If there is a hierarchy of al fresco dining, it might look something like: picnic; porch; terrace; lake; river; ocean. (To each her own, OK, OK!)
Whether or not you’re a “beach person,” there’s something pretty magical about eating something beautiful by the sea. (As is true of tropical music and drinks, the right menu can conjure the ocean even when you’re not seaside!) BYO paddle ball and cornhole, folks. Here’s the menu we crave whether or not we’re on the beach this time of year.
A platter piled high with chargrilled seafood with lemon aioli and romesco floats by, and folks forget their conversation topics and follow you, slack-jawed. It’s so much simpler than it looks, too, with a 25-minute prep time and just eight minutes of cooking time. The two sauces are delightful with raw veggies on the side. Starch, if you need it, can honestly just be potato chips from a bag (and those are great with the aioli, too!)
“Throw the shrimp on the barbie!” Lemony grilled shrimp with red onions, that is. As civilized as it is simple, shrimp goes into a pantry marinade you can make at home, cover and bring right to the beach. Think: olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, red pepper flakes and salt. Add onion and parsley if you’ve got ’em, and dig in.
There’s nothing wrong with a day or two of hot dogs, but you will hear a sigh of relief if you bring a salad. Especially if it is a not-pasta salad. Citrus salad with red onions and marcona almonds shimmers like the sunset on the horizon and is a perfect partner to seafood. If you have a bumper crop of mint this season, this is a lovely way to use some up. (Throw the rest in some lemonade or sangria!)
Skewered shrimp are easy to make and easier to share. Walk around the bonfire with one in hand; love life. These grilled shrimp with lemon skewers benefit from a flurry of fresh rosemary. Put them on a big, colorful platter on a blanket on the beach, walk away, and watch them disappear in minutes.
Break out the grilling basket for that beach bonfire! Grilled whole branzino is as stunning as it is fabulous. It’s worth remembering that cooking whole fish is easy, especially if you get your fishmonger to do the work of scaling and cleaning the branzino. Serve with grilled fennel and tomato on the vine, or just whatever else everyone brought to your seaside potluck.
Keep it simple, silly: Any sort of charcuterie or cheese board is going to be a welcome sight at the beach, with the added bonus of “Unwrap and serve” for prep time. This Spanish tapas board is beautiful, brimming with citrus-marinated olives, jamón serrano, chorizo, Manchego and fig jam. Spruce it up with whatever you have handy in terms of summer fruit and olives.
We can guarantee you no one wants a fussy martini on the beach (except maybe Uncle Ed, who only drinks martinis, and has since 1955). So think big: Big-batch cocktails can serve a crew. This white wine-Cointreau sparkling sangria has just the right amount of fruit, it can all go into one big pitcher, and you make it in advance so booze and fruit have time to properly mingle. Ahh. It doesn’t get better than this.