Every year around this time—as the back-to-school promotions are trumpeted in ads, as the lawn furniture goes on sale—I want to grab on to those last weeks of summer like a toddler holding on to a favorite teddy bear. And one of the best ways I know to do that is to keep firing up the grill and inviting people to come over—because how can summer almost be over if my friends are sitting around with glasses of wine eating couscous and my kids are pulling the ping pong table out of the garage?
I love this kebab meal because everything can be done ahead of time. For appetizers, a gorgeous cheese and a pile of paper-thin prosciutto slices, or thicker slices of sturdy salami, are hard to beat. Then put out little bowls of radishes, olives and peanuts for nibbling with drinks. You could get fancier—but why? The point is to savor those last weeks of summer, and you’re about to wow everyone with your main dishes.
The colorful couscous salad can be made earlier in the day, or even a day ahead of time. And even before that you could roast the pepper, (or buy them roasted), zest and juice the lemon, and chop the shallots, artichokes, and scallions. Then, tuck put everything in the fridge in little containers. Cook and cool the couscous ahead of time; toss with a tiny bit of olive oil, and keep that in the fridge for up to two days. The fully assembled salad can sit out, covered, at room temperature for a few hours before serving.
The super simple marinade for the kebabs can be made up to three days ahead of time. You can cut up the chicken, peel the shrimp, and cube the vegetables a day ahead of time as well. Then, marinate everything about an hour before you want to skewer them up cook them. You can cook them just before you’re ready to eat, and these do cook up nice and quickly, or if you’d rather you could also cook them just before your guests arrive. You don’t have to grill while your friends are having a good time because the kebabs are just fine at room temperature. And they are quite gorgeous, and filled with the flavors of the south of France: a hit of saltiness from the anchovies and the olives, the herbal note of thyme, and the tang of Dijon mustard.
As for the tabletop, keep it simple. I always love mixing greens and whites, especially during the greenest months of the year when we are eating outside. It always feels fresh and crisp, and a few wooden accents are also pretty alongside. And don’t forget the candles, which you can light as the sun gets low, so no one is tempted to leave the table.
Is this making you hungry? Peep more of Katie’s inspiring meals and setups in her cookbook, Dinner Solved.