While winter holidays may be about polished glitz and glam, the summer in Westport is all about relaxed elegance. On this memorable night, I hosted some of my best friends with an assortment of small bites and a fun selection of rosés from my favorite local wine shop. We caught up on life while snacking on platters of local veggies and grilled shrimp and it was just what the doctor ordered.
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When Westport Magazine asked me to write an article for their July & August issue about throwing a summertime party with girlfriends and rosé, I jumped at the chance...

My philosophy for cooking, and entertaining in general, is elevated recipes for everyday living and I feel like this doesn’t ring more true than in the summertime. Summer is nature’s chime for friends and family to gather and enjoy the opportunity to slow down and unwind. Getting together should be as fun and breezy as an evening spent at Compo Beach. My favorite gatherings are the ones that feel special because of their approachable intimacy – and they shouldn’t be hard to pull together. I find inspiration in everything around me and bring these elements into the events I plan.

One place I get a ton of inspiration from is the Westport Farmers Market. For my menu, I wanted to ensure there was a range of flavors and textures, and the market puts the season’s spoils on display. Having a crudité board is a really easy way to bring color and flavors to the table. While I love making dips, to keep things simple, I often make some of my favorites like my Green Goddess dip, but source others from the farmers at the market or Whole Foods.

Another aspect to my menu planning is finding different and unexpected ways to serve traditional favorites. A unique twist on the classic wedge salad is simply serving it on a skewer – it was such a hit with the ladies, because it was so easy to eat. When creating my garlic butter lobster roll sliders, I realized that the adding the crunch of a potato chip inside the slider helped to elevate it in a unique way. 

The Grapevine is my favorite local wine store and it has a great, approachable selection of rosés, many of which are uniquely sourced and reasonably priced. They’re always adding something new on their shelves, which keeps it fun and interesting. When I’m planning to have friends over I usually run to see what they have in stock. Scroll down to see the rosés that I chose for this party.

And finally, I design my table. When it comes to a summer soirée, it’s unbelievable what you can find in serving pieces that are festive and made for outdoor entertaining. My friend Shari at Bespoke Designs has curated a great selection of fun, outdoor pieces that I don’t have to sweat using near the pool, like these beautiful scalloped melamine platters that have a dome to keep bugs away. But the best part of setting a spread that feels welcoming, is pulling platters you’ve collected over the years.


Grilled Shrimp with Romesco Sauce 

Nectarine & Burrata Crostini with Pistachio Pesto & Calabrian Chili Honey

Korean Chicken Ssäm Lettuce Wraps with Cucumbers, Kimchi & Gochujang BBQ Sauce

Farmers Market Veggie Platter with Green Goddess Dressing & Hummus

Cacio e Pepe Deviled Eggs with Balsamic Pearls and Basil

Mini New England Lobster Sliders with Garlic Butter & Potato Chips

Wedge Salad Bites

Summer Berry Trifles with Shortbread & Whipped Crème Fraîche

Grilled Shrimp with Romesco Sauce

Makes 6 to 8 servings as an appetizer

My husband and I lived in Spain for a little while and I fell in love with Romesco sauce. It’s smoky, bold flavors are fantastic on a sandwich, served with chicken, steak, lamb, veggies, or seafood, like it is here. For this recipe I like using very large shrimp and Pagano’s in Norwalk has the best wild caught shrimp in various sizes.

2 pounds 13-15 wild caught, peeled and deveined shrimp with tails on
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 lemon, zested and juiced
2 tablespoons honey

Romesco Sauce:
1 cup packed piquillo peppers or roasted red peppers, torn into pieces
½ cup toasted slivered almonds
4 garlic cloves
¼ cup fresh breadcrumbs, toasted with a little olive oil
1½ teaspoons smoked paprika
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
¾ teaspoon salt

Garnishes: toasted slivered almonds, toasted breadcrumbs, chopped parsley 

Romesco Sauce: Put all of the ingredients in a blender and process until the texture of smooth salsa. Transfer to a serving bowl and let rest at room temperature.

Shrimp: Toss the shrimp with the olive oil, salt, lemon zest and juice and honey. Allow to marinate for about 30 minutes. Turn a grill on high and grill the shrimp for about 2 minutes on each side, until just cooked through.

To Serve: Serve the shrimp in glasses, cups, jars or bowls. I like to put the sauce on the bottom, and top it with several shrimp, a sprinkling of breadcrumbs, a few almond slivers and a sprinkling of chopped parsley.


Nectarine & Burrata Crostini with Pistachio Pesto & Calabrian Chili Honey

Makes about 40 crostini

I love the combination of sweet fruit and salty cheese on crostini and these do not disappoint. The pistachio pesto is so good, you can put it on just about anything. If you’re in a pinch make these crostini with store bought pesto and they will still be delicious. Don’t skip the Calabrian chili honey drizzle though, it brightens up the crostini and adds a little bit of sweet heat. My favorite Calabrian chili paste is from Trader Joe’s and it’s fermented. If you don’t love spicy food, add a little bit of the paste because it’s pretty hot, or just use honey alone.

1 day old baguette, thinly sliced into about 40 pieces
Olive oil
Kosher salt & pepper

Pistachio Pesto:
2 cups fresh basil leaves (without large stems)
¼ cup roughly chopped pistachios
1 large garlic clove
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

3 firm nectarines, thinly sliced
3 balls burrata, drained on paper towels before being torn into small pieces
½ cup good honey
1 teaspoon (or less) Calabrian chili paste
Basil sprigs

Crostini: Preheat the oven to 350° F. Place the baguette slices on a lined baking sheet and drizzle generously with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake until crisp and golden at the edges, 10 to 14 minutes. Cool.

Pistachio Pesto: Put the basil, pistachios, garlic and salt in a food processor and process until finely chopped. While the machine is running, slowly add the olive oil until the mixture is smooth. Add the cheese and pulse a few times, until it is just incorporated. Use right away, or store in the refrigerator for up to a week. You can freeze the pesto as well.

To Serve: Mix the honey with the Calabrian chili paste and set aside. Place the crostini on a serving tray. Spread about a teaspoon of pesto onto each crostini. Top with a piece of the burrata and a slice of nectarine. Drizzle with honey and garnish with fresh basil leaves.


Korean Chicken Ssäm Lettuce Wraps with Cucumbers, Kimchi & Gochujang BBQ Sauce

Serves 6 to 8

Ssäm is Korean for “wrapped”. Baby butter lettuce makes the perfect wrap for this chicken with all the toppings (Gotham Greens grows great baby butter lettuce). This recipe is very easy; the chicken marinade doubles as BBQ sauce once ketchup has been added. I recommend starting this recipe a day ahead, the longer you marinate the chicken the better it tastes. I like using tiny metal skewers for the chicken to mimic real kebab skewers. It makes grilling them a cinch because they won’t catch on fire like bamboo skewers do.

Chicken & BBQ Sauce:
3 to 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or 6 thighs, cut into small 1-inch cubes
¼ cup gochujang
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons sesame oil
3 tablespoons finely chopped or grated ginger
2 tablespoons grated or minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup ketchup

2 small heads butter lettuce
2 Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced
2 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced into rounds
2 cups kimchi, drained and roughly chopped
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
Edible flowers for garnish (optional)

Tools: mini metal skewers, or bamboo skewers soaked in water for at least an hour

Put the chicken into a bowl. In a separate bowl mix the gochujang, honey, rice vinegar, sesame oil, ginger, garlic and salt together. Remove half (about ½ a cup) and pour it over the chicken, stirring to coat. Cover the chicken and marinate for at least 1 hour, or overnight for best results. Mix the ketchup into the remaining ½ cup of sauce to make the gochujang barbeque sauce. Transfer to a serving bowl. Cover and refrigerate if using the following day.
When ready to serve, preheat a gill or grill pan over high heat. Thread 2 to 3 pieces or chicken onto each skewer and grill for 3 to 4 minutes on each side for a total of 6 to 8 minutes.
To Serve: Serve the skewers on a platter with the lettuce leaves, cucumbers, kimchi and barbeque sauce. Sprinkle the scallions and sesame seeds over the chicken. Encourage people to use the lettuce leaves, wrapped around the chicken, to pull the chicken off the skewers, and assemble little lettuce wraps.

Green Goddess Dip

Green Goddess salad dressing originated in 1923 at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. It was named after a hit play at the time called The Green Goddess. While the salad dressing is fantastic, the bright green, herby flavors are perfect in a dip as well, and brighten up any crudité board. Feel free to use whatever herbs you have on hand, thyme and cilantro work well here too. 

1 cup packed basil leaves
½ cup packed parsley leaves
2 tablespoons tarragon leaves, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons dill fronds, roughly chopped
1 large garlic clove
¾ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon packed lemon zest
⅓ cup fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon anchovy paste (optional)
1 small shallot, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 medium ripe avocado, pitted
½ cup (4 oz) sour cream
¼ cup mayonnaise

Put all ingredients into a blender and process until smooth. 



Cacio e Pepe Deviled Eggs with Balsamic Pearls & Basil

Makes 14 eggs

There are two ways that you can elevate deviled eggs. One is the way they’re cut and plated (see below for details). And the second is the topping. Here I used one of my favorite garnishes, balsamic pearls. They’re little balls of balsamic vinegar encased in a thin gel that explode when you bite into them. They make everything delicious, especially deviled eggs. You can try them on grilled veggies, steak, caprese salad, or just about any summer dish.

14 large eggs
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
¾ cup grated Pecorino
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Garnishes: fresh basil leaves, balsamic pearls (see source section for details)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Lower the eggs into the pot and set a timer for 10 minutes. While the eggs are cooking, make an ice bath and set it next to the stove. As soon as the eggs are done, transfer them to the ice bath and set a timer for 3 minutes. This will ensure perfectly cooked hard boiled eggs every time. When removing the shells, gently roll the eggs back and forth on the counter and the shells will peel right off.
To cut the eggs, start by trimming the top third of the egg off, setting aside the tops for egg salad later. Make a tiny slice on the bottom so that the egg stands flat. Now you have an upright egg that looks beautiful and is easier to eat. Remove the yolk with a small spoon – sometimes the handle works better than the spoon itself. Put the yolks and remaining ingredients into a food processor and process until smooth. Taste for seasonings and adjust if needed. Transfer the mixture into a piping bag with a star tip, if you have one, and pipe the filling into each egg. Reserve any remaining filling and mix it with the tops of the eggs for the most delicious egg salad. Top each egg with a small basil leaf and a little spoonful of balsamic pearls.

*to make entertaining easy, you can hard boil the eggs, cut them and make the filling a day before your party. Store the eggs upright on a piece of paper towel (to prevent sliding) in a sealed container. Assemble right before serving.

Mini New England Lobster Sliders with Garlic Butter & Potato Chips

Makes 12 to 15 sliders

 These little siders are classic Connecticut summer staples. The key to making them special is warm garlic-chive butter mixed in with the lobster meat, and Cape Cod potato chips layered on top of the lobster meat. Why serve the chips on the side when you can serve them in the sandwich? The crunchy salty chip adds to each bite and really makes the sliders pop.

½ cup salted butter, melted
2 garlic cloves, finely grated or minced
1 teaspoon lemon zest
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon hot sauce like Tabasco or Red’s
1 pound cooked lobster meat, cut into small pieces (Pagano’s in Norwalk sells the best local lobster meat)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1 package mini brioche buns or little pull apart rolls, cut in half

Cape Cod potato chips
Gilbertie’s micro greens 

Preheat oven to 350° F. Combine butter and garlic in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once the butter is melted and sizzling at the edges, turn the heat to a simmer and cook until the garlic is soft and fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Turn off the heat.
Place rolls on a parchment lined baking sheet, cut side up and brush them lightly with the garlic butter – save remaining butter for lobster. Flip the rolls over and toast them in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden and crispy at the edges.
While the rolls are toasting, add the lemon zest, lemon juice and hot sauce to the remaining garlic butter and stir well. Turn the burner back on and warm the butter until sizzling. Add the lobster and chives and stir well to combine.

To Serve: Fill rolls generously with warm lobster meat. Top with a few potato chips and a small handful of microgreens before adding the bun. Finish with a pretty skewer to hold everything in place and enjoy!

Wedge Salad Bites with Tomatoes, Bacon & Buttermilk-Blue Cheese Dressing

Makes 15 to 20 bites

These skewers are so fun and easy to eat, and they can be made several hours in advance and plated right before serving. If you’re not into bacon, make them without and they’re still good. I recommend the oven method for cooking bacon to ensure even crispness and flat pieces, but do whatever you prefer. Just make sure that the bacon isn’t too crisp, or it will shatter when you try to thread it.

Wedge Skewers:
1 small head iceberg lettuce
10 slices bacon
15 to 20 toy box or small cherry tomatoes, rinsed, stems removed, cut in half
⅓ cup blue cheese, crumbled
¼ cup chopped chives
Freshly ground black pepper
Farmers market edible flowers (optional)

Buttermilk-Blue Cheese Dressing:
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon finely grated or minced fresh garlic
¼ cup packed finely chopped shallot (1 small shallot)
⅓ cup olive oil
¼ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup sour cream
½ cup buttermilk
¼ cup white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon packed lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
1 cup crumbled blue cheese
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground pepper

Buttermilk-Blue Cheese Dressing: Put all ingredients into a bowl and whisk until smooth (there will be some blue cheese lumps) and well blended.  

Wedge Skewers: Preheat oven to 425° F. Place the bacon on a tin foil lined, rimmed backing sheet and cook until crispy – but not overly crispy or it won’t be flexible enough to thread them on the skewers.  Once cooked and cooled, slice in half lengthwise. 
Next, chop your iceberg lettuce into 20 bite-size mini wedges. Start with a half of a tomato, then a piece of bacon, then the wedge, repeating the bacon and then tomato to finish the skewer. Repeat until all skewers have been assembled.

To Serve: Drizzle your serving platter with half of the blue cheese dressing and then arrange the bites on the platter. Drizzle the remaining dressing over the top. Sprinkle with crumbled blue cheese, chopped chives and freshly cracked pepper.

Summer Berry Trifles with Shortbread & Whipped Crème Fraîche

Makes 6 small trifles in mason jars, little vases, or juice glasses 

Making these incredibly simple little trifles in cute jars or glasses makes them feel special. If you don’t want to buy a vanilla bean just to make the whipped crème fraiche, you can purchase Vermont Creamery vanilla bean crème fraiche, which easily takes care of the issue. It’s sold at Whole Foods. You can also use vanilla bean paste, which can be sourced at Williams-Sonoma.

1 8oz container crème fraiche
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1 vanilla bean, seeds removed or 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
1 package shortbread cookies, roughly smashed with a rolling pin
2 cups of your favorite summer berries – I used raspberries and blackberries but any combo will do

Mix the crème fraiche, confectioners’ sugar & vanilla together in a bowl and whisk until the texture of loose whipped cream. Add a spoonful of the whipped crème fraiche to the bottom of mini trifle dishes or mason jars. Next add a few berries and sprinkle of shortbread cookies. Top with a spoonful of the whipped crème fraîche. Repeat, top with a shortbread cookie piece and a berry and serve.

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