't create a bottleneck,” she explains. Burrell is also about easing cleanup. “My go-to are red Solo cups and bamboo plates and silverware. It makes things so easy at the end of the day.”
Burrell also likes to greet guests with a cocktail before showing them where the bar is. “My rule when I entertain is that I make them the first drink and it’s on your own after that.” She does add that, as a good hostess, she makes sure the ice is fresh and the mixers are replenished.
When planning the menu, Burrell is all about foods that speak of summer. Her favorite ingredient to plan a menu around? “When I think of summer, I jump to watermelon. It takes me back to being a kid. At every picnic, the person who brought the watermelon was the hero. It’s the friendliest of melons.”
Burrell’s go-tos are a refreshing watermelon salad with feta (see recipe below), paired with a watermelon drink. “I would rim a glass with a sugar and chili powder rim, add ice, spirits, and watermelon juice. You can go vodka, tequila, or gin — there are a lot of different directions you could take this cocktail,” she says.
Burrell also loves stone fruit like peaches and nectarines to add to salads. “they just say summer, to me,” she says.
Expect to see lots of veggies at Burrell’s dinner parties. Favorites include leafy greens from the farmer’s markets, asparagus, and radishes. “I go for the big standard radishes. I cut them in half, toss them in olive oil and salt them. Then roast them in a 325-degree oven until you can put a fork in and out.” Burrell says they retain their crunchy texture but turn sweet.
For protein, Burrell turns to pork, which can adapt to flavor profiles like Asian, French, or Mexican. “You can buy a pork tenderloin really cheap and one is enough for me and my husband for dinner. Pork is everyone’s friend.”
Anne Burrell’s Watermelon Feta Salad
1/2 medium watermelon, rind removed, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 6 cups)
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 jalapeno pepper, stem and seeds removed, cut into 1/4-inch dice
Juice and zest of 3 limes
1 bunch mint, leaves picked and cut into chiffonade
10 to 12 basil leaves, cut into chiffonade
“In a large bowl, toss all the ingredients together. Let sit 30 to 60 minutes before serving. This will allow all the flavors to marry together. If you just can't wait and need to eat the salad immediately...I SOOOOO get it!!” - Anne Burrell