6 Easy Outdoor Dinner Recipes

Prepare this simple, seasonal menu plan — complete with appetizer, entrée, sides, and dessert — at your next party.

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Ready for some outdoor eats, but not too confident with the grill? Have no fear: Food Network's health-conscious star, Ellie Krieger, dishes out an exclusive Marie Claire menu plan from her new book, The Food You Crave.

"There's an effortlessness about entertaining and dining in the summer," says Krieger. "It's the season of bounty."

Here, simple, seasonal dishes that dazzle:


Grilled Zucchini Roll-Ups with Herbs and Cheese

  • 3 small zucchini (about 1/2 pound each), cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • Pinch of freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1 1/2 ounces fresh goat cheese, preferably reduced-fat
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 ounces baby spinach leaves (2 cups lightly packed)
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil leaves
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1. Preheat a grill or grill pan over medium heat.

2. Discard the outermost slices of zucchini and brush the rest with the oil on both sides. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Grill until tender, about 4 minutes per side. You can make the grilled zucchini a day ahead and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

3. In a small bowl, combine the goat cheese, parsley, and lemon juice, mashing them together with a fork.

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4. Put 1/2 teaspoon of the cheese mixture about 1/2 inch from the end of a zucchini slice. Top with a few spinach leaves and one small or half of a large basil leaf. Roll up and place seam side down on a platter. Repeat with the rest of the zucchini slices.

5. You can make these up to a day before you are ready to serve and store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

For enticing entrées, go to the next page.


Spice-Rubbed Lamb Pops

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 pounds boneless lamb (top round), trimmed of all visible fat and cut into 1/2 x 2 1/2-inch strips
  • 12 skewers, soaked in water for 20 minutes if wood

1. Preheat the grill or a grill pan.

2. In a small bowl, combine the cumin, coriander, cinnamon, pepper, and salt. In a large bowl, sprinkle the spice mixture over the lamb strips and toss to coat evenly.

3. Thread 1 piece of lamb onto each skewer and grill over medium-high heat for 4 to 5 minutes, turning once.

Poached Salmon with Lemon-Mint Tzatziki

  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 lemons, thinly sliced
  • One 2-pound skin-on salmon fillet, any pin bones removed
  • 1 scallion (green part only), thinly sliced
  • Lemon-Mint Tzatziki (see recipe below)

1. Put the wine, water, bay leaves, parsley, and one of the sliced lemons in a large skillet and bring to a simmer. Add the salmon, skin side down. Add more water, if necessary, to cover the salmon. Cover the skillet and simmer over low heat until the fish is just cooked through, about 10 minutes per inch thickness. With two large spatulas, transfer the fish to a plate, cover it, and chill it completely in the refrigerator, about 3 hours.

2. Once cooled, remove the skin from the salmon by uncovering the fish, placing a clean plate or baking sheet on top of it, and flipping the plate over so the fish lands on the plate or baking sheet skin side up. Peel the skin from the fillet and scrape away any brown flesh. Flip the fish again right side up onto a serving plate. Garnish with the scallion greens and the remaining lemon slices. Serve with the tzatziki on the side.

Lemon-Mint Tzatziki

  • 1 cup plain nonfat yogurt or 3/4 cup plain Greek-style nonfat yogurt
  • 1/2 large English cucumber, seeded
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. If using regular yogurt, spoon it into a strainer lined with paper towels set over a bowl and let drain and thicken for 30 minutes. Coarsely grate the cucumber. Drain it well in another strainer, for a minute or two, pressing out the liquid.

2. In a medium bowl, stir together the drained or Greek-style yogurt, the grated cucumber, oil, lemon juice and zest, garlic, and mint. Season with salt and pepper. This sauce will keep for 3 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator; stir well before serving.

For satiating side dishes, go to the next page.


Carrot, Green Apple, and Mint Salad

  • 1/3 cup plain nonfat yogurt or 1/4 cup plain Greek-style nonfat yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and trimmed
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, cored
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • Salt to taste

1. If using regular yogurt place the yogurt in a strainer lined with a paper towel. Set the strainer over a bowl and let the yogurt drain and thicken for 30 minutes.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the drained or Greek-style yogurt and mayonnaise until smooth. Whisk in the lemon juice, vinegar, and honey.

3. In a food processor, first grate the carrots and then the apple. Transfer them to a large serving bowl and stir to combine. Pour the dressing over the carrot mixture and toss to coat. Roughly chop the mint and add it to the salad. Season with salt. This salad will keep in the refrigerator in an airtight container for about 3 days.

Pesto Potato Salad

  • 1 1/2 pounds small red potatoes
  • 1 medium yellow bell pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1/3 cup Basil Pesto (see recipe below) or store-bought basil pesto
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Put the potatoes in a large steamer basket over boiling water and steam until they are cooked though, but the skins remain intact, about 20 minutes. Set them aside until they are cool enough to handle, then quarter and put them in a large bowl. Add the peppers and pesto and toss gently to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until completely cooled, at least 1 hour. This salad will keep in the refrigerator in an airtight container for about 3 days.

Basil Pesto

  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 3 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Toast the pine nuts in a small, dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant and golden brown, shaking the pan frequently, about 3 minutes.

2. In a food processor, process the pine nuts and garlic together until minced. Add the basil, Parmesan, and lemon juice and process until finely minced. With the machine running, slowly pour the oil in a steady stream through the feed tube and process until well blended. Season with salt and pepper.

For a divine dessert, go to the next page.


Peaches with Balsamic Cherries

  • 1/2 pound fresh sweet cherries, cut in half and pitted
  • 2 tablespoons sugar, plus more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 pound ripe peaches, cut in half, pitted, and sliced

1. In a medium saucepan, stir together the cherries, 2 tablespoons of the sugar, and the vinegar, and place over medium heat. Bring to a boil and continue to cook for 5 minutes, stirring a few times.

2. In a medium bowl, toss the warm cherries and their syrup with the peaches; taste and add more sugar if necessary. Serve warm.

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