Summer is one of my favorite times of the year. I love tasting tomatoes picked fresh from our family garden in New Jersey, enjoying longer evenings in our backyard, taking our annual family vacation in Cape May, and hosting one of our Foundation’s most beautiful and delicious parties of the year: Chefs & Champagne® in the Hamptons.
Held each year at the breathtaking Wölffer Estate Vineyard in Sagaponack, New York, this event features fantastic tastings from more than 40 chefs and flowing Champagne alongside Wölffer’s famous rosé—the ultimate summer wine! This year we’ll be honoring New Orleans’s own James Beard Award–winning chef John Besh.
If you’ve watched his PBS television show, My Family Table, or been to one of his restaurants, you know that John knows a thing or two about hospitality and honoring the great food traditions of the Big Easy. To help us all enjoy the season even more, I asked John for some of his best tips for summer entertaining. —Susan Ungaro, President, The James Beard Foundation
John Besh’s Tips for Successful Entertaining
1. “I always keep these five items on hand for unexpected guests: eggs, arugula, lots of vegetables, cheese, and good pasta (both frozen and dried).”
2. “My secret tip for successful last-minute entertaining is to remain calm, have fun, have a drink, and enjoy your guests. They will truly appreciate anything that you do.”
3. “Finally, one fact few people know about me is that I’m just as happy having a simple meal with good friends as I would be dining in the fanciest restaurants.”
Roasted Beet Salad
“I love to use beets in a range of colors to enliven this salad. I prefer small beets because they are so tender, but if you use larger ones, just lower the oven temperature to 350°F and let them roast longer—say, an hour. Peel, then cube and toss with the other ingredients.” —John Besh
2 pounds small red and yellow beets
½ cup olive oil, divided
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
½ cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Rub the beets all over with half of the oil and then salt generously. Place on a baking sheet and roast until soft all the way through, about 25 minutes.
When the beets are cool enough to handle, peel and quarter them. Transfer to a bowl and toss with the remaining ¼ cup oil, the red onions, vinegar, and sugar. Season with more salt and pepper.
(Adapted from Besh Big Easy: 101 Home Cooked New Orleans Recipes by John Besh/Andrews McMeel Publishing)