By Megan Cahn, REDBOOK
Celebrity chef and food critic Katie Lee's debut novel (and fab beach read) Groundswell is now available in paperback -- but just because she's transitioned from crafting cookbooks to writing fiction, doesn't mean she's given up on playing host. As the former Mrs. Billy Joel, she's attended her fair share of fancy fêtes, but she's just as happy throwing a low-key summer barbecue for her closest friends. No champagne and white tablecloths needed; just a few original touches that make her backyard parties anything but boring. Upgrade your own grill fest with these easy tips.
1. Frozen Fruit
For a refreshingly sweet twist, use frozen fruit in lieu of ice in soda and seltzer. Up your game with adorable ice cubes: Place a berry in each cube of your ice tray before freezing.
2. Toppings Station
A burger without a condiment is like a backyard without a grill -- the more edible accoutrements the better. Go beyond ketchup and mayo by setting up a table with a whole assortment of mustards and cheeses, crumbled bacon, guacamole, jalapenos, pickles, onions, BBQ sauce and salsas.
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3. Pickled Veggies
Brining isn't just for cucumbers anymore -- try pickled onions, carrots, cauliflower, and peppers. Their unique flavors will add pep to your usual barbecue palette.
A bounty of burgers
4. A Bounty of Burgers
Ground beef can be so blah. Experiment with different kinds of burgers like shrimp, lamb, tuna, and salmon. Try these 5 delicious twists on the classic burger.
5. Specialty Buns
It's time to trade in your Wonder Bread for something a little more worldly. Sandwich your burgers in delicious brioche or onion buns.
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6. Corn on the Cob
Throw some corn on the grill and then jazz up the classic BBQ side dish with Parmesan cheese and chili powder. If spice isn't your thing, try mixing room-temperature butter with fresh basil for a delicious herbal spread.
7. Bucket o' Beverages
No need to overcomplicate the drinks situation: Serve a white and red wine, like Clos Du Bois Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, and a non-alcoholic option such as Izze sparkling juice. Place the bottles in a metal bucket full of ice on your table, and guests can serve themselves out of the stylish centerpiece.
8. Grilled Pizza
Who says you can only serve burgers and hot dogs at a BBQ? Why not switch things up a bit with grilled pizza? Yup, you heard us: Place your dough directly on the grill, cook for a minute, flip, then add your favorite toppings, grilling until heated through.
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9. Zucchini Chips
Leave the prepackaged chips on the shelf! Thinly slice a zucchini, coat with egg and flour, then fry slices in a Dutch oven until golden brown. Voilà! Delicious homemade veggie chips piled high. Be sure to serve them right away with a few wedges of lemon.
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Permissions: Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.