Summer bubbles with outdoor affairs -- garden gatherings that offer a good excuse to put out splashy, alfresco food. And Marlene Sorosky, a cookbook author who lived in Baltimore until recently, knows how to make it easy.
"My favorite parties are casual," says Ms. Sorosky, who in May picked up the coveted 1994 James Beard Book Award in the entertaining category. Below are a few ideas for a garden gathering from her new book, "Entertaining on the Run: Easy Menus for Faster Lives" (William Morrow, 1994).
Cham Cham Bubbles
Chambord (a raspberry liqueur)
Pour a small amount (about 1 teaspoon) Chambord into each champagne glass. Fill with chilled champagne.
Yogurt Praline Nuts
Makes 2 cups
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 cup regular, low-fat or nonfat plain yogurt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups unsalted nuts, such as pecan halves or whole blanched almonds
Preliminaries: Grease a baking sheet with butter or margarine.
In a medium saucepan, stir together sugars, yogurt and a dash of salt. Cook over medium heat, without stirring, until the mixture reaches the soft-ball stage, 235 degrees, on a candy thermometer, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Quickly stir in nuts to coat.
Spread on a greased baking sheet, separating the nuts as much as possible. They will become opaque as they cool. When cool, break into pieces; you'll have some individual nuts and some clusters. Store in covered container.
Advance preparation: Nuts may be refrigerated up to 1 month or frozen.
Seafood Tortelloni Salad With Jalapeno-Lime Vinaigrette
Makes 8 main-dish servings
1 cup dry white wine or imported dry vermouth
3/4 to 1 pound scallops, Eastern or bay scallops preferred
3/4 to 1 pound medium raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
6 medium plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped, see cook's notes
6 green onions, trimmed and sliced
about 2 pounds fresh spinach- or cheese-filled tortelloni (see cook's notes)
2 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 pickled or fresh seeded jalapeno, about 3/4 to 1 inch
6 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup reduced poaching liquid
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup lightly packed chopped fresh cilantro
red cabbage or radicchio leaves for garnish
Cook's notes: To seed tomatoes, cut them in half horizontally and gently squeeze out seeds.
Fresh tortelloni, large stuffed tortellini, can be found in the refrigerated deli of most supermarkets. Large stuffed pastas are usually spelled with an "o"; smaller ones with an "i." If you can't find tortelloni, use tortellini.
Procedure: In a medium skillet over high heat, bring wine to a boil. Add scallops and cook, turning, 1 to 2 minutes until opaque. Do not overcook. Remove with slotted spoon to large bowl. Add shrimp and simmer, turning, until they turn pink; remove to scallops. If scallops are large, cut them into quarters. Boil poaching liquid until reduced to 1/2 cup. Set aside. Stir tomatoes and green onions into seafood. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add tortelloni and cook as directed on package until tender to the bite. Drain well and add to seafood.
Make the vinaigrette. In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, process garlic and jalapeno until minced. Add lime juice, pTC olive oil and reserved poaching liquid; process to blend. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If you desire a spicier vinaigrette, mince another jalapeno and add to dressing. (Dressing may be refrigerated up to 2 days.)
Pour vinaigrette over salad, add cilantro and toss well. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour or preferably overnight. Bring to room temperature 1/2 hour before serving.
Presentation: Line salad plates or a large platter with cabbage or radicchio leaves and spoon salad onto leaves. If serving in an outdoor buffet, place salad in a bowl. Set bowl in a larger bowl, filled halfway with crushed ice.